As a coach, I am often asked about relationships. What are healthy boundaries? Should you tolerate emotional abuse? How much is too much? Is it ever okay to break ties with family? Especially close family members, like siblings? Or the ones who are supposed to love you the most, like mothers?
The answer is, “It’s complicated.” A lot depends on the nature of the participants. Is mental illness, violence, or trauma involved? Is there a desire to heal or a desire to do harm?
I moved to Florida a little over a month ago after fifteen years of living in Atlanta and many more in Brooklyn, NY. This is the first time in over twenty years that I’ve lived with another adult. It’s been amazing. When people build supportive relationships, there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished. That became even more clear when Hurricane Ian blew through. In times of crisis, healthy relationships become even more important.
But how can you tell which relationships are good for you? Try my GEM Test. It’s a simple formula to help you decide who gets to enjoy a piece of your time and participate in your life. Healthy relationships should provide three things:
- Good intentions. Growing up, I always heard the saying, “The road to hell was paved with good intentions.” It meant that even the best intentions didn’t matter if you hurt someone. While it’s true that you should take responsibility if you hurt someone unintentionally, the intention is where you begin. Setting your intentions is a regular part of yoga and mindfulness practices. It’s important to know what you are trying to accomplish. I do my best to always have loving intentions even in difficult situations. Can you make someone feel loved? Can you speak your truth from a place of love?
- Encouragement. Let’s face it. At the end of the day, life isn’t always easy. Let’s make it softer by offering words and gestures that build each other up. This may go against the way you were raised. You might have been teased or diminished as a way to “toughen you up.” That’s the old paradigm. You don’t have to operate that way anymore. Today one of my friends, who has known me nearly all my life, said she admired me. It was unexpected, sweet, and just the fuel I needed to boost my spirits. Whose spirits can you boost today? Can you remind someone that you have faith in them?
- Mutual respect. Don’t curse at me, yell at me, “call me out my name,” etc. I don’t live for drama. I’m like a little flower. I live to GROW and experience joy and productivity. Now, don’t get me wrong, when I was younger, I could hurl insults with the best of them. (I still can.) However, I’ve learned it really doesn’t help me communicate any better, and it certainly doesn’t win people over to my way of thinking. It’s ineffective and rude. (Insert shoulder shrug here.) Can you learn to express passionate emotions without disrespect? Can you critique an idea without insulting a person?
Healthy relationships are priceless. If someone is in your life and you’re not sure if they should stay, see if they pass the GEM Test. It will make your decision a whole lot easier. That’s my good intention. 🙂