By Nicole Willared
“There are either two healthy people in a relationship or two unhealthy people.”
— David Caulfield, Palm Springs anger management therapist
Arcata therapist Melinda Myers, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in therapy and couples counseling, said when couples come to seek her counsel, almost always it is because the couple is having trouble communicating. Myers said there are ways to define healthy and unhealthy relationships; and it’s about they way we choose to communicate with our partner.
Myers has her own private practice in Arcata and lectures here at HSU in the behavior science department. She also owns a sex shop in Eureka.
“In a healthy relationship, there is a deep level of respect and it’s based on intimacy, a desire to know someone and a desire to let them see you for your very real self,” Myers said.
Myers also makes the distinction that intimacy is not sex.
“Passion is part of sex,” she said. “Intimacy is about knowing the real other person and them knowing the real you. It is knowing the other person has flaws, struggling just like you are and showing them your own vulnerability, so you are not trying to be perfect. There’s no glamor. The glamor has worn off and the real relationship evolves and that is where the intimacy is; which is one criteria for a healthy relationship.”
Myers said respect is another key element for a healthy relationship and unhealthy behaviors which can be considered ‘abusive’ should be dealt with.
“Another one is respect and what I mean is there is no circumstance under which it’s okay to call your partner a name ever, it not okay to hit, yell, break things, control and take their stuff away, put them down in order to stay in control,” Myers said. “If I heard that in a couples therapy session, then I would need to refer them to deal with the abuse and refer the abusers to someone who works with perpetrators and refer the person being victimized to someone who specializes in domestic violence, even if it’s all psychological because you can’t work in couples therapy with an abusive couple. What happens they leave couples counseling and the abuse starts again.”
Myers explains normal feelings include anger, frustration, jealousy but normal behavior does not include throwing something, hitting a wall or yelling at your partner.
“Those are not okay,” Myers said. “So in an adult relationship you help people separate that. One of the ways you do it is to help identify when a person is reactive and defensive.”
The healthy method of communication is to respond to what your partner is saying rather than react to it. So, if one partner says to the other partner for example, “Wow! I really love you but there are so many things I am not getting.” At this point, the partner whose hearing this should listen and say, “Tell me more about that, I care about you.”
This is an example of a healthy response. An unhealthy response may sound something like this: “You don’t know what you are talking about, this is the best relationship you have ever had, and nobody else will ever love like I do.”
Myers explains such a response is not listening and to respond to your partner in a healthy way takes a little more self control.
“So, the key to a good relationship it to hold on to your own shit and don’t let it erupt so you really listen to what the other person is talking about,” Myers said. “And first you really listen until you are sure you understand, and the other person is sure you understand. But it takes some skill, especially if you grew up in a house of yellers. Where are you going to learn that? You have to practice it.”