Within relationships, general consensus suggests a healthy relationship as one that mounts the relationship above the individual. That’s if you don’t have children. If you have children, that consensus enforces the children be placed above the relationship that’s placed above the individual.

In fact, we are so desperate in our quest for a healthy relationship we’ve developed languages, rules, and planets, to instruct individuals how to grow one in their love garden. Then, once we’ve learned the the languages, the rules, and the orbit of the planets, we can then apply the knowledge to our weekly date night, and . . . voila! The “he” and “she” are now a healthy “we.”

We get engaged. We get married. I am now a Mrs., or I now have a Mrs. Wevacation together. We grocery shop. We listen to the same music and wealternate chick flicks and action films.

We start out with our own bank accounts but since transparency is crucial to a healthy relationship, I combine mine with yours. We also start out with our own jobs and ambitions but then discuss how much healthier it is to raise a family with one parent at home.

I quit my job so you can support the family but we attend all of our prenatal classes together because I’m not pregnant . . . we’re pregnant.

We take parenting classes (even though I’m the only one parenting), and you give me a budget (since you’re the only one working). I realize we might need time apart but you’re concerned with what the “Jones’” would think. You grow increasingly overwhelmed with solely supporting the family, while I’ve been out of the workforce 10 years raising the kids.

You lose your job and resent me for it, and I withhold sex as leverage. You keep girls on the side because it’s easier than a divorce, and I stay because I can’t support myself.

But we are still in a relationship and still take vacation together, and still go on date nights, and still retain all of the knowledge we’ve learned that is the formula to a healthy relationship.

But what if the formula updated it’s “software?” Upgraded its “operating system?” Represented reality as opposed to the ideal?

What if the formula got the clever makeover we so desperately needed?

The clever makeover sees a healthy relationship as a healthy relationship between the individual and themselves. The longest relationship we’ll ever know is the one with ourselves. We don’t need rules, language interpreters, or solar systems to represent what it is to be in a healthy relationship. We just need to tend to the individual . . . the soil in our love garden.

To tend to the individual we need to keep one bag packed and one foot out the door. And we also need to understand this as a concept, not a principle.

To apply this concept is to always be ready to leave . . . if you need to. To apply this concept is to keep one foot in the workforce . . . in case you need to rejoin it. To apply this concept is to trust in your ability to support you and yours . . . should you ever bear that responsibility. And to apply this concept is to revel in a healthy relationship without the dysfunction of dependancy.

When I keep my job, I never doubt my ability to earn my own living. When you travel without me you infuse our relationship with new adventures. When I go out with friends on a regular basis, you regularly miss me. When you regularly miss me, your heart grows fonder.

And though this is a concept applicable to all genders, it’s a bit more meaningful for women in relationships with men. Even though it’s 2014, we continue to live in a patriarchal society that affords certain privileges to designated genders and ethnicities. Because of this, women put themselves at great risk when they follow antiquated formulas.

They risk staying in abusive relationships. They risk depending on his income for her livelihood, which then puts her at risk to be destitute.

What people in pursuit of “healthy” relationships fail to recognize is life, at times, will happen to us. There are times when life can be pretty shitty, throwing things our way when we least expect. We would never expect our husband to lose his job. Nor would we ever expect him to abandon the family. We would also never expect him to need workman’s comp. And we would never expect to find ourselves a widow before 30, with three kids to raise. But these things happen.

They happen to all of us despite age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Shit, that at times resembles life, happens. When—not a matter of if—it happens to you, which relationship formula would you consider the healthiest?

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