Jon Petrie and Nancy Brownsberger have been together for 37 years. /Photo submitted

Healthy relationships start with you

By Vivian Collings

“We cannot be more connected to others than we are with ourselves,” said Brené Brown, a world renowned social worker and American professor.

This is the approach Nancy Brownsberger takes when speaking with her clients about forming healthy relationships, an important message to hear this Valentine’s Day.

Brownsberger, from Eagle Lake, is a registered social service worker who offers counseling/therapy through her practice, Grow Optimism.

“We can’t have healthy relationships with others until we first have one with ourselves,” she said. “One of the most important things that I like my clients to understand is their relationship with themselves; how they value themselves, how they’re able to show up and express their needs and boundaries.”

She outlined how many individuals make the mistake of depending on one partner to fulfill all of their needs.

“Not just one single person can meet all our needs. We need to meet our own needs, too,” Brownsberger said. “Learning how to communicate our needs and hold space for ourselves in a gentle way is so important in relationships.”

One of the best ways to do this is to establish a loving relationship with yourself before starting a long-term commitment with another person.

“The greatest thing for young adults, before you get into a relationship, is to learn who you are, what your needs are, and learn how to take care of yourself and express your emotions and your boundaries.”

For those already in relationships; “We need to have a reservoir of connection in our lives, whether that be with family, friends. We have to be really aware of the limitations with our partners.”

Practicing integrity in any relationship is key to building trust. Our actions have to match our words.

Knowing and accepting that with different life events will come variations in relationships is important, too. Relationships aren’t linear.

“Each of us in a lifetime are going to deal with a lot of different things; grief, crisis, pain, and it’s important to allow for our connections to ebb and flow during these times,” said the local life coach.

Sometimes you will be in the supportive role, and other times your partner will be supporting you.

Brownsberger and her husband, John Petrie, have been together for 37 years. Not only has she learned these things about love, she has also lived and experienced how critical they are first-hand.

She said laughter really is the best medicine and can bring us closer together.

“The number one thing in a 37 year relationship is humility and humour. The ability to laugh together is really important.”

She recommended the Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban and The Love Prescription by John and Julie Gottman for those already in relationships and seeking to strengthen them.

Compassion goes a long way, and “our capacity to have any authentic relationship is dependent on our ability to have some self-awareness.”