Sunday, February 14, 2016

Healthy Relationships: The A.R.T. of Love

A major theme during the month of February is love. In particular, Valentine’s Day promotes the overt expression of love and affection for our special someone. Beyond this celebratory day, it is more important to experience and display healthy love on a consistent and ongoing basis.
Healthy love entails certain elements, among which are the following: Affection, Respect and Trust, thereby creating the acronym, A.R.T.  These are essential features of love, without which, there is an unhealthy state and unhealthy relationship.  Let’s examine the importance of each of these qualities to giving and receiving love in a healthy manner. 

Affection:  Terms associated with the official definition of the word, “affection” consist of love, liking, fondness, attraction, tenderness and warmth.  These definitions denote favorable emotions and positive feelings toward the person we love.  When we possess such feelings toward another, we value them and treat them well.  In addition, we wish to contribute to and enhance their happiness.  Consistent with this is a sense of valuing and caring about the person we love. Therefore, we make them and their concerns a priority.  Having affection for someone we love motivates us to behave in ways, either verbally, physically or both, that convey to our loved one, that they matter to us; that we want the best for them; and that we wish to do our best for them.  When our loved ones receive and experience our affection for them, they feel good and cared about.

Example:  There is positive affection in a love relationship when a person does something for their loved one, that they know their loved one will enjoy (such as a special birthday celebration; gift; paying the loved one a compliment; spending quality time with the loved one; physical expressions of affection such as hugs and kisses)

Respect:  Official definitions of the word, “respect” include holding another in high esteem; showing deference; feeling a sense of admiration for; and having regard for a person’s wishes, interests and values.  Again, this motivates one, who respects their loved one, to treat them well.  A particular manifestation of respecting our loved one is demonstrating our interest in who they in their own right.  Specifically, we have regard for the personhood of our loved one, including their individuality, their unique qualities and their interests.   In addition, respecting our loved one includes honoring their rights as a human being and their boundaries as a person.  Therefore, we recognize and honor the loved one’s freedom and right to be themselves.  In other words, we accept that person for who they are.  When our love ones receive and experience our respect, they feel valued and a sense of acceptance.

Example: There is healthy respect in a loving relationship when a person listens to, demonstrates interest in and is supportive of their loved one’s work related concerns and desires.

Trust:  The term, “trust”, as defined in various dictionaries, suggests having faith and confidence in a person’s honesty, integrity, benevolence and reliability.  When we demonstrate trustworthy behaviors, we are behaving in ways that enable our loved one to have positive expectations that we will honor a sense of responsibility for their confidence and that we can be relied upon.  In an emotional sense, where there is trust, each loving party extends their belief and emotions to the other in a way, we define as “entrusting” our feelings to the other.  Specifically, when there is trust in a relationship we make ourselves vulnerable by extending our feelings to each other, with the hope and positive expectation that each will honor and back up the mutual expectation.  Trust in a loving relationship engenders a sense of feeling safe with the other to open up, to rely upon, to take a reasonable risk, and to believe in the behaviors and expressions of the other as true and reliable.  Being loyal and committed to each other in a loving relationship is an example of both parties agreeing to honor a mutual decision, so that each can trust and rely on the other’s consistent behavior with that commitment.   A positive benefit of mutual trust in a loving relationship is a sense of security and increased emotional intimacy.

Example: A healthy level of mutual trust is present in a loving relationship when one party believes in the other’s honesty and loyalty, while away on a business trip. On the other hand, the party, who is away, displays behaviors that are consistent with stated expectations and maintains communication with their loved one.  


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