Everyone wants healthy relationships. Healthy relationships make us feel happy, secure, valid, loved, and part of more than ourselves. Finding someone who you have a healthy relationship with is one of the most rewarding things in life. However, it is truly baffling how many of us don’t really know what constitutes a healthy relationship.
There are too many stories out there of people who have suffered unhealthy relationships, and it has taken a toll on their very soul. It is without a doubt that you, or someone you know, has suffered an unhealthy relationship that left them questioning all they knew about love.
Truthfully, it does not have to be this way. A healthy relationship can be easily built and maintained, however, you and your partner must be ready to put in the effort to do so. And, it really goes without saying, but there must be love there to fuel the determination to keep things healthy.
What creates a healthy relationship?
What a healthy relationship is, is greatly influenced by the perspective of society. Affection and love are expressed very differently around the world. However, despite cultural differences, unique perspectives, and our own feelings, there are a few things that run across all of humanity.
Regardless of how different people show love, a relationship should never be so unhealthy it becomes toxic, harmful to our mental health, or makes the existence of the relationship a burden.
There are some key ingredients to a healthy relationship including; communication, compatibility, honesty and accountability, equality, trust, healthy and respected physical and emotional boundaries, and the nurturing of our full selves. A partner should make you want to be the best version of yourself, and vice versa, they should never make you feel worse about yourself.
All relationships are unique
That being said, every relationship is unique. You can never base your own relationship on someone else’s, and you should never look at someone else’s relationship and compare it to your own.
Every person is different, and therefore every relationship is different. The biggest key to a healthy relationship is happiness, and as long as you make each other happy, it does not matter how different your relationship may be to that of others.
A healthy relationship is sharing the same goal
Relationships are about being part of a team. If you’ve ever been a part of a team in school, college, work, etc. You will know that part of teamwork is compromise and similar or the same goals.
In a relationship, you and your partner should consider what you want the relationship to be and where you want it to go. This may seem like a scary concept- especially early on- however, it is imperative and an important part of communication.
Knowing the basics of creating a healthy relationship will keep your relationship meaningful
Like with anything, understanding the basic ingredients that make up a healthy relationship is one step to making your relationship meaningful. Understanding the importance of communication, honesty, and equality will help you to ensure that the relationships you forge are healthy and secure.
The importance of building a healthy relationship
Building healthy relationships is more important than you may think. Not only is it important for the health of our relationships, but also for ourselves and our partner. The world is a stressful enough place as it is, our relationships should be a safe haven and a joyous part of our lives. They should never become a stress factor for us, and don’t forget stress kills.
Helps increase your feelings of worth and belonging
Not only will a healthy relationship make you feel happy and secure, with that warm fuzzy feeling towards your significant other, but it is good for ourselves and our self-esteem. Everyone wants to feel like they are worth something and like they have somewhere they belong. Healthy relationships do this. Feeling understood and validated by your partner, and vice versa, will help you and them feel more comfortable and confident in yourself, regardless of anything else that happens.
A relationship is about more than just the physical, emotional, and personal connections with our partner. It is also about having someone on our team. Whatever happens in our lives, we know we have one person on our team, and we do not feel like we are walking into anything alone, this creates confidence and a sense of security.
A healthy relationship makes us feel good about ourselves, not just in appearance, but in who we are at our very core. This is something that both parties should feel from a healthy relationship.
Signs of a healthy relationship
We know the benefits of a healthy relationship, and we all know that a healthy relationship is what we want, but how do we key in to understand whether the relationship we are in is healthy or not.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in what we want from a relationship, especially if we have put up self-defense mechanisms from previously unhealthy relationships, however, the signs of a healthy relationship should be seen from both parties.
Respect is an important part of any relationship. Respect does not mean giving other people authority, it means that you recognize that your partner is a whole other person, and not a way to get what you want. This also means that they have different opinions and life experiences than you, and that is okay, and you accept that.
Respect is part of understanding that this person is not the same as you, and they will see the world through eyes that are not yours. Respecting your partner means that if they decide that they must make a decision for them (and it does not affect you) then even if you would not make that decision, you accept their choice because it is theirs.
Respect also means that you understand they have a life outside of you, that they have their own emotions, thoughts and feelings. Respect is to listen to one another, support each other’s careers, hobbies, and interests. It is also to give each other space when needed, and value each other’s needs and feelings, as well as speaking kindly to and about one another.
Respect is also building one another up, your partner should be the main party in the crowd that cheers you on in this game of life, and you should be theirs.
Similarly, trust is just as important. While trust issues are common these days due to the world being littered with toxic behavior (only 31% of us trust each other on average). This does not mean that people who have been hurt badly and therefore have trouble trusting automatically make for unhealthy relationships.
Trust becomes an issue when it becomes a part of the relationship that makes for paranoia, anxiety, and feeling like you are walking on eggshells.
A partner who does not trust may make accusations, or break personal boundaries. A person who has trust issues may not do these things, however, they may take longer to build up trust than someone who doesn’t, but it does not mean that they will automatically break boundaries and create anxiety in the relationship. It is important to recognize this, as many people have issues trusting each other these days, but this does not mean that trust cannot be built and maintained.
Part of what builds the above trust is open communication. Real and genuine communication leads to emotional connections, which are the foundations of love. Communication is about honesty and talking openly about your feelings without fear. If one party is unhappy about something, then the other should listen and try to empathize, talking rationally and with understanding. We stay connected through communication, it is absolutely vital to building strong relationships.
An example in which communication is not present would be if a person expresses their love language and their partner were to get angry that they have asked for this because this is not how they like to show love. Communication is not present here as one party has communicated their love language, where the other has immediately ignored this and is thinking only of their wants. This will not work.
As such situations often happen in relationships, the best way to get over miscommunications is to start couples counseling. Even when your relationship or marriage seems to be working fine, signing up for counseling can bring many benefits. First, it pushes you both to work on your relationship and not ignore the things hurting it, even if you are not noticing them. Such practice takes communication to the next level, where understanding each other deeply, results in a better relationship and elevates love and lust. Today you can even get online counseling, and if you are New York-based, sign up for New York couples therapy, as it will definitely change your life.
That brings us to equality. In the above example of communication, this is not equal. This does not mean in terms of just give and take. In a healthy relationship, both partners should be equally heard and have their needs met. While in the morning world it is not always possible for both parties to contribute the same financially, what we are referring to is in terms of love, validation, acceptance, communication, and trust. These are the areas in which equality is paramount. In a despite, both parties should be able to have their say of their feelings and both should feel heard. Issues are resolved easiest when both parties feel equal to one another. There should be no struggle for power in a relationship.
How to build a healthy relationship
Building a healthy relationship starts from day 1. However, even if you are past day 1, there are many things you can do in your relationship to build your bond and make the relationship healthier.
Any healthy relationship requires effective communication. Let’s have a think about how many arguments usually go
P1- “I’m not a mind reader!”
P2- “I know you’re not. I told you this ages ago.”
P1- “No, you didn’t.”
P2- “Yes, I did. You just weren’t listening.”
See where the problem is here? Communication in a healthy relationship means listening, not just talking. Listening is also communication. Hearing what your partner wants and needs out of the relationship helps you do what you can for the person you love, and vice versa.
Once you know your needs, and their needs, you can both work together as a team to ensure both of your needs are met, thus creating more happiness and minimal conflict
Communication is talking, listening, and hearing, really hearing what your partner is saying. What would you do for the love of your life? Anything? Good, meeting their core needs is the least that can be done here, and it will bring you both superior levels of happiness, passion, love, and trust.
Spend quality time together
Quality time is as important as anything else. You fall in love listening to each other and looking at one another. The more you continue to listen and look in sustained attentive ways, you can sustain the feeling of falling in love over the long term. While we all have fond memories when we first get together with our partners, because everything was new and exciting, with hours spent chatting and trying new things, we often find that life gets ahead of us and these things dissipate over time. Yet, it is only because we let them.
The ‘honeymoon’ period is not a real thing, it is an excuse. The feeling during this period of time need not go away, all you need to do is commit to spending quality time together on a regular basis, find things that you enjoy doing together, try new things, and focus on having fun together. Do not let outside factors make your communication with your partner hurried and brief. Keep putting in the effort and that feeling won’t go away.
Maintain physical intimacy
This does not just mean sex, although keeping your sex life alive is important. It is not the only method to remain physical. Holding hands, hugs, late night cuddles, kisses, even giving a massage is all really important. Touch is a foundation for human existence. In fact, in babies, it is shown that regular and affectionate contact does wonders for the development of the brain. Physical touch will also boost our levels of the hormone that influences bonding and attachment.
Therapists even say that hugs are a big part of happiness, with the average person requiring 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 for maintenance, and 12 for growth. Having physical contact with your significant other doesn’t just let them know you love them, it also brings you happiness and does wonders for your brain.
Always consider your partner’s boundaries, though. Unwanted touching can make a person tense up, this should of course be communicated through both of you.
When it comes to the bedroom, this applies there too. However, it is also important to maintain this aspect of your relationship. While it is not the ‘be all and end all’ of a relationship, it helps to establish a closeness and connection, keeping things new and exciting in these areas over long term relationships also helps to keep that excitement alive.
Give and take in your relationship
This shouldn’t need to be said, but there is no winning in a relationship. A relationship is about give and take. If you expect to get what you want all the time, you will just be disappointed. This is not about you alone, it is about you both as a unit. Any healthy relationship is about compromise, but you must both be willing to compromise for one another.
Communication comes in here too, knowing what is really important to your significant other is the cornerstone, just as much as it is for them to know what is important to you.
Then comes the hard part, sometimes we may feel that we need to have things our way or else. This attitude is often due to our needs not being met during childhood and being neglected, it could also be a result of resentment in a relationship, or even from past relationships. This is okay, however you need to be respectful to the other person and their viewpoint, and if you are finding this is affecting your relationship, then there is nothing wrong with seeking out help to find out where this feeling is coming from, because 9 times out of 10, it is a result of early childhood abuse (yes, neglect counts as a form of abuse).
You will face ups and downs
No one wants to face bad moments, but we are all human, and the world is chaotic. There will be ups and downs in any relationship, and you will not always be on the same page as your partner. In some cases, you or your partner may be dealing with certain stresses. It could be the death of a family member, job loss, issues at work, health problems and so on. These issues can make it hard to relate to one another.
Remember to not take out your problems on your partner, and if your partner is experiencing some severe stress, ask them how you can help or support them. Sometimes it can be as simple as giving them some space or perhaps helping them with errands.
If you try to force a solution to stress, it can cause more problems. Everyone has their own timeline, and they work through things uniquely, stay at their pace and have patience.
It is important to have realistic expectations towards your partner
A reason many relationships fail is down to unrealistic expectations. Making decisions under the influence of desire while you’re falling hard and fast for a person is not a great way to make stabilizing decisions about your future.
We are sorry to break the news that real world love is not a Disney fairy tale, and none of us are living the tragic romance of Romeo and Juliet (or we certainly hope not). Those butterflies don’t last forever, and sometimes they never arrive at all. No one is perfect, and not everyone looks glamorous when they wake up in the morning- most people don’t. So, stay realistic, no matter what it is.
You are looking to build a healthy and stable life with someone, be patient, mature, and wise about what you want and who your partner is. Some grown adults will act like teenagers during a rough patch in a relationship, which is just bizarre. Our partners are not perfect, they are just like us, and they will make mistakes.
Building a healthy relationship while parenting
Relationships can be hard and take a lot of dedication, however, when you throw a child into that mix it gets a whole lot more complicated. We can forget to tend to our partner’s needs because there is a screaming baby who needs attention in the next room, or because 2-year-old Jimmy won’t stop painting the walls with mashed potato.
So, how can you build a healthy relationship with all this going on? You can, but don’t expect it to be easy.
Staying connected means continuing to communicate effectively with one another. When you are a new parent, it is so easy to put all your focus on the child. Before you know it you will be sitting there with your significant other, with awkward silences, and you have totally forgotten how to properly communicate unless it is about the children.
Although it is hard, and you are exhausted, it is important to still pay attention to your partner, you need to parent as a team, and to effectively do so, maintaining your connection is important. We have some tips for you below.
Distinguish between adult and children time
One of the best ways to stay connected is to draw a line between adult time and child time. Get your kids into bed at a reasonable time so that you have time together, as adults. This doesn’t mean you need to be intimate, you can simply cuddle and watch a movie you wanted to see, enjoy a glass of wine together, or just sit and talk, catch up on what personal stuff you both have going on outside of the kids.
Putting the kids to bed early and consistently is good for the child, but it will also give you some time out and time to reconnect.
Regular date nights
Remember what we said about keeping the ‘honeymoon period’ from being a real thing. Well, this is one of those times when you need to put in the extra effort to do so. If you normally watch TV together, switch it up, stargaze in the backyard together, have dinner outside, have a picnic, play games, changing the routine will keep the magic alive, and before you know it you will be looking forward to these date nights more than anything.
When you are super busy because you have a child, it means that you miss out on time to talk to your partner about the everyday happenings in your life, as well as your hopes, dreams, and stresses. Always make time to talk to your partner about this, you aren’t just raising a child together, you are sharing a life together, so stay involved in each other’s personal lives as well.
Relationship red flags
We’ve spoken about what a healthy relationship is, how to recognize a healthy relationship, how to create a healthy relationship, and how to maintain connection when you have a child
We have looked at what a relationship should be. Finally, we want to look at what it shouldn’t be. Sometimes an unhealthy relationship can be salvaged through teamwork and communication. However, that is not always the case, sometimes we miss the red flags because we want to see the best in our partner, but slowly and surely it will eat away at us leaving us feeling the absolute worst, and this is not what you deserve in a relationship.
Here are some big red flags that you do not want to miss.
There is a big difference between being honest and being critical. If your partner is honest with you, then you will still feel respected and valued as any feedback is constructive. Criticism is often about small things, or things more personal, things as small as your clothes, your hobbies, or even your personality, that leave you wondering why they are even with you if they dislike these things about you so much.
Criticism makes you feel belittled. One way to tell that a potential partner may be overly critical is to watch how they are around others, friends, family, and even total strangers. If they’re commenting critically on others, chances are, once you are with them, they will do the same to you.
Behavior becomes controlling when they pressure you to change, in your appearance, your beliefs, your personality, morality, or even to quit your hobbies, stop seeing friends or family. These red flags are huge, this is not even a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it is a sign of abusive behavior.
A partner should never outright tell you how to look, who to see, or what to do. If they are uncomfortable with something, then you should communicate this and discuss it with you calmly to reach a compromise. But trying to control any aspect of your and how you live your life is controlling and is not acceptable.
Distance is not a good sign in a relationship, as relationships are meant to be emotionally and physically close. If your partner is not interested in intimacy or communication, then you need to rekindle the passion and the connection. There are exceptions however, in extreme situations such as the death of a loved one, some people need some time alone and may clam up as part of the grieving process, it is important not to force communication or passion during these times.
However, this only applies in extreme circumstances, if this happens in your relationship at other times, it is a red flag.
Lack of conflict resolution
Sometimes it is best that smaller arguments be defused. However, burying conflict on a regular basis, or constantly arguing with no sign of a reconciliation is not a good sign, communication is lacking here. A partner should never say ‘just forget it’ or ‘let it go’, these are signs of an unwillingness to resolve conflict and will end up building into resentment over time.
This is one of the main causes of resentment, which is a relationship killer. In some situations you may not feel that the argument is important enough to deserve full communication, your partner may not agree, and the burying of this conflict will leave them feeling invalidated and as their feelings on the matter are not significant enough either.
If any dispute is causing either of you grief, it is best to resolve it as quickly as possible, never leave it to swirl around in the mind of your partner. ‘Letting things go’ when one person is hurting is not a resolution, it is the same as hiding a stain with a rug, you know it’s there, and the rug is keeping it hidden, but eventually it will come back to haunt you.
It is important to remember that these are red flags for an unhealthy relationship, if you see these red flags in your relationship it is wise to confront and try to resolve them for a healthier bond between you and your partner. Sadly, this does not always work, and sometimes these behaviors can become toxic, damaging, and in some cases very abusive.
Do not let your mental health suffer, remember, in a healthy relationship your partner builds you up and makes you feel amazing. If they are becoming a cause of stress and anxiety for you, then this relationship is unhealthy and if there is no resolution, it might be time to leave.
Healthy relationships are built on trust, communication, teamwork, compromise, and equality. While love is the keystone of relationships, these are the factors that build love and that emotional connection that brings you close together.
Communication is the first and foremost of these, as knowing what your partner wants and needs, and vice versa, will help you to understand expectations, their love language, and will help you get through the ups and downs.
Always remember that if you are seeing too many red flags, and you hit a brick wall when trying to communicate, then there is no shame in leaving. A relationship should make you feel happy, safe, confident, and validated. Every relationship should be a happy relationship, this is what we are all seeking in our lives.