What is a relationship role model and why is it important? In our therapy practice in Denver, Colorado, we often remind clients why it's important to identify ideal relationships to inform how they might improve their own. Having real-life examples can provide more clarity around what you want and don’t want, and help illuminate the path to get there.
Do you have a relationship role model? In this post, you’ll learn how to identify, cultivate, and utilize relationship role models to build and maintain healthy relationships, or evaluate the relationship you are in.
Identifying Role Models
It’s possible that you have witnessed an ideal relationship that is close to you. If you are fortunate, perhaps you even grew up in a family in which your parents modeled an ideal relationship for you. While that is rarer than you might think, other sources of relationship role models could be close friends, family friends, couples you know from work, neighbors, or grandparents.
If you can’t find an example of an ideal relationship close to you, consider famous couples -- like Barack and Michelle Obama, Kristin Bell and Dax Shepherd (who are vocal fans of ongoing couples therapy, by the way) Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, or possibly Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. While many of these famous couples keep a low profile, when they do reference their significant other, it’s obvious that there is a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for one another. Without a relationship role model close to you, relying on these well-known couples and aspiring to these important foundational aspects of a relationship is a good start.
You likely are meeting people all the time in the world -- in the grocery store line, at concerts, on vacation, while waiting for a table in a restaurant, etc. And when you meet a couple who has been together a long time, it’s often inspiring to ask them what their “secret” is to long-term happiness. You’ll likely hear a variety of answers with some overlap, including good communication, being a unified team, taking time for the relationship, and more. Those qualities can help inform the characterics you might also look for in a partnership, and help you better communicate those specific needs and desires.
It’s important to recognize that a relationship role model will vary from person to person. For instance, perhaps a couple close to you is in an extremely healthy relationship but lives very independently, spending weekends immersed in independent activities and regrouping at the end of the day to share an evening meal and unwind together. That might be ideal for some, but perhaps you aspire to a relationship in which you and your partner have many shared interests and would prefer spending all our your weekend time together. Therefore, the independent, happy couple you know is in a healthy relationship, but that example isn’t an ideal relationship role model for you.
Utilizing Role Models
Role models help provide a strong sense of what you want and don’t want in a relationship. They help you identify the specific dynamics you desire in a partnership or help you clarify your dating goals.
While you don’t have to disclose to these couples that you view them as relationship role models, if you choose to do so, you might get further insight into their journey and tips to help yours. The couple can often lend advice or provide reminders about how they arrived in a healthy place together and serve as a kind of relationship mentor for you. They will likely remind you that relationships don’t come easy to anyone and that the best ones are the result of work, commitment, and mutual growth.
At Center for Shared Insight, we help clients not only identify relationship role models but determine the qualities that make those relationships ideal. Having that clarity results in clients selecting more satisfying relationships overall. If you are struggling with choosing the right partner, relationship role models might help this process. Contact us today to learn more about our practice and how we can support your journey.