This is a picture of me with my boyfriend, Lee.
We've been dating since April of 2012. For both of us, it's the healthiest relationship we've ever been in.
Yes, we have our struggles but we are honest to the core, willing to forgive, and grow as individuals. It also helps that we are crazy about one another.
We love without abandon, put one another first along with God, and work very hard to be the healthiest couple we can be.
It's been a really challenging journey because personal growth is painful and change is so incredibly uncomfortable. It's so worth it, though, and we both are growing healthier in our wellness journey as a result.
So how do you know when you are in a healthy relationship?
Some people don't realize when their love life is unhealthy and some have come to acceptance in settling for so little.
This is how I believe you know your relationship is healthy:
1. You communicate openly and fluidly.
Communication (however challenging) is KEY to thriving in a relationship. When you are unhappy, talk about it. When you are elated, share those feelings, too.
When you are confused or troubled, talk about it. Keep the communication flowing always leaving no room for bitterness, resentment, unanswered questions, misunderstandings, etc. Lee and I communicate all of the time and when we have challenges, we "stay in the room" as I like to say.
We work it out, however hard it feels at the time and sometimes, it's hard. It's when you listen with an open heart and realize that this other person in the room is actually on your side, that your love is flourishing. Your health will begin to soar, too. Trust me on that one.
2. You respect each other.
Once you begin to chip away at respect in a relationship, by name calling, undermining the other's passions, flirting with someone outside of the relationship, insulting their job choices, lifestyles, etc. you are no longer in a healthy relationship.
3. You respect one another's boundaries and opinions even when you do not agree.
If you see yourselves moving in an unhealthy direction, I recommend you change the direction of your mouths and feet right now. Respect is the glue. Respect helps your relationship to grow in ways you may have ever expected. Your health will improve. You will be motivated to delve into wellness further. Respect must be consistently present.
4. There are no lies.
Being honest about everything, every single step of the way is a requirement of a healthy relationship . This means no lying, no white lying, and no dramatizing of the truth.
Lee and I have never lied to one another. When we started dating, we decided to be upfront about our pasts. Brave souls we were! (haha) I think we both agreed that we'd never do that again. (Haha).
We did, though, and it was incredibly freeing. We have since told each other hard truths about our pasts and quite frankly, our present. Honesty is so healing and practicing acceptance is so very kind. I believe we have healed one another's hearts.
You can be in this type of relationship, too. It will require you to be honest with yourself about where you are right now and what you deserve. You deserve the kind of love that only comes around once. You deserve the kind of love that you imagine in your mind...the kind that you don't think is possible. It is possible. You deserve to be adored all of the time. Please be honest with yourself and realize that you are so worthy of true romance all of the time.
5. You have faith.
I believe it is not just Lee and I in our relationship, but, our Lord as well. There are three of us present and we treat it as such. We grow in faith in one another and in God. It is healthy to have faith in a Higher Power.
Whatever it is that YOU believe, find someone who shares that belief system. You need a strong foundation of faith for your relationship to truly be healthy and thrive. Why? Because when true hardships arise, you are going to need solid ground to stand on together. You will crumble if you do not have faith in something as a couple.
6. You are faithful.
When you are not seeking attention either emotionally or physically from the opposite sex, outside of your significant other, you are in a healthy relationship. Lee & I have entered into what we call a Christian Agreement. You don't have to be a Christian to come up with your own agreement. We do not seek out relationships with the opposite sex outside of one another. Sure, we socialize with the opposite sex in a group setting but that is it. Some of you may feel this is harsh but we think it is healthy and I promise you it is. Figure out what is healthy for the both of you - on both of your own terms - set boundaries - compromise - and follow through. When you are doing this? You are in a healthy relationship.
My hope is that those of you who are settling, stop.
Your health depends on it.
My health, which has been challenged for a couple of years, has improved 10-fold since meeting Lee.
Was it Lee who improved my health? No, not certainly alone. It's being in a healthy partnership in which I am encouraged to grow, while being left to be myself. It is true healthy love that is helping to heal me.
I had no idea this kind of healthy love was possible until now. What I realize, though, is that it's the result of my loving myself more deeply the last couple of years. It's the result of my honoring who I am. It's the result of me finally accepting my body (even though I want to improve it). It's the result of knowing (not just thinking!) that I deserve honest, healthy love.
I feel I've won the lottery in love and I want you to feel that way, too. I want you to love yourself enough to accept nothing less than everything I listed above.
Because you're amazing and you deserve it.