Building a Healthy Relationship
Healthy relationships can’t be too much. They help us feel calm, safe, and confident. But what do we mean by a healthy relationship?
A healthy relationship is characterized by respect, compassion, and patience, and allows everyone to thrive and feel good about themselves.
In any relationship, two people seek to fulfill their emotional needs. However, a person may mistakenly believe that they are in a healthy relationship, but in reality, they are exploiting the generosity of their partner.
Conversely, he may ignore his own needs to devote himself entirely to those of his partner. But beware, one day or another, a void is felt and the pressure is felt on the relationship. It is therefore important to find a happy medium and to communicate well so that everyone feels supported and fulfilled.
Some tips for a healthy relationship:
- Recognize that relationships require ongoing effort. The early passion probably won’t last forever. Remember that anything worthwhile takes effort. And making an effort doesn’t mean the relationship is unhealthy. It’s quite the opposite!
- Prioritize your relationship. Seek balance between work, family, and your time alone and as a couple. Learn to say no to non-essential requests.
- Explore the role of your own behavior in relationship problems. Your partner may be going through a period of emotional imbalance, but remember that it takes two people to perpetuate unhealthy interactions. It is, therefore, necessary to determine what is important for oneself and what one can do to create change.
- Recognize that your relationship cannot meet all of your needs. Maintain friendships. It’s normal for your partner to not share all of your interests.
Finally, even a healthy relationship will have ups and downs. We all go through difficult and stressful times. But if the foundation of the relationship is solid and built on respect, compassion, and patience, chances are good that the relationship will survive.
Is your relationship good for you?
You can love and be loved sincerely while being caught up in an affective relationship that is not good for you. But how to find out?
Here are six keys to seeing more clearly in your relationship and taking stock of your love story.
“To love is necessarily to suffer”, “In love, we don’t choose”, “Love stories generally end badly” or “don’t last more than three years”, etc. Our culture is largely a purveyor of beliefs that equate love with suffering, and happiness with inconsistency. Romantic and fatalistic, such could be the composite portrait of the contemporary French lover. Across the Channel and across the Atlantic, where pragmatism tends to prevail over romanticism, many shrinks produce articles that dissect what a good emotional relationship should be, thus giving keys to getting out of fate.
They affirm that it is not because one loves that one must suffer. Thus, for the psychotherapist Susan J. Elliott or the psychologist Theresa E. DiDonato, to stay without changing anything or forgiving in a situation that is not good for you does not make sense. Both basically say that a healthy relationship is based on fundamentals such as security, self-esteem, and support. We have identified six of them, which psychosociologist and life coach Patricia Delahaie comments on for us.
1. You feel safe
Your physical and emotional integrity is respected. This sense of security is the basis of a healthy emotional relationship. At home, you can drop the mask and armor with confidence.
You don’t feel directed, manipulated, or threatened in any way, you are respected. After a separation, when you find your partner, the dominant emotion is joy. Whether felt or expressed in the minor or major mode. In general, the emotion that colors your life together is neither anger, fear, frustration, nor stress.
If this is not the case: the relationship is probably one of those that are described as toxic, that is to say, both addictive and abusive. The emotional intensity, often fusional, masks the dysfunctional dimension of the story, which is misleadingly described as “passionate”.
Advice: know that an insecure relationship will remain so. Try to identify the secondary benefits it gives you, such as emotional and sexual intensity, which fills the feeling of inner emptiness. To get out of the illusion, count the good times and the bad times. Do not hesitate to call on a professional to put an end to the relationship. It is very difficult to take the leap on your own.
2. You can express your disagreements
You are comfortable opposing, expressing criticism, or differing points of view. You have the feeling of not having to control yourself, nor of having to weigh each of your words so as not to offend your partner’s susceptibility. You are also aware that exchanging in confidence does not mean practicing transparency.
To each his own areas of opacity, his little mysteries, or his secret garden. However, you know that when it comes to intimate communication, nothing is ever certain and that adjustments must be made regularly.
If this is not the case: either your partner is a dominator, unsure of himself deep down, who does not support any contradiction; or you state your disagreements too often and at times that are not convenient for him or her, which makes you feel like you can’t say things freely.
Advice: before accusing the other of being a tyrant (which he may be), it is better to start with a session of introspection. Do you express your disagreements respectfully? At the right time? At a frequency bearable by the other? If the answer to all three questions is yes, ask your partner, as a non-negotiable condition in your relationship, to be able to voice your disagreements. This may not be enough to move his lines. It is then up to you to assess what in your story is primary or secondary.
3. You are not a prisoner of a label
You can express and manifest all the facets of your personality, and reveal new ones over time, without jeopardizing your relationship. This “flexibility” bears witness to both the couple’s good health and their ability to accommodate all the nuances of otherness.
Not being stuck in a “monorole”, you don’t stick a label on your partner, because you know the dangers of the illusion of knowing the other by heart and reducing their personality to a caricature. You feel free to change tastes, opinions, and habits and you also leave the other free to do the same. This fluidity allows you to deploy and evolve together by constantly rediscovering yourself.
If this is not the case: sticking a label is a way to reduce the other and control it. Confining one’s partner to a “monorole” prevents access to one’s wealth and slows down the development of the couple. It’s up to you to assess the part of inconvenience that there is to live “labeled”. You can also wonder about the one you stick to your partner. These games are often played in pairs.
Advice: if you are suffocating under your label, ask yourself what your share of responsibility is, what comfort or discomfort you find there, and also ask yourself about the benefits your partner derives from the situation. You may also wonder when and why it sticks with you.
Finally, why not humorously highlight everything in your behavior that is “off the label”. And act according to your desires and your needs, without justification or request for validation.
4. You are listened to and supported
When you express an opinion or an emotion, you have the deep feeling that your partner is really present, that he is listening to you and trying to understand what you are transmitting to him. You don’t have to beg for their attention or support.
They belong to you. This posture is what is called “the intelligence of the heart”. Even if the other cannot always understand what affects you, he is affected by the simple fact that you are affected, and that is what matters. Your personal problems are not just your own; as soon as you evoke them, they become those of the couple.
If this is not the case: you may be in a “good weather” relationship, that is to say, which only works well when the weather is good and which turns into everyone for yourself at the slightest turbulence. Some find their account there. On the other hand, if the expectation of listening and support is not satisfied, it inevitably results in suffering for one of the two.
Advice: start by formulating your request clearly, without waiting to be guessed at your needs. Don’t hesitate to be insistent and to state your requirement as the “basis of the relationship”. You can also explain the type of support you expect: simple listening, reassurance, search for a solution, entertainment… If your partner is unable to fully satisfy your needs, diversify your points of support (family, friends).
5. You are autonomous
Alone, you could meet your needs, face the constraints of life, manage your daily life, and have a social and family life. Your partner is neither your parent nor your crutch. You know that the more we put ourselves in a state of dependence, the more we are fragile in the face of the freedom to break up, necessity taking precedence over desire. That said, autonomy has no absolute value; each couple the dose at their convenience, so as to find a balance that suits each.
If not: your addiction may be temporary or involuntary. It can also be a choice of comfort or a form of laziness or even the fruit of a relationship that infantilizes you to better dominate you. It’s up to you to assess the advantages and disadvantages of your situation.
The advice: carefully measure all the risks involved in addiction. Whether material, financial or emotional. By asking yourself the questions “what is this addiction depriving me off?” and “How would I live on my own?” you can make adjustments if you feel the need.
6. You grow
Your relationship is an engine that drives you forward. It allows you to evolve and discover yourself. A healthy affective relationship is therapeutic in itself because it helps to get out of painful repetitions or to heal certain wounds from the past. You feel valued, and loved for who you are.
If not: you may be stuck in a painful pattern of repetition, trapped in a “mono role” or fear of losing the affection of the loved one. In all cases, the constraint, the fear, the suffering prevail over the pleasure and the capacity to be oneself in all peace of mind and in all freedom.
Advice: when you feel neither good nor beautiful in a relationship when you are very often aggressive, sad, distraught, defensive, or irascible, there are questions to ask about the natural emotional bond and the relevance of keeping it. This questioning is often easier with the help of a professional. The important thing is to keep in mind that in love fatality only exists with our consent, conscious or unconscious.
What a healthy relationship looks like according to experts
It takes two people, however imperfect, who are committed to working to improve.
A healthy relationship does not happen by chance. It takes two people, however imperfect, who are committed to working to improve.
Therapists, psychologists, and other experts were asked about the signs that make a relationship healthy. See what they had to say below.
1. You have realistic expectations of love.
“Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is another story. Long-term relationships are tough! There are many mountains and valleys. Anticipating the inevitable relationship challenges and having a plan to get through them together (without overreacting) is the sign of a strong relationship.” – Michele Weiner-Davis, therapist and author of Divorce Busting.
2. You don’t take things personally.
“Instead of assuming the worst, healthy couples will find the best possible motivation in the event of mistakes. Forgot to pick up the dry cleaning? Forgot to put gas in the car? Instead of thinking, “She doesn’t care about me” or “He’s just thinking about him,” they think, “Even the most loving partners can make mistakes.” – Winifred M. Reilly, marriage therapist and author of It Takes One to Tango.
3. You act like a team, not competitors.
“While it can be good to compete in the workplace or in a sport, it’s not healthy for couples to compete against each other. Appreciate your complicity and keep the competition out of your relationship.” – Douglas C. Brooks, sexologist.
4. You take responsibility instead of blame.
“Each partner will recognize a problem and will look at how they could have contributed to it. There is a financial problem? Where did I overspend? Are tasks not done? What didn’t I do? Healthy couples think of their contribution first before wondering where their partner might have fallen short. – Ryan Howes, psychologist.
5. You feel secure in the relationship because you trust each other.
“Both partners have deep trust in each other’s loyalty and truth and are not jealous or suspicious. Healthy couples feel loved and are not paranoid. They know their partner is trying to protect the situation.” – Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology and a board-certified sexologist.
6. You go out of your way for each other
“We live in a culture that emphasizes personal satisfaction, but putting your own needs first or being bitter about putting your partner’s needs first is not a good idea. When you do give your partner an emotional gift—like going to dinner with your in-laws you don’t adore—reciprocity is the usual response. Loving people take care of each other mutually.” -Weiner-Davis
7. You can talk openly about anything – even sensitive topics.
“The sex, the money, the frustrations, the desire. Healthy couples want to know what the other is thinking and how they are feeling even if the truth is frustrating.” – Reilly.
8. You grow individually over time and allow each other to do the same.
“Even if you loved and appreciated your partner when you met them, after years or decades they will change. You can fight this inevitability or accept it. Healthy couples recognize that change is good and that developing identity is a lifelong process. They encourage new hobbies, new friendships, and new interests in their partner. Of course, it’s natural to be afraid if the change threatens your life or your sense of security, but you can communicate it and navigate the changes together. You have decided to grow and change together, and that requires a real partnership.” -Howes
9. When you argue, you are fair.
“They can argue about something important without showing disrespect to each other. If one of you is shouting names at each other, that means there’s no real communication. A healthy couple can debate issues – even raise their voices – but never shout insults at each other. -Schwartz