Sara Aloimonos, certified life-coach and owner of local life-coaching business Monarch Coaching, discusses relationships, how to communicate in a healthy way, and how to set boundaries with other people.
Every reference to a relationship or partner in this article refers to anyone from a friend to a spouse — the important people in your life.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
“I feel like a healthy relationship, it’s a lot about having open communication,” said Sara Aloimonos.
She emphasized that trust and honesty are important when communicating with people.
She also described an 80/80 relationship, which means both partners are putting increased effort into their relationship to meet the needs of the other person.
“A healthy relationship should be 80/80, none of this 50/50, (trying to) be equal.
“When I say 80/80, it’s that each person is trying their hardest and more in the relationship so then all bases get covered and nobody’s left with their needs unmet and feeling resentful.
“Relationships that are 50/50, it’s like tit for tat, ‘you did (X) so now I have to do (Y).’”
Telling your partner how you’re really feeling prevents resentment from making its way into your relationships, says Aloimonos. Doing so will work toward solving whatever’s bothering you, she said.
“Being able to be vulnerable and open allows for productive communication. Stating your needs, stating your boundaries, and having those (be) respected as well.
“When people are not communicating and not being vulnerable, resentment builds. That can just kill a relationship. It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts.”
How is vulnerability expressed?
“It’s saying how you feel. So many people are afraid to say, ‘I feel sad’ or ‘I feel hurt.’
“It’s just completely being open about your life, how you’re feeling, and how that’s affecting you.
Aloimonos says that it is important to address your own feelings when being vulnerable instead of talking about the other person.
Sharing how their behavior is affecting you and your feelings is the proper way of being vulnerable, while accusing and labelling the other person can be harmful to them, she says.
“It’s important to use ‘I’ terms instead of ‘you.’ (Say) ‘your behavior is affecting me in this way’ instead of, ‘you’re a jerk.’ You’re still addressing their behavior.
She said that using ‘you’ statements is more like attacking the person you are attempting to communicate with instead of finding a solution.
“‘You’ is so attacking. Like, ‘you didn’t do what you said you were going to do,’ instead of, ‘I felt disappointed because I was supposed to meet you here at (X) time.’
Does it matter who we spend time with in our personal time?
“I believe that it does. We all have energy flow. We have different goals and standards in our lives.
“When someone negative invades our space, it’s almost like they’re ‘energy vampires,’ and they suck all that good stuff we have going out of us.
“If you’re spending time with energy vampires, you (will) feel physically exhausted and mentally drained after you spend time with them.
“It’s always important just to analyze how you feel after you spend time with someone. If you feel like garbage (afterward), then you have to reevaluate your friendship.
“See if you want to just set boundaries with that person or if you just want to reconsider even having them in your life.”
She also said that you can get drawn into negative behavior by spending time with negative people.
“People who align on your frequency of thinking and the energy you’re putting out; those are the people you should stick with.”
Should we completely cut out negative people from our lives?
“What I would suggest is evaluating how important this person is first, and if you feel they’re important in your life then just set boundaries.
“If there’s certain things they bring up that are offensive or things that you just don’t enjoy, be open and say, ‘when we’re together, can we not talk about these things?’
“Boundaries are so important. Say, ‘I can’t discuss this with you’ or ‘let’s just focus on this.’ Then if that person still disrespects you setting boundaries, (then ask again,) ‘do I even want this person in my life?’
“It’s like their way or nothing, and they don’t even consider where you’re coming from.
“You have to be vulnerable and say, ‘I feel this way,’ and then it’s up to them to stop or not.”
Some people that you feel are an important part of your life, such as members of your family, may also be prone to negative behavior. Sara suggests how to deal with their negativity.
“People like parents or siblings, you can almost put them in a compartment in a way. When you’re with them and you say (to yourself), ‘I know they’re going to be this way so I’m not gonna allow myself to absorb their energy. I’m just going to understand (that) this is how they are. I’m with them for a short time, and when I leave them, I’m just going to shake it off.’”
What are some practices for maintaining healthy relationships?
“Always continue to do your own work to be the best person you can possibly be, then bring that into the relationship.
Aloimonos says that your own emotional baggage, negativity, and character flaws are all projected into your relationships with people, which is why it is important to work on ourselves.
Conversely, when you do work on yourself by dealing with past traumas and issues, the way you feel about yourself changes, she says.
Bringing your best qualities into the relationship improves it, she added.
“Also just being respectful of others’ needs and their boundaries.
“If someone comes to you and says, ‘I don’t want you calling me excessively at work.’ It’s OK. I respect that.”
Aloimonos encourages people to openly communicate at all times, even if it causes someone to be hurt or upset.
“Silence is a killer. When you’re just silent and you’re building up resentment and all these negative (feelings), then you’ll project that and your energy comes out onto the relationship and that’s when fights start.
“When you’re open and you say, ‘I’m upset about this,’ even if it causes a fight, you’re still getting it out and then you can deal with that problem. Then it actually strengthens the relationship.
Should we still bring up problems with our partner, even if it’s really small?
Aloimonos said it depends, and that she encourages you to wait a day or so to see if it is still bothering you. If it does, then bring it up, otherwise the resentment will build, she says.
“Those are those little paper cuts that are just going to keep cutting and creating further barriers between you and the (other) person, but if you’ve forgotten about it or it’s not that big of a deal a day later, then don’t bother bringing it up.”
How do you deal with the fear of confronting someone?
“I would weigh the pros and cons of it. Do you want to just get it out and feel better or suck it up and feel like (garbage)?
“You’re so angry at them because you haven’t spoken to them, and they can feel that anger and resentment, that energy coming from you.”