Most of us want to be in a happy, healthy, and loving relationship. Yet often we’re not sure how to go about finding such a partnership, or, if we’re already in one, how to improve its quality. Or we might wonder whether our relationship is worth salvaging.
If you’re one of the fortunate people who’s in a healthy relationship, you probably recognize most, if not all, of the following items as being true for you and your partner:
- You know that all relationships take work – they don’t simply materialize on their own. In addition, relationships need to be maintained. Every relationship will have its challenges, just as life itself does.
- Your relationship brings you and your partner more happiness than stress. The benefits are much greater than any difficulties.
- You are accountable and admit it when you are wrong about something or make a mistake. You accept responsibility for your own behaviors, choices, and beliefs, rather than blaming your partner.
- You do not try to change your partner, recognizing that this is not your job nor within your control. You are able to respectfully speak up about aspects of your partner that concern you, but you do not try to control the outcome of your conversation.
- You take care of yourself in all ways – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. You realize that your partner cannot chart your life’s path for you. You stand on your own two feet. Your sense of self-worth lies within you – you do not count on your partner to bolster your self-esteem.
- You do not use intimidating or manipulative tactics with your partner. You express yourself without physical or emotional violence. You both feel safe physically and emotionally. You do not fear that you will be abused by your partner.
- You communicate openly, truthfully, kindly, and regularly. You feel free to be vulnerable, because you know that your partner won’t take advantage of you. You are able to express yourself openly regarding your sex life, finances, and other sensitive subjects.
- You are forgiving of each other and yourselves, while also seeking to make modifications and improvements to your behaviors and attitudes as need be.
- You address conflict and hurt feelings effectively, without criticism, defensiveness, contempt, or stonewalling. You are not vindictive. You understand that healthy relationships can include fighting – the key is in how you handle the conflict. Can you use it to improve the relationship? You respect each other’s needs. Both of you feel heard.
- You support each other’s choices. You are understanding. You offer encouragement. You listen non-judgmentally. You value your partner’s opinions. You are nurturing and loving. You accept each other completely (note: abuse is not acceptable).
- You are respectful. You express admiration for each other, instead of assuming that your partner knows how you feel. You don’t take your partner for granted. You show interest in your partner’s activities, including those that don’t include you.
- You ask for what you would like, rather than automatically expecting your partner to comply with your request.
- You accept that you cannot have your own way 100% of the time. Thus, you are able and willing to compromise. You strive for win-win resolutions to conflict. You keep in mind that the two of you are a team, not opponents.
- You accept change in your relationship, knowing that evolving is natural and healthy.
- You make important decisions together, rather than on your own.
- You create shared meaning. You create and nurture rituals that help build the bond with your partner, such as taking a walk together in the morning, having a date night once a week, or planning an annual vacation.
- You share your expectations for various areas of your lives and future with each other. You understand each other’s wishes and needs. You visualize and work for a shared future.
- You trust each other and thus give your partner the benefit of the doubt. You believe your partner’s word.
- You are supportive of each other’s individuality. You realize that the two of you are not clones and thus will have different interests and points of view at times. You maintain separate identities. You do not need to be together all of the time. You encourage your partner’s interests, projects, and goals, knowing that as the two of you grow and mature as individuals, your relationship will be all the stronger.
- You both have individual friends as well as friends you spend time with as a couple. You maintain your relationships with family and friends, not allowing your relationship with your partner to isolate you from the rest of your social support system.
- You are curious about the differences between you and your partner, rather than feeling threatened by them.
- You can be fun and playful together. You can let down your guard and be silly. You are both in touch with the child within you and can bring this out at appropriate times.
- You try new things together. You avoid getting stuck in a rut. You continue to be curious about your partner and life, realizing that there is always more to learn.
Ultimately, a healthy relationship brings out the best in both of you. You are better together than apart, although each of you could stand alone, if need be. You choose to be, rather than have to be, together.