A healthy relationship is a loving relationship. Love is a deep and vital emotion that satisfies certain needs, coupled with caring for and acceptance of the beloved and resulting in an intimate relationship. When I use the word “love” in this blog, I want you to think of “romantic love”. Often, I think of a relationship as a house – if you are in a relationship, you have a house. It may be different than other people’s houses, but it is your home. In this analogy, I see love as the building material. This love may be concrete, wood, brick or stone. Depending on which building material you will use, you will build and live in a different house. However, no matter how you structured your home, there is one common base that all houses are built on: self-love. Without self-love, your house is more likely to collapse regardless of the building material.
High self-love enhances a person’s capacity to love others. It means, when you love yourself and have an ability to tolerate your imperfections, you will be more likely to love other people and tolerate their imperfections. However, self-love shouldn’t be confused with narcissism. People with narcissistic tendencies often don’t realize their imperfections. Self-love is the ability to love and accept yourself as who you are, by recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and being willing to work on yourself daily.
People who are struggling with self-love often experience a persistent need for affection (note that affection does not necessarily mean love). These people are also on the alert for criticism, and once criticized, they remember it for a long time. They also often miss cues from other people who are interested in them and they start a relationship by preparing for rejection.
Three Main Structures of Healthy Relationships
- “A” Frame Relationships: Imagine the letter A – how it stands up, and how the two diagonal lines support each other. If you take one of them out, the other one will collapse. The only way to create the letter A is using both diagonal lines. For this reason, in an “A frame relationship”, there is a strong couple identity at the expense of individuality. Often, I see this A frame in codependent relationships.
- “H” Frame Relationships: Now imagine the letter H and how it is structured. There are two independent vertical lines connected with a little horizontal line. So, the vertical lines can stand up without supporting each other. While there is good sense of self, there is only little connection. Often, I see this H frame in independent relationships.
- “M” Frame Relationships: Now imagine the letter M – a strong and well-balanced letter. It looks like the vertical lines are relying on each other for support, but at the same time can stand up by themselves. Often, I see this M frame in interdependent relationships. Interdependency is what assumed to be the ideal type of relationship where our need for individuality is well balanced with our need for togetherness. Here, the adequate sense of self is the key.
Which letter best describes your relationship? If you define your relationship with an A Frame or an H Frame and/or if you are having difficulty building your relationship structure on self-love, please seek therapy.