Wondering how to have a healthy relationship? Deep down, that’s what we all want, but as the months and years slip by, it may seem like you’re drifting further and further from this important desire. That could lead you to believe some couples are destined for great relationships, and some aren’t. Thankfully, the notion that certain couples “have it” and others never will is simply not true.
In the same way, individuals struggling with their physical health can create significant positive change by focusing on healthy nutrition and exercise, couples struggling in their relationship can be empowered to transform their relationship to feel close, connected and happy together. There is hope and change is possible. As a first step, it is helpful to envision how you want your healthy marriage or relationship to look.
In her “Psychology Today” article entitled, “What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?” Andrea Bonior Ph.D. shares the following:
“Just as important is learning to identify when a relationship is going well. Many people are unsure of what to look for, or worse yet, they don’t know all the positives that they truly deserve to have within a relationship.”
What follows includes some examples of what a healthy couple looks like. This is important because you may not have grown up in a home with a healthy family dynamic. And although you may observe a couple that appears healthy and strong, it can be difficult to understand the inner dynamics that create that positive experience for them.
Here are some signs of a healthy relationship.
Positive Affirmation & Acknowledgement
One of several key qualities of a healthy relationship is giving and receiving positive affirmation and acknowledgement. Did you receive plenty of positive feedback as a child? I hope so as we all need this. However, if you found this lacking while growing up, it’s probably more difficult for you to give and receive praise now. Your partner may have had a similar experience too.
Giving and receiving affirmation and acknowledgement can initially feel awkward even in your closest relationship if you aren’t used to it. If you haven’t made positive affirmation a habit, it might take a while until it feels normal. But making an effort is well worth it since you’ll breathe new life and health into your relationship.
We all need genuine acknowledgement and validation to be healthy. Of all the places in the world, your primary relationship is where authentic positive words need to exist. Making a conscious effort to share positive affirmation and acknowledgement with your partner is a building block in the foundation of your relationship.
Would you describe your relationship as comfy? Ever come home from a long trip or vacation, and felt a sigh of relief about being in your most comfortable and safe place? Your bedroom, kitchen or favourite chair was a much-welcomed sight. As enjoyable as your travels may have been, it felt good to be home.
A healthy relationship, especially a long-term one, can feel much like this. There’s just an overall feeling like you belong. It feels safe and secure. This is a place you don’t have to impress, and you can truly be yourself. No, it’s not perfect, but you feel loved for who you are, appreciated and accepted. Quiet contentment settles in and provides a much-needed sense of safety. Couples that lack this may experience coldness or apathy that erodes feelings of safety and security.
It is possible to build this in your relationship. But just like anything else, you will need to work intentionally to create more safety and contentment in your relationship. Consider ways to invest in building this in your relationship. You may find activities to share together, create rituals that promote a sense of connection such as greeting each other when arriving home and if more help is needed, reaching out to a couple’s therapist can set you on this path.
You Trust Each Other
Trust is identified as the most important factor in relationship research. When individuals are asked what is most important to them in a potential new relationship, trust is one of the first values identified. We can’t experience closeness and connection if we don’t feel safe. It is as simple as that. So in our intimate relationship, trust is like having oxygen to breathe.
The challenge is that trust can take a long time and a lot of effort to build but only moments to tear down. So it is important for partners to be aware of small steps they can take that build trust, and also be mindful of the small steps that could potentially erode trust.
Trust-building behaviours can include simple things such as showing up on time, having an open approach with your phone and computer (as opposed to secrecy), not sharing sensitive information about your partner with others and standing up for your partner with others if the situation calls for it. Of course, trust always includes fidelity and faithfulness – emotionally, physically and sexually.
Without trust, it’s difficult to share any depth of love or intimacy with your partner. You don’t know whether you can depend on your partner or whether another betrayal is just around the corner.
But, even if trust can be broken, the good news is that trust can be restored in damaged relationships.
One of the keys to a healthy relationship is unequalled loyalty. When you’re in a committed relationship, your partner becomes your number-one priority. This doesn’t mean you neglect family and friend obligations or career endeavours in the process. Instead, healthy relationships enhance those secondary relationships, making them even better.
But loyalty, first and foremost, goes to your spouse or partner and needs to remain unrivalled. This means that secondary relationships don’t get to ‘dethrone’ your partner and become first place. Friends, family, in-laws and even children can’t become number one. The second they do, your significant-other relationship gets out of balance, unhealthy and its very survival can be at risk.
Any existing threat to that relationship should be challenged. Suppose either of you allows your parents or a friend to become more important. In that case, your relationship with your partner will quickly go into a tailspin.
It is important to be aware of this and to set healthy boundaries with others when needed. Also, be careful about who you share your relationship challenges with and be respectful of your partner even if you are sharing frustrations or challenges. Those outside of your primary bond will likely respect your spouse or partner if you do.
Relationships can’t be healthy without this mutual loyalty because when “your house is divided” your connection is in danger.
Considering Therapy Can Help You Grow a Healthy Relationship
If you’re interested in how to keep a relationship healthy, part of that is knowing what positive relationship qualities you want to pursue.
Relationship therapy or marriage counselling is a beneficial way to help you grow a healthy and vibrant bond. Relationship therapy is not only for couples in distress. Couples who have a “good” relationship can also benefit from couples therapy to deepen their connection and develop a “great” relationship.
If you’d like to learn more about how The Relationship Centre can assist you, please get in touch. You can also schedule an appointment with us and start taking some significant steps towards improved relationship health.