The Best Ways to Keep Your Relationships Healthy

Blog-The Best Ways to Keep Your Relationships Healthy

Just as a good actor can play different parts, we also assume various roles in our everyday lives. But there’s a vast difference between the roles actors play and the ones we play. When an actor takes on a role, it’s a conscious and deliberate choice. The roles we play are less conscious and are often outside our awareness. As you go about your daily routine, think of yourself as an actor and try to become more mindful of the different roles you play.

Everyone’s an Actor

Most of us play different roles at different times, with different people. Being aware of what makes you act, or react, in certain situations can benefit every relationship in your life. We’re all capable of shifting between submissive and dominant roles depending on who we’re with at the time.

Relational Barbells

Imagine a barbell shape – two circles connected by a line. The two circles represent you and another person. The connecting line represents your relationship.

Horizontal Connection

If the barbell is horizontal, the relationship is a safe one. There is openness and honesty. Both individuals accept the other for who they are. This is the sign of a growing and developing relationship. Neither party dominates; there’s a safe equality.

Vertical Connection

A vertical barbell represents a hierarchical relationship, one in which there’s a real or imagined power imbalance. One party is above the other and dominates the relationship. Think in terms of top and bottom. The top represents winning, dominating, and controlling; the bottom is losing, dominated, and controlled. Each role defines the other.
It’s difficult to break out of an adversarial pattern, which is often brought on by miscommunication and disagreements. In a vertical relationship, there’s a tendency for individuals to think in black and white terms. We regress to a more primitive, fight-or-flight limbic system way of functioning – aggression, struggle, lying, self-protection.

What’s the Limbic System?

The limbic system, also called the emotional brain, lies near the center of the brain. Considering its size – about that of a walnut – it’s packed with functions critical for human behavior and survival. The limbic system stores highly charged emotional memories and affects sleep, appetite, mood, and bonding. When the limbic system is less active there’s generally a positive, more hopeful state of mind. When it’s overactive, negativity can take control.

It’s been shown that enhancing emotional bonds between people will help heal the limbic system. How you relate to other people can either help or hurt your limbic system. The better you get along with those around you, the better you will feel.

Here are 3 helpful tips for how to keep your relationships safe, healthy and enjoyable:

Focus on the Positive

It’s easy to notice what you don’t like in a relationship, but when you spend more time appreciating what’s working well, you’ll be more likely to see an increase in positive behavior.

Listen Before You Speak

Instead of trying to convince the other person that your viewpoint is correct, attempt to see things from their perspective. The main objective isn’t to win the argument but to remove potential threats, address concerns and find common ground with the other person. Building a bridge is the best way to avert a quarrel before it even starts.

Deal with Difficult Issues

Whenever you concede a point just to avoid a fight, you give away a little bit of your power. Over time, this loss of control will make you resent the other person. Avoiding conflict in the short run often has devastating long-term effects. In a firm but kind way, stick up for what you think is right. This will help keep the relationship balanced.

The brain influences every part of our relationships. Healthy brain function is associated with better quality relationships, while poor brain function is linked to escalating tensions and relational conflict.

Brain SPECT imaging helps people understand the underlying psychological or medical reasons for their relationship problems by:

• Demonstrating that symptoms and behaviors are not imaginary, thereby reducing emotional pain and stigma
• Gaining a better understanding of what is actually going on inside the brain
• Helping to target treatment specifically to the area of the brain that is struggling

Our Full Evaluation of your biological/psychological/social/spiritual history, coupled with two brain SPECT imaging scans (in concentrating and resting states), cognitive testing, and clinical assessment is designed to address unique needs and offer targeted treatment options.

At Amen Clinics, we’re committed to restoring and healing relationships. If you or someone you know is dealing with a troubled relationship, call us at 888-288-9834 or visit us online to schedule an appointment today.


  1. I think it is important to consider the many varying angles between the horizontal and the vertical which may be more difficult to access and find insights.

    Comment by Allegra Silberstein — July 8, 2016 @ 11:09 PM

  2. Relationships … the challenge for so many people. How do we attract a repetitive dysfunctional relationship when consciously we want the opposite? How can we see this horizontal relationship when we grew-up, were raised and exposed to dysfunctional environments, rebellious culture, where alcohol, lies, manipulation, talks of lacks, drugs and crimes are around us day in and day out. We are at the mercy of our propensities and we live by default.

    What we attract is a replica of the emotional scenes played during these years. Until we realize it, which can take many years. It will repeat itself until it becomes a pattern making us believe that this is all there is for us, we don’t deserve an equal and respectful relationship because we were raised in these environments. And …surrounded by people that never miss to remind us of that. After all, the decorum looks the same everywhere we go. We don’t know anything else … we’re sleep-walkers.

    I had a direct experience of such a relationship with my ex-husband, a recovering alcoholic. Talk about a cold shower, a brutal wake up call, an epiphany. When we ask meaningful question, we get meaningful answer. The answer? It came so fast with all the details, information, scenes from beginning when I met my ex…. a spiritual window opened right in front me. I’ll never forget this experience, never. A fraction of a second and it was all there…

    Question No.
    I asked myself this question. Goodness, what is the common denominator in this relationship…what is it? I was deeply reflecting on that while seated outside of our “pitiful” condo – where everything inside matched the relationship I had attracted. I was seated on step smoking my third cigarette..pumping.. and getting angry by the minute.

    Then I asked myself this question .. What was it.that I can see? There is a repeat here, a common denominator, what is it?

    This answer came fast too. The proverbial verb dropped and I saw it. Oh My God! Hands on my head… “What the hec have I done?”

    The common denominator was the emotional instability, the unpredictability, the disorganization of the environment, the language of lack I was hearing, the dysfunctional behavior, the ex-husband with all his clothes out of the wardrobe lying everywhere on the floor, temper tantrums. I was back in the same emotional environment “movie” I had lived for close to 25 years; insecure, anxiety, unpredictable. The same. Only the location, name, and actors were different. The experience? Exact same patter.

    Question No. 2
    “Louise, do you really see yourself living this lifestyle with this person, who is only being him, at the level of growth that he is, and seemed not in a hurry to shift, someone who deserve to be happy. Be with this person in those conditions in 10 or 20 years from now? The answer came at the speed light, “No, never.”

    What had I done to myself? I also deserved to live a relationship as equal partners, an horizontal style relationship. This relationship was totally incompatible. I took 100% responsibility, but I felt pretty angry at myself for six good months. I could have kicked my behind 20 times a day! I was so pissed the say the least. Why had I not see that? Why had that escaped me? I thought I new things on human behavior…hahaha I thought “Louise, you don’t know crap.”

    Question No. 3 was “For the love of God, what caused that? What is it? I got to, at least, see that? How did that one passed by me without connecting any dots? Totally blind?

    I will come back with the answer to this question tomorrow… It changed my life, my perception, it made me revisited myself, my life, and what I wanted… I got on the program, pretty quick!

    Comment by Louise Grogan — July 28, 2016 @ 10:31 PM

    What was the common denominator?
    I was in the same emotional drama environment, an environment of lack, emotional dysfunction, people not taking responsibility for their action, unpredictable events, etc, etc.

    The name were different, the country was different, actually the family of my ex-husband itself was a healthy, close-knit, and happy people. My former was a yoga teacher, massage therapist, and with an extensive knowledge on the body, mind, and spirit having read pretty much all the books on the topic.

    So … why is it that with all this information his behavior was still at the level of a 17 year old who never grew up, blaming everything and everyone, hoarder, manic… because he had never implemented any of these principles. He had a hard time making it to teach his yoga class.

    The common denominator? I was living in the same emotional lifestyle and dysfunctional environment that when I was until I was 25 years old. Pretty unbelievable when I woke up to that. It was for real, I had done it to me, I had to take responsibility, and set me free… asap!

    That was a big hit on my ego. I was very angry at myself for having been so blind to all the signs … truly, I blamed myself for a long time, however, the lesson I learned so, so precious! My ex husband had nothing to do with it. He was simply being him with his limitation, his unresolved basic baggage, and had a long road ahead of him.

    I thought, how many woman and get caught in a relationship like that without ever noticing the replay of an emotional environment “déjà vu?” You see, it’s so close of our nose, that we can’t see it. We try to improve the other to no avail because the culprits are a lack of knowledge, ignorance, and incompatibility.

    Nothing’s wrong with anybody. There is a compatible match for every person. We all deal with our little neurosis. Up to us to find a matching one! 😎


    Comment by Louise Grogan — July 29, 2016 @ 9:34 PM

  4. When mental illness is involved all bets are off. If the other person cannot respond in a reasonable way, the usual advice does not apply, however valid most of the time.

    How does one determine that mental illness is a factor? When you have ADD there is a lifetime of “it’s all my fault.” That doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes. ADD steals your life. But as we get better and put recovery into practice their are challenges beyond the ordinary.

    There is an epidemic of delusional thinking and bullying that goes with it, despite the “peace and love” cover story that is the facade of many “New Age” movements.

    When a family member believes that others are defined by a chart based on one’s birthday…including and especially immediate family…and that it is legitimate in society for job seekers to be denied employment because of this chart, an problem that might have been dismissed as “between us and the 4 walls” becomes a source of stress.

    Comment by Ed — August 31, 2018 @ 2:33 AM

  5. I find it very hard to bond with someone when they have no desire to bond with me, which makes my relationship going bad. How can I make myself more desirable for him? I’m very bothered by this, and it keeps me up at night… I have even sadly and shamefully checked his cell phone for infedelity, but I can never find it. Could it be his heavy vykodin usage causing him to destroy his walnut in his brain? Lol That sounds horrible, but that’s what you compared the lymbic system, I guess. Anyway, I feel like I’m being stonewalled by his entire family and him, which feels very unhealthy… what would anyone or even a professional suggest for someone who wants to work things out?

    Comment by Sarah — August 31, 2018 @ 7:41 AM

  6. The Article written by Dr Amen has a lot of excellent insights!

    Comment by David — September 1, 2018 @ 2:27 AM

  7. How in the world do I get these pages printed. J. M. W.

    Comment by James Michael Wall — September 2, 2018 @ 12:32 PM

  8. With all your PBS specials and your clinics you should either accept insurance or charge less to help the masses. You should get together w/ Tony Robbins.

    Comment by Scott Lamb — September 2, 2018 @ 7:23 PM

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