What Does A Good Relationship Looks like?

What Does A Good Relationship Looks like?

A relationship is as healthy as the individuals in it. When we work with couples we are actually facilitating the growth of two people becoming complete individuals all on their own.

Many times when I am done explaining what these complete individuals looks like people say ‘well why not just be alone then?’. This indicates the cultural misunderstanding we about what relationships are “supposed” to do for us. Instead of taking the responsibility for healing issues that each of us have in us we have somehow fallen into the trap of counting on our relationships to fill that chasm, that abyss we all feel inside us when we are still unhealed.

Apart from the cultural misunderstanding it’s true that the early part of our relationships are so euphoric that we can’t feel our pain, our abyss at that time. When we come off the new relationship high we think the problem is that our partner is not providing that anymore. Some of us can get confused by that high and keep going into new relationships to fill that abyss causing even more pain, confusion and hopelessness. Looking for that ‘someone’ to solve it all, not knowing that that ‘someone’ who is going to fix this for us is we ourselves. The abyss doesn’t go away until ‘we’ ourselves take on healing the parts inside us that are hurt and need resolution.

I don’t blame people for thinking others can solve this for them. It took all the courage I had to change myself. I can attest that people ‘do’ change. I have the honor of witnessing that in my practice on a regular basis. Most of the times one has to come to some kind of personal rock-bottom to even want to attempt it. It is the work of the truly courageous to look into our deep dark crevices that we have been trying to avoid all these years, but it is also the most rewarding and releasing thing in the world. It is the only way to move from happiness and satisfaction to joy and fulfillment.

According to the Integrated Family Systems Theory (IFS) your romantic partner is your tor-mentor, he/she torments you and in that tormentation lies an opportunity to mentor you.


I always tell my couples who feel that they were just fine and dandy until this particular relationship derailed them: we can all be amazing single people but it is in the context of a long term relationship that all of our mis-qualities come out. This is nothing but an opportunity to fine tune yourself.

What we do in therapy is to understand which parts of each individual are activated and need healing, resolution, acceptance, channeling or healing them. By doing this for each individual in the relationship we are working to create a safe, loving and accepting relationship climate where each individual can safely work on the parts of themselves that need tweaking to be someone that is greater than what they may have been when they were single. When this work is done in a beautiful synchronistic way each partner takes on the responsibility for bettering him/herself and together they become partners in supporting, cheering on and guiding each other to become the best version of themselves. This is what I call a ‘power couple’.

Here is a list that indicates what a complete individual with a beautiful harmony of authenticity, vulnerability and boundaries may look like. They:

    • Love themselves and thus others without judgement or condition. They are not striving for perfection but are always excited about learning and growing. They don’t need others to change and don’t expect perfection from others either.

    • Have learned to let go. They forgive themselves when they make a mistake and don’t internalize it as if they ‘are’ the mistake they made. They use these moments of pain, confusion and loss as ‘opportunities’ for growth and learning. They are able to forgive others in a similar way and keep their hearts clean of resentments.

    • Are clear on their personal values and use values to inform all big and small decisions thus they are authentic.

    • Celebrate their own authenticity and individuality thus they celebrate differences in others as well. They love to learn about others and are curious and unthreated by differences in other people.

    • Are clear on their personal boundaries which help them live by their values: Know when to leave conversations, people, things and situations. Their boundaries don’t impinge on the rights of others. They respect other people’s boundaries as well.

    • Know their needs and don’t have a problem calmly conveying their needs to others, thus they encourage their partner to fulfill their needs as well

    • Know they are in charge of their own happiness and don’t put that responsibility on others. They enjoy making others happy but understand that it is not their responsibility to make others happy. They are able to sit with other people’s pain and listen without a need or responsibility to fix things or change other people. Just this freedom and unconditional acceptance allows others to change on their own when they are ready.

    • Give advice only when asked and it is never in a way to break the other person, but to provide loving guidance. If the other person is a complete individual he/she is secure enough to take this advice in it’s loving essense and make gold with it.

    • Help others only when it aligns with their authenticity and values and makes them feel expansive, abundant and joyous. They are able to say ‘no’ politely when they realize they are doing it out of: guilt, sympathy, to fulfill a responsibility or a role, or as a transaction for a real or imagined reward. Thus these people feel energized and reinforced in their authenticity when they help, not reduced, victimized or drained. They don’t get manipulated. Unappreciation or invalidation by others for what they did does not affect them, their reward is the honor of participation in act itself. 

    • Their humbless comes from a deep knowledge that they are worthy of love without any conditions. They feel so complete and fulfilled despite outward success that they never feel the need to show-off or put others down. They can listen to others without interrupting them. They understand what the other said before responding. They compliment graciously and accept compliments fully.

    • Have a good working relationship with their fears. They get happy and inspired with their own success and that of others as well. They are not in competition with others so their success and creativity is not bound by the standards of another and thus open to possibilities.

    • Are not stuck to outcomes thus open to possibilities. It is more about the experience, the process and the journey for them than about the outcome. As such they many times have better and more unique outcomes than others and last longer in the run because they enjoy the process.

    • Have a regular practice that helps them stay connected to their authenticity, values, boundaries and their needs. It helps them evaluate if they are following their joy and paying attention to their discontent. A meditation, prayer or a technique where they can provide themselves with the love, support, forgiveness and guidance that they may need.

    • Give back with their time and attention sometimes by mentoring others. They have a sense of community and engage in it regularly without losing themselves.