Our views on romantic relationships flow naturally from our beliefs about the healthy state of being for people, groups of people, and culture. Key beliefs are the idea that, in a healthy state, people treat each other with respect, communicate honestly, and take responsibility for their actions. Our beliefs about consent, that people are not coerced into doing things that they would not do of their own free will, are also important.
Our beliefs provide a guide to beliefs and behaviors which we would consider healthy or unhealthy in relationships.
Unhealthy views or approaches to relationships
- Assigning specific meaning to a person's actions, such as "He hugged me for a long time, so it means he is interested in me." or "She didn't call me back, so it means she is not interested." These interpretations involve speculating about or analyzing the other person's intentions, something we consider to be unhealthy and a characteristic of clouded or unclear thinking.
- Idealizing or idolizing someone as an object of an intense infatuation:
- Thinking about a person's attributes or character as if you know the person much better than you do, reasoning on the basis of imagined attributes rather than actual interactions or observation. This is an example of clouded thinking, because it involves believing something with more certainty than is warranted.
- A pattern of thinking excessively about a person and wanting to be romantically involved with them, without communicating with them. This sets up a bad pattern of excessive reasoning about a person without communication, which is not a foundation for a healthy relationship if you actually do get involved with the person later.
- Thinking that it is wrong or bad if someone is or isn't attracted to or interested in you, and acting on the basis of such a belief. (Often, a hidden should statement that a person "should" or "should not" be attracted to you).
- The idea that something is inherently wrong or harmful about a situation where one person is interested in or attracted to another and the feeling is not reciprocated.
- Doing things to try to make a person like you or be attracted to you, or to make a person stop liking you or being attracted to you.
- Taking direct responsibility for your partner's feelings (which you do not directly control) rather than taking responsibility for and only for your actions and words. This flows from our practice about not taking responsibility for other people's emotions or internal states. Emotional responses may or may not have a basis in healthy or clear thought processes, and acting directly to assuage your partner's emotions can leave a person vulnerable to codependency, manipulation, or negative influence from problems in your partner's life.
Healthy approaches to relationships
- Communicating directly about what you want, rather than expecting people to correctly read indirect signals.
- Directly asking what someone wants, when it is not clear and when it is important for you to know.
- Taking responsibility for your words and actions, but not directly for your partner's feelings, being respectful and truthful in communications, but understanding that even when acting this way, your partner may be upset by some things you do, and that this is not your responsibility and is not always an indicator that you have done something wrong.
Romantic relationships and the rules of communication
Our rules of communication can be helpful to follow in relationships when conflicts or points of contention arise. In the context of discussions in romantic relationships, these rules can be interpreted:
- Use language accurately and honestly.
- See and talk about a romantic partner as a whole person, rather than characterizing them as strictly good or bad, or focusing on one particular aspect of the person that you may dislike.
- Speak from your own experience.
- When describing conflicts or situations in which you have felt uncomfortable, focus on your partner's specific words or actions, and avoid making statements about their thoughts, intentions, or motivations.
- Be direct whenever you are uncomfortable with the conversation or want to change the subject or talk about something later.
- Use I statements when talking about anything that you are not sure your partner will agree with.
- Avoid assigning blame to your partner (or yourself) for anything that goes wrong in a relationship.
In addition to following the rules of communication in conversations, it can be helpful to be aware of your own patterns of thinking, to be sure that you are thinking clearly.
Our core beliefs describe a healthy state in which people take responsibility for their actions, but not for things outside their control. Because people do not directly control the feelings of others, from these beliefs, it follows that we consider it healthy to not directly take responsibility for the feelings of others, including a romantic partner. This means that if something you say or do upsets your partner, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have done anything wrong. However, it is also important to take responsibility for your actions and words, because these are things you do control.
We would thus consider the responsibilities of a person in a relationship to include things like being aware of how your actions and words affect your partner, being truthful in communication, and acting in such a way that keeps the relationship consensual--i.e not coercing or manipulating your partner in any way. But a person would not be responsible for the feelings of their partner.
This boundary or line for where responsibility begins and ends sets a healthy boundary, which encourages people to be fully respectful to their partners, while protecting themselves both from being manipulated by a partner, and from being unintentionally harmed by problems in their partner's life.