Everyone dreams of having a blissful relationship full of love, trust, and respect for each other. We imagine ourselves being happy and secure with that one person who can fill that missing void in our lives. Even so, we don't live in a fairy tale world where a kiss is all it takes to make things right and achieve a "happily ever after" ending.
In reality, people can interpret their idea of a healthy relationship differently because of their diverse needs and ever-changing goals in life. A person's needs in terms of affection, security, companionship, and shared values can change throughout his or her lifetime.
For instance, you and your partner may spend a lot of time traveling, trying out new adventures, and going on romantic dates at present. However, when it comes to maintaining a happy and healthy relationship, many things require utmost consideration besides sharing a lot of common interests.
Therefore, the term "healthy relationship" can be nonspecific and universal because the factors that strengthen a relationship depend upon the needs of those in it. So how would you know if your relationship is healthy or unhealthy? Let's explore the factors that make up a healthy and unhealthy relationship by going in-depth with the subject.
What Is a Healthy Relationship According to Experts?
Jennifer Howell, a relationship coach from North Carolina, captures the essence and most fundamental meaning of a healthy relationship. According to her, a healthy relationship is a "safe and secure place for people to love, trust, and respect one another". It gives both parties enough freedom to communicate their wants, needs, and boundaries without fear and reservation.
Healthy relationships may present themselves differently, depending on those involved and how they choose to delineate certain matters in their partnership. Actual studies also prove that the most important factors contributing to a healthy relationship are good communication, empathy, respect, and support for each other.
Lindsey Antin, a practicing therapist in Berkely, California, states the following about happy and healthy relationships; "one thing that healthy relationships largely share is adaptability or the ability to accommodate certain life changes". This suggests that having the capacity to adapt to different circumstances, transitions, and phases in life can make a relationship thrive and prosper for a long time.
Factors That Make Up a Healthy Relationship
Every relationship has its own strengths and unique quality. Some of the things that define a healthy relationship include having a common goal with your partner and sharing the same level of commitment. These are some considerations that you can figure out by openly communicating what you want from the relationship.
Even relationships that don't conform to the conventional definition of a romantic partnership can be successful and healthy. A typical example is the practice of ethical and consensual non-monogamy. Still, regardless of the type of relationship you are in, some key aspects are crucial to most healthy relationships.
Becoming aware of these principles can help you maintain a meaningful and fulfilling relationship regardless of your wants, needs, and romantic goals.
The following are the factors that make up a healthy relationship;
1. Respect for Personal Boundaries.
Personal boundaries refer to the limitations that we identify in a relationship. It could be on the aspect of career, sex, race, or personal space. Typical examples are saying "no" to certain situations that make you feel uncomfortable, setting privacy rules using your smartphone and social media accounts, and not making comments about each other's family and friends.
Another important aspect that concerns boundaries in a relationship is giving each other time to do personal things like spending the weekend with loved ones, going on a solo trip, and doing some self-care activities.
Trust in a relationship is believing that your partner will not do anything that would hurt or harm you in any way. It also means that you are confident enough to believe that your partner would remain faithful to you even when you're miles apart or even if he's with other people.
It takes a lot of courage to trust someone completely, and oftentimes, you have to take certain risks and invest a lot of emotions. Despite all that, trust remains to be the primary foundation of every healthy relationship because it goes conjointly with love.
3. Support for Each Other.
Supporting each other careers, endeavors, and aspirations is an important aspect of every healthy relationship. Couples should give each other enough space to grow, thrive, and cultivate their passion no matter how difficult the situation is.
Therefore, offering your selfless support to your partner during crucial times, cheering them on, and rejoicing with them in their victories are just some of the things you can do to establish a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Appreciation refers to acknowledging your partner's efforts and giving them the recognition that they deserve. Some of the things you can do to express your appreciation are; saying nice things to your partner all the time, being generous with the complements, constantly saying "I love you" and "thank you", recognizing his/her strengths, and making them feel secure in your relationship.
5. Physical Intimacy and Emotional Connection.
Amazing sex life is not the only secret to a healthy relationship. It could be a major contributing factor, but physical intimacy and connection are far more important. Physical intimacy refers to being comfortable about constantly hugging each other, holding hands, cuddling, and kissing each other goodnight.
Couples that can be physically intimate even without having sex can sense whenever their partner needs a warm hug or a gentle pat on the back. Such emotional connection creates a special bond between couples, which gives both parties a sense of security and assurance in the relationship.
6. Honesty and Open Communication.
An honest and open communication makes it possible for couples to freely express themselves and their needs in the relationship. It allows them to understand each other better, which leads to better compromises. Couples that can openly talk to each other are also more in-tune with their individual personalities.
They become more interested in each other's opinions, points of view, and perspectives about many things. As a result, they learn more from each other and become more receptive to each other's thoughts and feelings.
7. Resolution of Conflicts.
Healthy relationships are not free from conflicts and disagreements. In fact, it's perfectly normal to experience frustration and anger in a relationship occasionally. What is more important is how you deal with each other during this stressful time and specifically address the issues that come your way.
If you can talk about your problems politely and with respect, it's a good indication that you're in a healthy relationship. Couples that can manage their conflicts without judgment and resentment often find workable solutions that can shed light on the situation.
8. Healthy Interdependence.
Healthy interdependence refers to balancing the needs of both parties in a relationship to support each other physically and emotionally without controlling or manipulating the other. For example, a couple living together should find a way to manage their finances and responsibilities equally. The one with the higher income can take care of most of the expenses, while the other can compensate in other ways like budgeting, buying groceries, and preparing meals.
A traditional and happily married couple is a classic example of an interdependent relationship, wherein the husband is responsible in providing the financial needs of the family, while the wife manages the household and creates a comfortable home for everyone.
9. Synergy and Teamwork.
A healthy relationship is comparable to a team. You work synergistically to make things work in your relationship by facing the odds together, even though there are times when you don't see things eye to eye. You make plans together, learn new things together, support each other's decisions, and share the same goals for the future.
Working together as a team also means that you have each other's back when things get tough and not give up on each other despite the inadequacies and imperfections in your relationship.
10. Cheerfulness and Spontaneity.
A healthy relationship is full of fun and playfulness. Whether it's by constantly sharing funny jokes with each other, doing funny antics together, and being a child at heart, couples that laugh and have fun together are usually the happiest and most vibrant.
There's no denying that life's challenges can easily affect one or both parties as couples go through life together. Such distress can briefly alter the tone of the relationship and affect each other's moods and disposition. Finding humor in the situation can minimize the pressure weighing down on your shoulders and relieve the tension in your relationship.
11. Awareness of the Signs of Unhealthy Relationship
An unhealthy relationship is based on lies, deception, disrespect, and manipulation. It causes physical, emotional, and psychological distress, thereby affecting a person's life quality.
Unhealthy relationships are often toxic, morally damaging, and selfish. They keep a person from being happy by disregarding the healthy boundaries essential to a person's well-being.
Most people who have experienced what it's like to be in an unhealthy relationship suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, and trauma. For instance, a woman who just got out of an unhealthy relationship could develop severe trust issues and resentment towards men. Being aware of the signs of an unhealthy relationship can help you create a clear distinction on what truly makes up a healthy and happy relationship.
If you want to become aware of the red flags, here are the signs of an unhealthy relationship;
- Controlling behavior.
- Excessive and pointless jealousy.
- Dishonesty and cheating.
- Constant arguments about your finances.
- Lack of appreciation and support.
- Constant nagging and manipulation.
- Poor communication and inability to make compromises.
- Inability to work together as a team.
- Strong feelings of resentment.
- Lack of time to take care of yourself and your personal needs.
A Piece of Advice:
If you're in an unhealthy relationship, it's important to get out of it the soonest time you can. Seek help from your family, friends, and close acquaintances. It's never too late to make a fresh start if you're determined to move forward without looking back. Remember that it's better to be on your own than to endure being in a relationship that brings in more bad than good into your life.
Start rebuilding your relationship with yourself by fostering self-love and self-appreciation. This is unquestionably the greatest and healthiest form of relationship you can establish to free yourself from the bitter past.
How to Achieve a Healthy Relationship
As human beings, we have an inherent ability to establish different kinds of relationships with others. When these relationships turn out to be healthy, they can affect our emotional well-being in a positive way and improve the quality of our life. A healthy relationship can only exist between two individuals that love and support each other.
Suppose you're currently in a relationship or you're considering entering one. In that case, there are some things you can do to ensure that you won't fall into the trap of an unhealthy relationship. Here are some pieces of advice on how to achieve a healthy relationship.
1. Discuss your concept of a healthy relationship with your partner to know what to expect from each other
Manage your expectations by defining your concept of a healthy relationship, and discuss this with your partner. Come up with certain rules and agreements by identifying what you consider acceptable and unacceptable in a relationship. Clarifying each other's needs, boundaries, and goals will make it easier for you to maintain a relationship that's based on mutual trust and respect.
2. Discuss relevant matters in your relationship and identify each other's roles in fulfilling them
Discuss important matters with your partner, such as your finances, household duties, and personal space needs. This can help you avoid certain misunderstandings, particularly if you're living together. Being clear on specific matters such as who is responsible for paying the bills, when and how often you can entertain guests, and equal distribution of household tasks are examples of how you can manage your roles within your home.
3. Recognize each other's strengths in the same way that you understand each other's weaknesses
Your partner is not perfect, and neither are you. So try to recognize each other's strengths and weaknesses by supporting each other and working as a team. This is a form of interdependence wherein one partner fills the inadequacies of the other and vice versa, and amplifying each other strengths to achieve your goals in life.
4. Find a way to work on your differences to manage conflict.
Work on your individual differences to manage your issues and conflicts. Find a way to compromise, so none of you have to give up on your principles and beliefs. For example, avoid sensitive topics that trigger arguments, set house rules that both of you must follow, and talk about certain behaviors that neither of you should tolerate in your home.
5. Be aware of the difference between falling in love and staying in love with your partner.
Falling in love with your partner is the reason why you're in a relationship while staying in love is what makes you stick together. Couples that work together to make things work in their relationship find a means to stay in love. In the process, they can establish a stronger and healthier relationship rooted in love, trust, and understanding.
If you can apply the same concept in your relationship and your partner is willing to cooperate, you can stay in love with each other for a long time.