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S2 EP213 – How to Have a Healthy Relationship

Episode Summary

Are you looking for a loving partner, or do you want to improve your current relationship? Are you already in a healthy relationship and you want to make it even better? Loving relationships don’t just happen, so discover the actions people in successful relationships take. 


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding Podcast. Today, I’m speaking about the kinds of things couples do that erode the love in their relationships, what you need to do to create a healthy relationship, and what you need to do to attract a loving partner.

I’m frequently asked why so many relationships fail. In the 54 years that I have worked with couples, I have discovered some major relationship killers.

Many people enter a relationship with a deep fear of rejection, and this fear motivates various forms of controlling behavior. Controlling behavior falls into two major categories – overt control and covert control.

Overt control includes many forms of attack, such as blaming anger, rage, violence, judgment, criticism, and ridicule.

Covert control includes compliance, enabling, withdrawal, defending, explaining, lying, resistance, and denying. Often a person at the other end of attack will respond with some form of covert control in an attempt to have control over not being attacked.

Both overt and covert controlling behavior always results in resentment and emotional distance, bringing about the very rejection that it’s meant to avoid.

Also, many people enter a relationship with a deep fear of being engulfed and controlled – of losing themselves. The moment they experience their partner wanting control over them, they respond with resistance, such as withdrawing, forgetting, numbing out, and procrastination.

When one partner is controlling, and the other is resistant – which is really an attempt to have control over not being controlled – the relationship becomes immobilized. Partners in this relationship system feel frustrated, stagnant, and resentful.

Many people enter a relationship believing that it is their partner’s job to fill their emptiness, take away their aloneness, and make them feel good about themselves. When people have not learned how to stop abandoning themselves, how to take loving responsibility for their own feelings and needs, and how to define their own self-worth, they may pull on their partner and others to fill them with the love they need. Pulling often results in resistance.

Most people who feel empty inside as a result of their self-abandonment, turn to substance and process addictions in an attempt to fill their emptiness and take away the pain of their aloneness. Alcohol and drug abuse, food, spending, gambling, busyness, Internet sex and pornography, affairs, work, TV, accumulating things, beautifying, and so on, can all be used as ways to fill emptiness and avoid fears of failure, inadequacy, rejection, and engulfment. And they are all ways of shutting out your partner.

Many people are acutely aware of what their partner is doing that is causing relationship problems, but completely unaware of what they are doing. For example, you might be very aware of your partner’s resistance or withdrawal, but totally unaware of your own judgmental behavior. You might compliant. You might be very aware of your partner’s addictive behavior, but very unaware of your own enabling. As long as your eyes are on your partner instead of on yourself, you will continue to believe that if only your partner changed, everything would be okay.

All relationship killers come from fear – of inadequacy, of failure, of rejection and of engulfment. As long as you are coming from any of these fears, you will likely behave in one or more of the controlling ways that I just spoke about.

The way out is through a devoted practice of Inner Bonding to develop a loving adult self who knows how to take responsibility for your own feelings and need for approval. You will move beyond controlling, needy and addictive behavior only when you learn how to fill yourself with love and define your own inner worth. When you are willing to take your eyes off your partner and turn your eyes fully on yourself, you can begin to do the Inner Bonding work necessary to heal yourself and your relationship

Is your relationship in trouble?

The first question you need to ask yourself is: “Do I want to save this relationship or do I want to leave it?” If the answer is that you want to save it, then I hope you keep listening.

There are a number of choices you can make that might completely change the course of your relationship.

The first choice is to be honest with yourself regarding your primary intention.

Which intent is primary for you – the intent to control or the intent to learn about love?

Is your primary intention to protect yourself from your fears with your various forms of controlling behavior? Is having power over your partner and winning, more important to you than being loving to yourself and to your partner? Do you make your partner responsible for your feelings? Are you more devoted to getting love and avoiding rejection, rather than to mutuality, caring, and sharing love?

Or, is your primary intention to learn about loving yourself and your partner? Are you more devoted to mutuality, caring, and sharing love than to being right, winning, having your way, or making your partner responsible for your feelings? Is learning more important to you than whether or not you receive approval?

Basic to all the other choices regarding creating a loving relationship is being in the intent to learn about loving yourself and others. If your primary intent is to protect yourself from pain and rejection with controlling behavior, you will have no chance of improving your relationship. You will continue to create the very problems you are attempting to avoid with your controlling behavior.

Another important choice you can make is to let go of the past. Hanging on to old grievances is part of the intent to control – blaming your partner for your pain rather than taking responsibility for whatever choices you made that resulted in your unhappiness. The more you learn to take loving care of yourself in the present, the easier it becomes to let go of past resentments.

Another very helpful choice is to disengage from conflict as soon as one of you is not open to learning. There is no point in trying to talk out problems and issues until both of you are open to learning. If you are open and your partner is not, then give up trying to solve problems by talking about them, and instead unilaterally figure out how to take loving care of yourself in the face of your partner’s choices. Learn the art of lovingly disengaging when one or both of you are closed to learning and reengage only when both of you are open.

Equally important is keeping your eyes on your own plate. Learn to share only about yourself and your own learning. Let go of analyzing your partner. Let go of interrogating questions that are really attacks. These behaviors are controlling and invasive. Your job is to define your own self-worth, and the more you focus on bringing yourself joy and let go of trying to change your partner, the better chance you have of creating a loving relationship.

Do your own inner work to deal with your issues of abandonment and engulfment, and to define your own worth and lovability. Rather than making your partner responsible for your fears of abandonment or your fears of losing yourself, do your inner healing work to move beyond these fears. Take full responsibility for these fears rather than making your partner responsible for causing them.

And it’s vitally important to accept your lack of control over your partner. Instead, choose to see your partner as his or her own person. Learn to cherish the differences rather than try to make your partner into you. Support your partner in becoming all he or she came to this planet to be. Support your partner in what brings him or her joy, taking responsibility for whatever fears your partner’s independence brings up for you.

If you are stuck in the mindset of protection and control, you will not be able to make these choices. Your intent to learn is basic to being able to make these choices and improve your relationship. You are in charge of your intent, and you always have the option to let go of the intent to protect, control, and avoid what you fear, and move into the intent to learn about loving yourself and your partner.

Do you believe you have a good relationship? Different people have different definitions of a good and healthy relationship.

I sometimes hear my clients say, “My parents had a very good relationship.”

“What do you mean by good?” I ask.

“They didn’t fight. They spent a lot of time with each other.”

That may have been the definition of a good relationship years ago, but now most people want more. Here are some signs of a healthy relationship.

Kindness, Compassion, and Empathy

Do you each receive joy out of being kind to each other? Being kind, compassionate, and empathic, rather than controlling with each other, is essential for a healthy relationship. Be sure to make kindness and compassion with yourself and others your guiding light, even when your fears are triggered.

Spontaneous Warmth and Affection

Do you and your partner well up with warmth and fullness of heart for each other and express it with affection? Are you each able to see the beautiful essence within each other, rather than just the faults? Are you able to get beyond the outer to the unique inner self of each other? Do you enjoy sharing affection? Warmth and affection are vital for a healthy relationship. 

Laughter and Fun

Can the two of you laugh and play together? Do you appreciate and enjoy each other’s sense of humor? In the midst of difficulties, can you help each other to lighten up with humor? Can you let down and be playful with each other, letting yourselves be like kids together? Laughter and fun play a huge role in a healthy relationship.

Enjoying Time Together and Time Apart

Are you both each other’s favorite person to spend time with? Are you motivated to set aside time just to be together?

Do both of you have friends and interests that you enjoy doing? Are both of you fine when you are not together?

Some couples spend a lot of time together because they really enjoy it, while others spend a lot of time together out of fear of being alone. It is important for a healthy relationship for each person to have friends and interests, so that they are not dependent on each other. Dependency is not healthy in a relationship, particularly emotional dependency.

A Method for Conflict Resolution

All relationships have some conflict. It is not the conflict that is the issue, but how you deal with it. Do you have a method for resolving conflict, or do the issues just keep getting swept aside? If fighting is part of how you deal with conflict, do you fight fair, or are you hurtful when you fight? 

Letting Go of Anger

If one or both of you get angry, do you hang on to it, punishing your partner with it, or can you easily let it go? In healthy relationships, both partners are able to quickly move on, back into kindness and affection. Practicing Inner Bonding is a powerful way of letting go of anger and blame and moving back in kindness. 

Trust in Your Love for Each Other

Do you each trust that the love is solid, even in very difficult times between you? Do you each know that you can mess up, fail, disappoint the other, emotionally hurt the other – and the love will still be there? Do you each know that the love is about who you are, not what you do? This level of trust is essential for a healthy relationship.

Listening, Understanding, Accepting and Learning

Do you each feel heard, understood, and accepted? Can you share your secrets with your partner without fearing being judged? Are you each more interested in learning about yourselves and each other than you are in controlling each other? Is listening to each other with an open compassionate and empathic heart and a desire to understand more important than judging each other or defending yourselves? 


Is your sexual relationship warm and caring? Can you be sexually spontaneous? Can you talk with each other about what doesn’t feel good and about what brings pleasure to each of you? 

Freedom to be Yourself

Do you each feel free to be all that you are? Do you each feel supported in pursuing what brings you joy? Does your partner feel joy for your joy?

While some people may naturally be open, kind, affectionate, accepting, compassionate, empathic, and emotionally responsible for themselves, most people need to heal the fears and false beliefs they learned in their families. Healthy relationships evolve as each person evolves in his or her ability to be loving to themselves and each other.

Couples that have a very good relationship are not just lucky. Successful, loving relationships do not just happen. The couples that have loving relationships are taking specific actions that people in unsuccessful relationships are not taking.

Think for a moment about how you go through your day. Are you focused on what you don’t like in yourself or your partner? Do you spend much of your thinking time judging yourself or your partner? Or, as I previously said, do you make the spiritual attribute of kindness to yourself and others, including your partner, your highest priority?

People in successful relationships treat themselves and their partner with kind words, kind actions, kind looks, kind listening, and kind thoughts. It is far more important to them to be kind, compassionate, and empathic than to try to control their partner with anger, judgment, criticism, irritation, blame, resistance, or withdrawal.

People in loving relationships do not make their partner responsible for their feelings. When they feel angry, hurt, anxious, depressed, resentful, irritated, guilty, or shamed, they look within at their own thoughts and behavior that may be causing their painful feelings. They do not see themselves as victims of their partner’s choices. Rather, they learn how to manage their own feelings without dumping their upset on their partner. When they can’t manage their own feelings, they get the help they need rather than dump anger, blame, anxiety, or depression on to their partner.

People in successful relationships take responsibility for managing their time and space in ways that work for themselves and their partner. They make sure they have enough time with each other to talk, learn, resolve conflict, play, and make love. The make sure they have time with children, time for chores, time for work and time for relaxation. They take care of their mutual living spaces in ways that respect their partner’s needs. If one partner tends to be neat and the other messy, they both strive to make their living environment pleasant for both of them rather than either of them complying, controlling, or resisting. Because their highest priority is kindness to themselves and each other, they are motivated to discover ways of living together that meets both of their needs.

Successful couples make sure that they not only earn enough to support themselves, but they learn how to manage their money in ways that do not create stress for themselves or for their partner. They decide mutually if both of them will work or not. Partners in loving relationships do not unilaterally decide to stop working and live off the other person. Nor does either partner make unilateral financial decisions that have a negative impact on the other partner.

In successful relationships, one partner does not spend money in such a way as to create stress for the other person. Loving partners mutually decide on their budget and then both of them stick to it.

When two people care deeply about themselves and each other, they strive to take care of their physical health. Loving partners do not behave in ways that cause their partner to fear for their wellbeing. They do not take unnecessary risks, such as riding a motorcycle without a helmet, or participating in activities that could harm their eyes without wearing goggles. They don’t drink and drive. They eat well, get enough exercise, and don’t smoke. People in loving relationships do not want their partner to suffer the grief of their loss through premature illness, so they strive to take good care of themselves – partly out of caring for themselves, and partly out of caring for their partner.

As I said, successful relationships don’t just happen. They are the result of learning to take physical, emotional, financial, organizational, and spiritual responsibility for themselves.

If you are not in a loving relationship, and you want to attract a loving partner but haven’t been able to, it’s likely that you first need to create a healthy relationship with yourself and with the people who are currently in your life.

Myrna, 38, a successful physician, sought my help because she often felt inadequate. While she really valued herself as a doctor, she did not value herself in her important relationships with friends and family. She said she wanted to be in a loving relationship, but that wasn’t happening.

In the course of our work together, it became apparent that Myrna rarely took loving action on her own behalf with her friends and family. For example, Jessica, one of Myrna’s friends, would often get angry and blame Myrna when Myrna was not available for dinner with Jessica. Myrna would feel guilty and responsible for Jessica’s feelings and meet her for dinner even when she was exhausted from work. Myrna would feel drained after these dinners and depressed for a few days after, never realizing it was because she had abandoned herself.

Myrna realized that she was afraid to be in a relationship because she had no idea how to take loving care of herself around others. She was terrified of completely losing herself in an important relationship. She realized that if she could not speak up for herself with Jessica, how could she ever speak up and take loving action for herself with a partner she loved? She realized that she would continue to feel lonely, anxious, inadequate, and depressed until she learned to take responsibility for herself and her own feelings, instead of taking responsibility for others’ feelings.

Many people suffer daily from anxiety, depression, stress, and anger as well as from feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. The major cause of these feelings is a lack of loving action on their own behalf, a lack of personal responsibility for their own feelings and wellbeing, and without loving actions for yourself, there is little chance of having a healthy relationship with a partner.

Loving actions fall into two categories: Loving actions for yourself and loving actions in relationship to others.

Loving actions for yourself are those actions that attend to your own feelings and needs. When you take loving action on your own behalf, you are letting yourself know that you matter, that you are important and that you count. When you fail to take loving action, you give yourself the message that you are not important, which may lead to feeling depressed and inadequate.

Loving actions for yourself might include:

  • Eating nutritious foods, avoiding junk food and sugar, eating when hungry and stopping when full.
  • Getting enough exercise.
  • Keeping your work and home environments clean and organized.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Creating a balance between work and play. Making sure you have time to get your work done, as well as time to do nothing, reflect, learn, play, and create.
  • Creating a good support system of people who love and care about you.
  • Being organized with your time, getting places on time, paying bills on time, and so on.
  • Choosing to be compassionate with yourself rather than judgmental toward yourself.
  • Creating a balance between time for yourself and time with others.
  • Making sure you are physically safe by wearing a seat belt in a car, a helmet on a bike, goggles when necessary, and so on.

When you learn to take loving actions for yourself, you will naturally extend your love to others and take loving actions with a partner, friends, and family. 

Loving actions in relationship to others might include:

  • Being kind and compassionate toward others without compromising your own integrity or ignoring your own needs and feelings.
  • Saying no when you mean no and yes when you mean yes, rather than giving yourself up and going along with something you don’t want to do, or automatically resisting what another wants from you.
  • Taking care of your own needs instead of trying to change and control others. Accepting your lack of control over others and either accepting them as they are or not being around them.
  • Speaking your truth about what is acceptable to you and what is unacceptable and then taking action for yourself based on your truth.
  • Taking personal responsibility for your own feelings and needs, instead of being a victim and making others responsible for your feelings and needs.
  • Creating a balance between giving and receiving, rather than a one-way street with another person.
  • Letting go of believing that you are responsible for other’s feelings.

As a result of practicing Inner Bonding and learning to take better care of herself alone and with others, Myrna no longer felt depressed and inadequate. She gradually lost her fears of being in a relationship and is delighted to be meeting available people.

You can attract a loving partner by learning to take loving care of yourself, and you may be able to heal a troubled relationship, also by learning to take loving care of yourself and then extending your love to your partner.

I invite you join me for my bi-monthly masterclass and receive my live help, which you can learn about at

And I invite you to heal your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my new book, “Lonely No More: The Astonishing Power of Inner Bonding” and from our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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