Am I Healthy Enough to Build a Healthy Relationship?

Sarene B. Arias

The ability to build a healthy relationship rests on a baseline level of sound mental health. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to assess your readiness for love.

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The ability to build a healthy relationship rests on a baseline level of sound mental health. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to assess your readiness for love.

  1. Self-awareness: Can I talk calmly and clearly about my own mental health profile? The more we dispel stigma around mental health the more comfortable we will all become in sharing our diagnoses with one another. The CDC reports that nearly 20% of Americans received treatment for a mental health disorder in 2019. It is time to shed our shame about mental health, and share this part of ourselves when we get to know one another, just as we might share hobbies, hopes and dreams.
  2. Self-soothing: Do I know how to self-soothe? Falling in love feels blissful, and that bliss can bring relief to inner turmoil. But, love relationships are also highly destabilizing, as we work with high stakes to integrate a new person into our lives. For this reason, it is essential that we have healthy habits, practical actions we can take to help us regain a sense of safety and calm, and bring those skills with us into relationship. Meditation, yoga, journaling, playing an instrument, talking to a friend or loved one, and exercise are all healthy ways of finding calm in an emotional storm.
  3. Addiction: Am I caught in an addiction? If the only self-soothing methods that work for you are self-destructive, then you are not ready for relationship. This is why AA forbids addicts from entering a relationship in the first year of sobriety. The addiction cycle is so human, so common, so understandable, especially in light of the poor social fabric of the 21st century. But, the habits of an addict are the exact behaviors that destroy a relationship. If our pain is so great that we cannot tolerate being with it and must check out by indulging an addiction, then it’s time to seek help, not seek a love relationship.
  4. Self-Love: Do I know how to love myself and take responsibility for myself? When falling in love, it is so tempting to just hand our beloved our pain, metaphorically saying, “Here, you hold this for me.” Our love cannot hold our pain. At best, they can hold us while we heal from our pain.
  5. Know Your Attachment Style: Do I know how to ask for what I need clearly? Learning that I exited childhood with an anxious attachment style transformed my ability to be in relationship. Now that I know, I can make clear requests of my partner for simple things he can do to soothe me, and take responsibility for the rest myself. Today, when I feel my anxiety flare, I draw upon my self-soothing skills, rather than throwing a temper tantrum with my love.

Moving too fast or too slowly when tending the spark of a new connection is often a sign that someone is not ready. Maybe someone is still stuck on an old flame or needs some time for personal soul searching or therapy. Either way, the powerful forces of love require a sturdy container if we want them to nourish us, and not overwhelm us. Building that container requires patience and perseverance. It’s a sweet fruit, that must ripen in time.

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