GRACE OGUDDAH: How to cultivate a healthy relationship

Kindly introduce yourself to us, briefly

My name is Grace Oggudah. I am a keynote speaker and certified coach. I have a background in Radiotherapy and is a Cancer Coach with Cancer Support UK. I am the Founder of Donate A Wig, an international charity helping cancer patients cope with appearance related side effects from their treatment by giving free wigs and makeovers. I am also the CEO of Balanced Woman, a platform focused on helping women achieve life, work and family balance through coaching, workshops and conferences.

I’m married to Michael Oggudah and we are blessed with three children. We have been on the journey of love for 22 years and married for 18 years.

What is a healthy relationship? What are the building blocks for a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship is a partnership. Each person values the input of the other and recognises their contribution to the partnership. The building blocks or foundations of developing a healthy relationship with anyone is having a healthy relationship with self. This means having a stable self-concept – being at a place where self-esteem is generally not influenced by everyday positive or negative experiences.

 When we are able to build a community around us that we rely on for mutual support but still maintain our identity as unique individuals then it is much easier to develop and maintain a romantic relationship that will not swallow us up. We want to have the approval and love of our partner but through self-reflection make sure that our self-esteem does not depend on them. I would therefore say that what constitutes a healthy relationship is knowing and maintaining one’s identity.

How do we cultivate this positive relationship with our own selves?

 1.          Be kind to yourself. Don’t say things about yourself that you would not tolerate from another person.

2.           Gratitude for your body. For how far it’s brought you and for serving you.

3.           Let go of your inner perfectionist. Take it easy, it’s never that serious.

4.           Let go of judgement. When we are so hard on ourselves we are not able to evolve and grow.

5.           Refrain from circles that do not enrich you and be mindful of your thoughts and actions.

6.           Forgive and let go. It’s impossible to move forward when your eyes are stuck on the rear view mirror.

The present day society has witnessed a lot of domestic violence reported in our media. In your own opinion, what are some of the key issues that often lead to conflicts in relationships?

Not having the capacity to adapt and lacking the skills to resolve conflict. A relationship that works in your 20’s may be nothing like the relationship that you want in your 30’s or 40’s. We are always changing and growing as we go through different phases in life. If we do not talk to each other about the things we are going through in our lives, hitting a road-block is inevitable. I would like to add that communication involves listening. We must allow our partner to voice their concerns without making it personal. If we get upset and take everything personal, we teach our partner to gloss over things and lie to us because they start to say what they know we want to hear rather than what we need to hear so that the relationship can grow and we can develop.

This then helps us to develop trust because we both are comfortable with each other knowing that we won’t hurt each other physically or emotionally.

Generally, from observation, in our society, women communicate more on their situation/feelings as compared to men. Does this create an imbalance that may lead to conflicts?

I think the problem lies in what we understand communication to be. Talking does not equate to communication. To complete communication, one must be able to articulate what they are experiencing, allow the other person to respond which means listening then negotiating a middle ground followed by an action. The ability to listen without getting emotional is the highest level of communication. being able to put your point across without blaming is second.

At what time do we call it quits on a relationship and walk away? What are the red flags that we should take note of?

When you start acting out of character and no longer like yourself in a relationship, it’s a good time to quit. If the person you are with consistently brings out the worst in you and doesn’t complement your personality, it’s time to keep it moving. Your personality should not compete with the person you are with. It’s a numbers game, let’s say you are a business, has the addition added value or subtracted value.

Red Flags include when your partner becomes too clingy, manipulator, lies regularly, disrespectful, isolates you, secretive, gaslights you, compares you to others, controlling, competitive.

Is there such thing as privacy in a relationship?

We live in a world of social media and most of us are tempted to flaunt our possessions online. So, should we post our love life online? Are there any limits on what we can share online as regards our relationships (love life)?

There is a difference between privacy and secrecy. Private people are generally not hiding anything that they think would upset their partner but a secretive person is specifically hiding something they do not want their partner to find out.

It’s good practice to lay your cards on the table but there are things that someone may have dealt with in the past that they really want to leave in the past. There are layers to this question as I would approach it very differently based on the couple and where they are in their relationship. Ultimately, relationships thrive when partners feel invested in each other feeling safe, supported and accepted. That sometimes requires a journey.

Unless one is married, I would say tread carefully about posting love life online. Also, agree on what is okay to share and what is not. We have to be careful that we are not motivated by the wrong things in terms of posting. Social Media has a way of bringing out weird things in people. There are relationships that work online but off-line things are falling apart. Social Media is a façade so I urge couples to tread carefully.

Ultimately, how can we make our relationships thrive as we spend more time with our partners?

Back to basics. We can focus on each other and add some practical things like taking a walk together once a week. Encouraging each other, working on our visions and dreams and revisit priorities. It is important to create time for self. For me, I run every evening and it just gives me a chance to clear my head, my husband works out with a friend. Space is important.

For the married couples, schedule sex regularly. Don’t let time pass by without being intimate. It’s a great stress relief remedy. Finally, trust God. There is no point worrying about things that are out of your control, come together and agree in prayer. Minimise listening to the news, we all can see that it’s not consistent and changing everyday. Create a sanctuary in your home where you can come back and refresh so that when you go out, your mind is rested and ready to take on what’s next.

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