Updated: May 7, 2020
Relationship Red Flags, 8 Foundations to a Happier Relationship, and 6 Exercises to Create a Healthier Life.
First thing's first, if you haven't already checked out the episode, head on over to The Lunita Podcast and give Episode 1: Foundations of a Happy Relationship a listen. Remember to subscribe to the podcast, leave us a review if you like the show, and give us a follow on Instagram for updates and conversations with the community.
On this episode, Nina and Justin break down a happy relationship into some core foundational categories and share their thoughts on what constitutes a happy relationship, how you can give yourself the best opportunity at living in a happy relationship, and even what to definitely avoid when looking for that special someone.
*NOTE: There is some explicit language used in this episode that may be offensive to some listeners.
What IS a Happy Relationship?
So, before diving into the foundations of a happy relationship, let's talk about OUR definition of a happy relationship.
We believe that happiness is stress-free; there's no worry of whether or not the relationship is going to work or fail, and working on the relationship is not the main priority in your already stressful life. A happy relationship is one where you know your partner is your ride or die, you actually ENJOY being around your partner, and you have the freedom to explore your own goals, hobbies, and interests without codependency or judgment.
What are some RED FLAGS to Avoid when Searching for that Perfect Partnership?
We call these the "GET THE F*** OUT OF THERE" flags.
First, if you're experiencing any form of abuse, we recommend you get out of that toxic relationship immediately. Hopefully the abuser gets the help they need to become a better person, but it is not your job to help them become that better person. Statistically speaking, abuse typically escalates, so save yourself the time and the negativity, and give that relationship the boot.
Abuse includes, but is not limited to:
Physical Abuse - hitting / slapping, pushing / shoving, kicking, biting, burning, etc.
*NOTE: These other forms of abuse often do not receive as much attention and can be more difficult to prove due to the fact that there is often no physical "evidence". This does not mean that they are any less damaging and should not be taken lightly.
Psychological Abuse - behavior aimed at threatening, isolating, belittling, teasing, humiliating, bullying, or ignoring.
Sexual Abuse - inappropriate exposure or sexual contact / activity that is unwanted or without consent.
Emotional Abuse - yelling, swearing, name-calling, mocking, intimidation, and lastly, denying or downplaying your feelings or the abuse
Financial Abuse - controlling all the budgeting, not letting the other person have access to their own bank accounts, spending money, taking credit cards or loans out in your name, not letting the other person have a job or career (sometimes this includes not allowing the other person to attend school), and not including you in large financial decisions.
In addition to these forms of abuse, which are absolutely unacceptable and should not be tolerated in any relationship (not just romantic), we also want to bring attention to equally toxic forms of behavior that often foreshadow abuse. These include, but are not limited to:
Jealousy - experiencing occasional feelings of jealousy are normal, but when it is persistent, unfounded, and occurs in the beginning of a relationship, it can often become intertwined with control. Examples of this include your partner monitoring your activity, your partner not "allowing" you (hell no) to be around friends or people of the opposite sex without them, your partner using possessive language that indicates they see you as property, or your partner failing to respect your boundaries.
The final red flag is how your partner treats other people. This is not just the people they have relationships with like friends, family, colleagues but people they are unfamiliar with. How does your partner speak about other races, religions, the LGBT community, the elderly, and the disabled. Basically, how do they feel about and treat people who are DIFFERENT than them?
People who lack empathy for other human beings are a huge no. So please, the next time you are out to eat, pay attention to how your partner speaks to your server, or the next time you are on out in public, keep your ears open about what they have to say or how they behave towards a person experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or addiction.
Remember, you are capable of finding someone out there who will love, respect, and cherish you for who you are, and it is never cute to be seen in the company of an a-hole.
The Foundations of a Happy Relationship
Now that we got all of those red flags out of the way (and you left that toxicity if you were with one), we can focus on the primary foundations of a healthy relationship.
1. Trust: No matter how you slice it, you simply can't have a healthy relationship without this. Trust, as we see it, is not only the freedom from a fear of dishonesty, but also the comfort of knowing that your partner will have your best interest at heart whether or not they are in your presence.
2. Mutual Respect: We are ALL taught the same "Golden Rule": Treat people the way you want to be treated. For some perplexing reason, it seems this is forgotten as we grow older. If you are not being considered or being considerate in regard to your / your partner's feelings, time, or individual experiences, then it's probably time to take a second look at wtf y'all are doing with one another.
3. Communication: Being able to communicate with others effectively is much more difficult than it sounds. Being honest with yourself about ALL your feelings (not just the pleasant ones) and being able to examine why you feel the way you feel is a crucial part to being able to share your thoughts and feelings with others. Good communication is a learned skill, so practicing it with yourself and your partner will offer you the opportunity to improve your communication skills in other aspects of your life as well.
4. Individuality: The freedom to be unapologetically authentic is an opportunity you deserve to take advantage of. If you are with someone that makes you feel the need to censor your thoughts, opinions, or voice, this is probably not the person for you. If you are with someone who projects their ideas of how you should behave, dress, speak, or express yourself, they definitely need to be left in the dust. This includes having the ability to have your own space, time, and the power to say no once in a while without the fear of retaliation. Life is too short to waste it obsessing over making other people happy; if your partner is not willing to accept you for who you are, they don't deserve to be your partner anymore. Bye!
And yes, we are talking about the foundations of a happy relationship, but being in a happy relationship ultimately begins with being happy with yourself. Continue to grow as an individual; find hobbies and interests outside of your relationship, even if they are interests that your partner does not share. You are allowed to have your own goals and aspirations, and please, be supportive of your partner's as well.
5. Equal Partnership: Emphasis here on the word equal, okay? Do you feel as if there is a proportionate amount of expectations placed on both of you? Or are you doing more of the emotional, physical, and financial labor? This includes household obligations, parenting responsibilities, and really, any type of work that you can think of. Everyone's definition of equal is different; for some of you, it may be that you trade off days you do the dishes or buy groceries for the week, or it may mean that each person has their specific, unwavering contributions. Remember that these should be based on what works for both of you (it's a team effort y'all) and not around played out gender norms or unexamined racial biases.
6. Support / Being Supportive: Support should be unshakeable. This means that no matter what, you know they have your back and vice versa. You should feel comfortable going to your partner with ideas, dreams, goals, or problems. Everyone wants a person to be in their corner, lifting them higher and encouraging them to grow into the best versions of themselves possible. If you find that this is not the case or that you make excuses such as, "I don't want to stress them out" or "I don't know if they would care," then you most likely don't have all the support you need.
Note: While support is important in a relationship, it is critical to understand that it is not your partner's job to inflate your self-esteem, nor is it their job to heal you. They have their own stuff too! This is solely your responsibility, and if you find, or are being told, that you need more support than one person can give, maybe it's time to take a look at reaching out for professional help.
7. Compatibility: While our other foundations are items that can (and should) be worked on over the course of your relationship, sometimes it all comes down to whether or not you and your partner are a good "fit" for each other. There are quite a few aspects to compatibility that a dating app can't analyze. With that said, these are not deal-breakers, and compatibility CAN come through communication, so be sure to talk to your partner and try to be as open as possible with one another.
Sexual compatibility: while we always encourage y'all to experiment in safe and healthy ways together, sometimes specific traumas we go through can leave this area very restricted (and that's okay!). If you know you will NEVER be into BDSM, and that's all your partner keeps pushing you to try, you may not be sexually compatible (also they high-key are not respecting your boundaries, and that's grounds for breaking up). No one should feel forced to do anything they don't want to for the sake of pleasuring their partner. Literally not ever.
Spiritual compatibility is another area you may need to talk more about. If you are a devoted atheist and your partner continues to try to convert you to Christianity, you are allowed to politely decline, and you are allowed to continue believing whatever it is that makes you feel spiritually whole. Each person is an individual with their own beliefs, and you do NOT have to change your God for someone else.
Finally, Emotional and Intellectual compatibility are not to be slept on. If you are confident in your empathy skills and are driven toward a certain level of conversation that excites you, but your partner is not willing to grow or provide you with said conversation, then not only do they need to hit the road, you need to: (a) ask yourself what you are doing wasting your time with people who don't stimulate you and (b) level up.
8. Flexibility: Being in a relationship requires compromise, on both ends. Flexibility is a conscious decision that shows that you are willing to think beyond yourself. It indicates both emotional maturity and consideration. Choosing not to sweat the small stuff in a relationship shows that you care more about your relationship than being right.
These are, in our opinion, the primary cornerstones to any happy relationship, and if you focus on these, you're much more likely to achieve happiness. But please remember that relationships are not the end-all-be-all and happiness comes from within.
How to Create a Happier Space
What did you think, we were going to leave you hanging? Here are a few concrete exercises you can do to begin leading a happier life (not just relationship) today:
1. Say "Thank You" over "I'm Sorry": Saying thank you is a simple way to show gratitude, respect, and appreciation. "I'm sorry" can sometimes make the situation/action about you. Example: Instead of apologizing for "forgetting to clean my pubes out of the bathroom drain... again," try saying, "Thank you for putting up with me; I know I'm not the easiest to share a bathroom with, but I appreciate you."
2. Practicing and Verbalizing Appreciation and Gratitude: Taking the time to say aloud, write down, or meditate on a list of things you are grateful for has been one of the most important exercises we have done for ourselves. It doesn't take more than five minutes of your time, and the benefits are endless (here's a list of seven in case you're interested). You can make the list as general or specific as you want.
3. Practice Self-Care: We are busy beings with busy lives, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take care of ourselves -- if anything, it's the exact reason why we should.
4. Find Your Own Hobbies: Hobbies make you more well-rounded, interesting, and can even help alleviate stress.
5. Set Aside Time for One Another: Even if it's just a short walk around the block or 15 minutes at the end of the day before you close your eyes for bed, it's important to have uninterrupted time together.
6. Never Go to Bed Mad at Each Other: Yes, this is corny, and yes, it is important. Take the high road, and be the one to apologize; you will thank yourself in the long run.
We said it on the show, and we're saying it again here: Finding a happy relationship doesn't come easy, but what makes it easier to find happiness is putting in the work on yourself. Remember, happiness starts from within. In the words of the great RuPaul, "If you don't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love anyone else?"
We wish you the best of luck in your search for a happier life and a happy relationship. We would love to hear from you, whether it's something you think we missed, something you would like to add, or an exercise that has helped you find happiness, send it our way via Instagram, in the comments section, or to our email.
Lastly, down below, you can find a list of resources mentioned in the episode and that we have found helpful. Thank you for reading, remember to subscribe to the show if you haven't already, and sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates on what is new at Lunita.
Love is Respect - A large resource on healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics (highly recommend)
National Domestic Violence Hotline - If you or someone you know needs help, please contact this hotline.
GoodTherapy.org - For finding professional help such as a therapist or counselor