When doing education on relationships, my focus is primarily on codependency, love addiction, love avoidance, or the symptoms thereof. Common reasons why people seek professional counseling services are “relationship issues.” It seems as though this verbiage would cover most problems experienced by the human race.

The trouble with interpersonal relationships, attachment disorders, and intimacy seem to plague all of us. A recent report on statistics regarding world health mentions problems related to domestic violence resulting in billions of dollars of services. 

Codependency often holds a strong place in the running for the underpinnings of partner violence and emotional issues, including trauma. When we turn away from all of these topics that paint a picture of unhealthy relationships, we begin to turn toward the positive view of where we are hoping to head: Healthy Relationships with other people. 

Sometimes in the void of not knowing, we can only cite what we don’t want. Unchecked addictions, enmeshment, control, jealousy, negativity, avoidance, defensive relating, even gaslighting and emotional hostage-taking make the list of what we want to avoid. What may be harder to define is the nebulous area where we say “I want healthy relationships” but it is hard to pin down what could make already imperfect beings, workable as companions in work, friendship, and love.

Check the Flag List 

Did you know the two to three people you surround yourself most in your life could be creating more of our attitude than we think? 

We all want to believe we are not affected by other people or their actions, but studies continue to show this isn’t the case. We are often influenced by who we associate with on a daily basis. As with some things in life, you can’t choose everything or everyone, but there may be room where there is a conscious choice. 

We are not perfect people. We all make mistakes, have defects of character, and are capable of doing wrong. If someone appears to be perfect you might want to run the other way and wonder if they are human at all. Sometimes the mask of always being right or perfect can be a defense mechanism that manifests in rigidity and unkindness. 

On the other hand, a relationship where someone crosses a boundary but is able to say “I apologize,” is a person healthy enough to look at themselves. This is a good sign, as is self-responsibility. Anyone who can look within and is self-searching is a winning horse. 

When the people closest to you support your growth, even better. They have your back and are honest with you. Attempting to holding back another’s growth is a red flag. 

Being proud and excited with you, for your accomplishments is a green flag. When they are there to help you up when you stumble is just as important. When people in our lives have the ability to communicate openly, are able to form and maintain relationships, are spiritual, joyful and positive make the green flag list. 

Something else to look for that is key to the foundation of any relationship is vulnerability. This powerful word encompasses the very advanced and vital component of a good companion. Without vulnerability, there is no intimacy or truth, and without truth, there is no connection. Last but not least, a friend or partner who is empathetic is truly important. We look for lists of things we want out of our partners and out of life, but if we walk away and don’t feel as though someone’s basic nature is kindness, consider running. 

Healthy people look for ‘playmates’, while unhealthy people look for ‘hostages’. If we are feeling drained, tired, and a bit hopeless it may be time to evaluate our circumstances. While it always has to start with an assessment of ourselves to find what in us is drawing attracting or maintaining relationships with others, a true inventory of our life partners and friends could be an adventure. While these seem rather elementary principles, who among us doesn’t get caught up in the net of unhealthy people and circumstances from time to time? Ask yourself the question… does this being bring me joy and could this move me toward growth and improvement — questions worth asking. 

Kim Miller, LISAC, LCSW is a blog writer, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Certified Life/Executive Coach, Addictions Counselor, and Family Support Coach in private practice. President/Owner MAC Associates LLC. [email protected]  https://kimmillercounseling.com/