As promised, today we'll start looking at aspects of healthy romantic relationships so we can portray them accurately in our writing. Of course, not all the relationships we write about will be healthy ones. But given how many (sometimes horrifically) unhealthy relationships have been appearing in popular media lately, I think it's time to balance the scales.
Whether or not you're religious, I think the Bible (specifically, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) contains one of the best descriptions I've ever read of what a healthy relationship looks like. The King James Bible renders it this way (verbs modernized for convenience):
"Charity [suffers] long, and is kind; charity [envies] not; charity [vaunts] not itself, is not puffed up,
"[Does] not behave itself unseemly, [seeks] not her own, is not easily provoked, [thinks] no evil;
"[Rejoices] not in iniquity, but [rejoices] in the truth;
"[Bears] all things, [believes] all things, [hopes] all things, [endures] all things."
Interestingly, I once saw a social-media post in which the writer said that her mother had suggested replacing the word charity in these verses with the writer's boyfriend's name. The writer didn't specify what happened after that, but I got the impression that after doing this exercise, she realized her boyfriend wasn't good for her and ended the relationship.
If we were to put these verses in more-modern terms and apply them specifically to romance, we get a thought-provoking potential checklist:
In a healthy romantic relationship, the partners . . .
are patient with and kind to each other;
aren't jealous, stuck-up, or prideful;
avoid indecent or disrespectful behavior;
prioritize the other person's needs;
are slow to anger;
give each other the benefit of the doubt;
are honest with each other;
are faithful to each other, rain or shine; and
believe in and support each other.
This isn't to say that healthy romances are perfect. Even in these relationships, both partners make mistakes and sometimes don't live up to their own ideals. But in general, a relationship that follows these patterns has a strong foundation.
Bob and Helen Parr in The Incredibles provide a good example of this kind of relationship. (I've only seen Incredibles II once and don't remember a lot, so I'll leave it out of this discussion.) Bob sticks with his Insuracare job, even though he hates it, to support his family, and Helen expresses gratitude to him for that sacrifice. They treat each other as partners in raising their family, respect the importance of the different roles they play, and continue to court each other and strengthen their marriage. Bob's dishonesty about his secret hero work does create problems, including causing Helen to question his faithfulness. However, Bob rejects Mirage's advances, telling Helen, "How could I betray the perfect woman?" Once they've finally had an honest conversation about what's going on, Bob and Helen use their powers in tandem and put everything on the line to protect each other, their kids, and the world from Syndrome and his minions. In Syndrome's prison, Bob apologizes to his family for choosing hero work over them. Later, when he finally admits his fears about losing Helen, she gently reminds him that they're stronger together.
We'll keep exploring this topic next week. For now, tell your loved one(s) you love them. Yes, they probably know, but it never hurts to remind someone how important they are to you.