“A relationship is not based on the length of time you spend together, but the foundation you have built together.”
Why Relationships Matter
As a coach I get asked many times what a healthy relationship is like or is supposed to be like. The answer is that it looks different for every couple. If you didn’t grow up with parents who had wonderful ways of relating to one another, then there was virtually nowhere else to turn to find a healthy couple to learn from. The ways that happy and healthy couples relate remains a secret that many of us don’t get to experience. I hope that this article gives some general ideas on how healthy couples function, although remember that the details will be different for each couple.
These suggestions can be related to a variety of relationships in your life, a close friend, your partner, your ex, a family relationship, or others. Study each point and compare it to each relationship, and each may also reveal an area for improvement. Also remember that no one is perfect all the time, and most relationships have issues in some dimensions.
1 Taking Interest:
People in healthy relationships take an interest in one another. This can be done in a variety of ways. From asking how someone is doing, inviting them to do things, and asking deeper questions about how they experienced something.
2 Acceptance & Respect:
This means accepting what we have come to know about the other person. And continuing to treat them with respect. We find out things that are not that great about them, and they find out the same about us. We must continue to hold the other person in a positive light, in return they will hold you in the same positive light. These are essential practices in healthy relationships. People in the happiest relationships also talk favorably about each other in social situations.
This is an essential component of any relationship. This doesn’t mean you agree with everything your partner says or does. What it does mean is that you have admiration for each other. With undercurrent of love and trust throughout your relationship.
People in healthy relationships tend to see negative things the other person has done as honest mistakes. And attribute positive things as the result of the other person just being a good person.
It is essential that in a relationship you must have trust. Many relationships fail because one partner doesn’t have trust. Trusting people is sometimes difficult, especially in a new relationship. But when you love them, then you should trust them not to betray you in any way.
3 Meeting Basic Needs:
The basic needs that everyone has in relationships are:
- and emotional support.
People in healthy relationships are focused on meeting these as well as other special needs that the other person has, and they are willing to grow to be better at this.
Loyalty is a must. That means:
- Don’t lie,
- Be honest with your partner always,
- Accept nothing but honesty in return.
It’s all about respecting them enough to tell the truth.
Understanding you need space.
In a relationship sometimes you spend a lot of time together and it gets to be too much. Your partner needs to understand that sometimes you need some time alone.
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4 Positive Interactions:
In any relationship’s happiness is most satisfying when there are more positive interactions with the other person than negative. In any relationships, even if there may be many negative interactions, that is fine if the number of positive interactions is a lot higher, satisfaction will remain high.
Arguing, Not Fighting
I’ve never seen a healthy couple that doesn’t argue. They never fight, however—they argue. If a couple comes into my office and tells me they’ve never argued, something isn’t quite right.
You can argue without fighting. Arguing is non-combative—you and your partner state your points of view without name-calling or raising your voice. Sometimes you agree to disagree, and that’s OK. There should be no “non-negotiables” if there are things that you will not budge on, you need to rethink. Hopefully, you and your partner’s values match up well—that makes things much easier!
If you and your partner are in a fight and you realize you are the one in the wrong, admit you are wrong. There is nothing to be ashamed of, we all make mistakes, but don’t keep on fighting because you don’t want to admit you are the wrong one.
Lack of communication is what is most likely to break a relationship. If you have a problem of any sort, talk it out. If you don’t like something that then other person is doing, then say it. Don’t be afraid to speak up, but don’t fight, just talk it out.
Sometimes there appears that there are a lot of unsolvable problems in a relationship. I will suggest that there is a solution to all challenges. People in healthy relationships find ways to resolve these conflicts. Sometimes you must change your view even if you believe you are right. Highly functioning couples will actively compromise and find solutions to those.
Sex is an integral part of any relationship. You agree on:
- often you have sex,
- how you have sex,
- where you have sex,
- there’s mutual participation.
- Sex is not withheld as a punishment.
And if you or your partner are not comfortable with an aspect of your sex life, you can talk about it openly, without criticism. You also find time to have sex.
There are basically three main styles of parenting:
- Authoritarian: The rules are the rules are the rules. No exceptions.
- Authoritative: This is what I refer to as a “Benevolent Dictatorship.” There are rules, and kids can give their input, but the parents have the final say.
- Lenient or “laissez-faire”: There are minimal rules.
If the two of you don’t agree on a parenting style, you need to discuss and come to a mutual agreement.
7 Equality with Money
Even if one of you makes more money than the other, you both have an equal say about where your money goes. There are no “hidden accounts,” and you decide together before you make large purchases.
If you are the one in charge of the bill paying, you pay the bills on time. Period. If you can’t pay the bills on time, turn over that job to your partner or hire someone to do it for you.
You decide on separate accounts if sharing a joint account is getting too complicated or frustrating. Does that hurt the intimacy of a relationship? No, it helps your intimacy. You are no longer fighting about money.
8 Common Goals and Values
Even if you have quite different interests you can still have a healthy relationship. What counts is that you share common goals and values. Couples of different religions (or non-religion) and cultural backgrounds can have healthy relationships. Importantly you must share core beliefs. You may both share the belief that giving back to your community is important. You may both share the belief that extended family members are welcome to live with you at any time. Values and beliefs differ for everyone.
Common goals include intangibles like raising happy and healthy children, and tangibles like saving up for a house. You can work together on setting one-year, five-year, even 10- and 20-year goals. Working towards something together strengthens your bond.
“Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.” –Joanne Woodward
Make time to have fun. Life gets too serious without receiving regular doses of humor.
Having a date night at least once a month is something that will keep the relationship alive. It can be dinner, a movie, mini golf, really anything fun with your partner. It’s key to go out and have some fun together, instead of just hanging out at the house.
10 Rupture & Repair:
People in the healthiest relationships can quickly and effectively repair damage (ruptures) to their relationships. This means
- Recognizing that you or the other person is hurt, angry, or unhappy with something,
- Addressing it in a way that fixes things in a timely manner.
Many people wait too long to initiate repairs, some try but make things worse because they aren’t sure what to do, and others do not do it at all. A good repair usually starts with an apology or bringing it up in a constructive way.
This means that both people in the relationship are working on the challenge. If only one person is taking an interest, accepting and respecting, giving the benefit of the doubt, meeting the others’ needs, providing positive interactions, and repairing ruptures, then the relationship likely has larger problems that need to be explored.
In Conclusion – Quality not quantity.
It’s all about quality over quantity. How much time you and your partner spend together is not important. The most important part is about the quality of this time. It’s fine to zone out together and enjoy distractions, but it’s crucial to make sure you two are still engaging and spending quality time together
It would be a mistake not to mention things that happen in unhealthy relationships too. Missing some of the things listed in this article is normal for anyone, however, there are a variety of things that indicate relationships that are unhealthy. These include:
- Verbal and emotional abuse (name-calling, intimidation, threats, shaming, belittling); patterns of control and isolation; violence of any kind.
- Violation of boundaries.
- Emotional manipulation.
If you are experiencing things like this in any of your relationships, I would suggest getting help right away to address it.
Enjoy your relationships and you will have a happier life.