Today we introduce Susanne Ciancio, LPC, Licensed Professional Christian Counselor. She’ll be featured here at Circles Of Faith every first Wednesday of the month. 

What are 3 elements of a healthy relationship?

By Susanne Ciancio, LPC

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We all love our friends and friendships, but not all our relationships are healthy. Let's look into some of the ingredients of a truly healthy relationship.

1. Mutuality is the highest goal for all relationships. That includes respect for each others’  time, ideas, needs, and strengths. When relationships are mutual, most of the rest that is required follows. For example, if I respect my friend I’ll make sure the conversations, meeting places, arrangements, etc., complement both of our needs and desires. If my friend is an introvert, I'll make sure I don't take up too much space in the relationship and dominate the time with my interests, needs, and problems. To be mutual is to really feel like an equal with all people and to be able to demonstrate that in the relationship, time spent together, planning, etc. What a blessing to have friendships that can be called adult mutual relationships!  Mutuality implies that it's not all about just one of us.

Mutuality is such a necessity in a relationship that when it's not present friendships become draining, strained, and sometimes even annoying, frustrating, or boring. We hate to think that we might have that effect on a friend...if we're not mindful of the direction we take conversations in, the dynamics can become stilted, favoring one person over another. But when His Light comes on our relationships and we walk in that light (1 John 1:7) we have fellowship one with another!

2. Grace is the balance for mutuality! Grace overlooks when others do it wrong, forgives and forgets, and helps us all to laugh at ourselves. Grace is like the balm that helps me say to a friend who has just blown it, "Remember last time, when I was the one to spill the beans…when I was the one who made that very mistake or…(fill in the blank). Without grace, mutuality can become no more than a ledger line of checks and balances keeping our friendship under the law. The best way to kill any relationship is to keep accounts. The best way to enhance a relationship is through laughter, love, and forgiveness.

3. Finally I have to include boundaries as a key ingredient for healthy friendships. What is a boundary?  It is a property line around our hearts and lives, time, money, and so much more. The most effective tool for setting boundaries is our words. "No," is the most common word used to set a boundary. If we're not free to say no to our friends’ requests, inquiries, and demands, we're probably just practicing a lot of co-dependency. Did you know there is a specific biblical admonition against people pleasing? Proverbs 29:25 says fear of man (people pleasing) is a snare. There is so much more to be said about this topic. For more information, get the groundbreaking book, Boundaries – When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The principles are life changing!

Relationships are the zest and spice of life. We love our friends but friendship takes work, honesty, willingness to work on character flaws and perhaps most importantly a desire to become  a worthwhile, lifelong and memorable friend. Friendships are so worth our time!

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Susanne Ciancio, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Christian Counselor. She has been serving the Christian community as a professional Christian counselor in Essex county and the surrounding area since 1986. Beyond her private practice in West Orange, NJ she is involved in teaching, consulting, and pastoral supervision in various churches in the area. Click here for Susanne's website.

EDITORS NOTE: While Susanne can’t answer specific counseling-related questions, she welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about what kinds of topics you’d like to see addressed here at Circles of Faith. Click here to contact us.

photo credit: Ant1_G via photopincc

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