Shelley J Whitehead

How to have a healthy relationship

25 January, 2023

When people talk about great relationships, they often get a little bit fixated on the concept of ‘chemistry’ (the alchemy of those warm, bubbly, fuzzy, liberating, butterfly-in-tummy inspiring, uplifting feelings associated with early days of meeting) but a healthy relationship involves far more than just chemistry. There are many ingredients involved. 

Relationships come in different flavours but in the course of my work I have found that there are 8 essential ingredients that must be in place, for a relationship to truly thrive. 


Connection is made up of a beautiful mix of understanding (‘I get you’), validation (‘I hear what you’re saying’), intimacy (‘I feel emotionally close you’), attunement (‘I’m sensitive to your needs’) and responsiveness (‘I’ll show you that I care’). For me, personally, connection is my absolute highest value – I thrive on connection. By definition, a relationship requires connection – without that it is just an interaction. 


In the cocoon of a safe relationship, you can be totally yourself. You can express feelings and needs and you are able to ask directly for your needs to be met without fear of ridicule or recrimination. There is no harsh judgement when you are being your most powerful, vibrant self nor when you are a vulnerable version of yourself. 


This is similar to the concept of FRIENDSHIP or PARTNERSHIP in many ways. 

A solid partnership allows the ‘I’ and the ‘we’ to co-exist. Both partners’ needs are important and the two do not become merged into an enmeshed codependent blur.  This ‘interdependence’ is supported by good boundaries (as referred to in Chapter 1) and mutual encouragement and support. This is what you would see in a good friendship… and friendship is an important part of relationships.


Trust is about more than just congruence (where what someone says and what they do matches) – it’s about knowing that the other person is looking out for your needs and will factor these needs into their own decisions and choices. Trust is one of the most precious of all the relationship ingredients, as takes time to build but can easily be broken in many ways, including in the form of manipulation (defined as someone sneaking their own needs in, cuckoo-ilke, in the guise of something supposedly being of benefit to you). 


When you are in alignment with someone and either share values or have complementary values, you are compatible for a relationship. If you’d like a deeper understanding of how to know what your values are, do take a look at my video on the subject. (I’ll put a link in for you for that video now). For the purposes of now, let me share with you that an easy way to frame values is that they represent your deepest needs. 


A relationship can exist without a sense of adventure but, with this ingredient added in to the mix with all the others, it will radiate good health. What I mean by ‘adventure’ is the openness and willingness to learn and really embracing the challenges and work that naturally come with all relationships. It is difficult to grow alongside someone who has no desire to learn and to grow but it is a wonderful experience to overcome obstacles and achieve new heights with someone who has an adventurous heart. 


Acknowledging and affirming the support your partner gives you and recognising the ways in which they improve your quality of life will nourish and nurture a relationship. 


One of the most beautiful definitions of love I know is that of ‘basking in each other’ – where there is just the pure pleasure of just being in each other’s presence. Pleasure can be expressed in many ways, whether in the form of contented company or as the intimate pleasures of the senses or in a  lively spirit of fun. This ingredient is the purest form of love and essential for a high quality relationship.    

Relationships can exist with some of these ingredients missing but, without them, they will be off-kilter and out of balance. All of these elements can be introduced, nurtured and maintained….so if you are reflecting on an existing relationship and are worried that something is missing, then take heart: with conscious effort and intent, you can inject anything missing in to the mix. 

Shelley J Whitehead
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