Posted by: First Mate | April 7, 2014

What Defines a Healthy Relationship?

Spoiler Alert: I’m armed with nothing but common sense and the newly discovered Psychology Today posts that keep appearing on my Facebook page.

Almost weekly I tell my daughter: “Friends build you up and they would never tear you down, not to you or to anyone else.” I also tell her never to measure herself against anyone else. I learned this lesson teaching high school English.

Long ago, I taught Later American Literature and assisted teaching American Culture: Jazz and Literature for a very brief period at Stuyvesant High School in New York. I thought I was a horrid teacher and due to my anxiety and hyperhidrosis I would literally sweat through my classes exhausted, feeling I could never live up to this challenge.  In 1997, almost every one of my 11th grade students asked me to write them a recommendation to colleges they were applying to regardless of the grade I gave them.  Hmm?  I walked into that classroom knowing these teenagers had been chosen out of 800 applicants to attend Stuyvesant and although they may have traveled 2 hours to get to school from an outer borough and often worked after hours in their family’s first generation business after school, they were in many aspects more intelligent than my own white bread Ivy League sweaty armpits. This taught me respect.  For the students, not their parents who I feared and often loathed.  Many parents would yell at me that their child could not get into Yale with an A- or I would hear stories of the student that would have to stand on a chair holding books in each hand for hours due to a less than optimal grade. Healthy relationships demonstrate respect, thus respect yourself and your peers – and believe it or not your peer is often the person who is serving your fast food, fixing your car or cleaning your house. We are all living in the same consciousness.  Just ask Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs.

As you may have guessed by now I have no clue on what defines healthy relationships.  I don’t think I have healthy relationships with food or wine, I love them both…too much.  I have been married for almost 12 years to a man that I am madly in love with, I am sure he is also on the spectrum, so moment to moment I wonder what his focus will be.  If you are not familiar with the Autism spectrum, he is brilliant and has the ability to hyper-focus, he can learn anything and takes amazing care of his children and me.  He is also uncomfortable in many social situations and I never know when he will be “honest” with me or basically let lose in public.  He is true to himself, something I both admire and aspire to – for him it is how he is wired.  Because he doesn’t have the ability measure outside of his “vision” his behavior is not something one should measure along a line of social norms.  I still love him, because he makes me a better person.  With him I have confidence, he thinks I’m brilliant and with him, I am brilliant.  Yes, we argue and share laughter, support, fear, vulnerability, forgiveness and challenges together.  And he makes me a grown up – yes, hard to believe but he holds me accountable to my dreams.

People open to healthy relationships block out people who are both sociopaths and narcissists.  I am an abject failure at this but learning.  Labeling people is a waste of time, however in this case it defines both how I have lost money and spirit in business and life.  Sociopaths are entertaining and interesting, they make you feel smart and important, then you turn around and your money, reputation or both are in the toilet and you don’t understand how you were played by the person you saw as a mentor, ally and friend.  Sociopaths are impressive and fantastic at critiquing others, they are always fixing something and they have no remorse at the total destruction they cause. It is unhealthy to question the destruction in your life after one of these relationships – feces occurs, move on. The narcissist is better at feigning empathy, they care about and can point out all your problems (which they identify over and over along with their own) and will help you with them. They will also discuss all your problems with anyone who will listen.  Narcissists will always have what I call a first world problem or drama so you feel comfortable confiding in them, until you realize you have no secrets and no value in their world.  Your life is just pure entertainment in their ongoing drama, which they need to stir daily. Shut the door as gracefully as possible and don’t question your instinct which has been saying what the —-? after every conversation with these types of people. Be grateful for your own life, it’s yours, freckles and all.

Lastly, You reap what you sow, I am not religious but I believe Kharma is a powerful boomerang. If you are unhappy, move on, life is too short to cheat yourself of an opportunity.  If they are married, stay away or run like hell, regardless of what they tell you – people work in patterns. If someone tells you they are terrible at relationships, they care about you enough to say step back. DO IT.  We have a natural reboot, they may come around but don’t waste time waiting or fixing. The peace keeper is often trapped cleaning up the pieces of broken souls in an attempt to avoid introspection. If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will either. The point is healthy relationships happen with healthy people. Healthy people know who they are and what they want.

I don’t have a tool kit or a road map, I know to be kind, patient and positive with myself and others.  And I am slowly learning to trust my instinct.

 

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