Relationship is a vital part of a healthy life. Research has consistently shown that social connections are critical for both mental and physical health. People who have healthy relationships have better health outcomes, are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, and have a decreased risk of mortality. Research has shown that people in secure romantic relationships have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Every relationship has a mix of both healthy and unhealthy characteristics. What makes a bond positive is that each person recognizes that these bonds take work and each person must strive to maintain the connection and remedy problems.
People often spend a lot of time talking about how to spot a bad relationship, but there is a lot less discussion about what exactly constitutes a healthy relationship. How can you know if your relationship is healthy and what can you do to make an okay relationship even better?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do you have trust in one another?
- Do you respect each other?
- Do you support each other’s interests and efforts?
- Are you honest and open with each other?
- Are you able to maintain your individual identity?
- Do you talk about your feelings, hopes, fears, and dreams?
- Do you feel and express fondness and affection?
- Is there equality and fairness in your relationship?
Every person’s needs are different. For example, some people have higher needs for openness and affection than others do. In a healthy relationship, each person is able to get what they need.
Characteristics of Healthy Relationships
While all relationships are different, there are some key characteristics that help differentiate a healthy interpersonal connection from an unhealthy one.
Trust in your partner is a key component of any healthy relationship. Research suggests that your ability to trust others is influenced by your overall attachment style.
Relationships experienced early in life help shape the expectations that you have for future relationships. If your past relationships have been secure, stable, and trusting, you are more likely to trust future partners as well. If, however, your past relationships were unstable and undependable, you may have to work through some trust issues going forward.
Trust is also established by how partners treat one another. When you see that your partner treats you well, is dependable, and will be there when you need them, you are more likely to develop this trust.
Building trust requires mutual self-disclosure by sharing things about yourself. As time passes, opportunities to test and evaluate that trust emerge. As trust grows, the relationship becomes a great source of comfort and security. If you feel that you have to hide things from your partner, it may be because you lack this essential trust.
Openness and Honesty
You should be able to feel that you can be yourself in a healthy relationship. While all couples have varying levels of openness and self-disclosure, you should never feel like you have to hide aspects of yourself or change who you are. Being open and honest with each other not only helps you feel more connected as a couple, but it also helps foster trust.
Self-disclosure refers to what you are willing to share about yourself with another person. At the beginning of a relationship, you may hold back and exercise more caution about what you are willing to reveal. Over time, as the intimacy of a relationship increases, partners begin to reveal more of their thoughts, opinions, beliefs, interests, and memories to one another.
This doesn’t mean that you need to share every single thing with your partner. Each individual needs their own privacy and space. What matters most is whether each partner feels comfortable sharing their hopes, fears, and feelings if they so choose. Healthy couples don’t need to be together all the time or share everything.
Differences in opinion over how much honesty there should be in a relationship can sometimes cause problems, however. Fortunately, one study found that when people are unhappy with their partner’s level of openness, they typically discuss the problem with their partner. This is a good example of how addressing a problem openly can help strengthen a relationship.
A partner who has unhealthy expectations of openness and honesty might expect to know every detail of where you are and what you’re doing, restrict who you can spend time with, or demand access to your personal social media accounts.
In close, healthy relationships, people have a shared respect for one another. They don’t belittle one another and offer support and security.
There are a number of different ways that couples can show respect for one another. These include:
- Making room in your life for your partner
- Listening to one another
- Not procrastinating when your partner asks you to do something
- Being understanding and forgiving when one person makes a mistake
- Building each other up; not tearing each other down
- Taking an interest in the things your partner enjoys
- Allowing your partner to have their own individuality
- Supporting and encouraging your partner’s pursuits and passions
- Showing appreciation and gratitude for one another
- Having empathy for one another
Healthy relationships are characterized by fondness and affection. Research has shown that the initial passion that marks the start of a new relationship tends to decline over time5 , but this does not mean that the need for affection, comfort, and tenderness lessens.
Passionate love usually happens during the beginning of a relationship and is characterized by intense longing, strong emotions, and a need to maintain physical closeness. This passionate love eventually transforms into compassionate love, which is marked by feelings of affection, trust, intimacy, and commitment.
Healthy, long-lasting relationships, whether they are friendships or romantic partnerships, require the ability to communicate well.
Even if your relationship seems healthy, it can be helpful at times to step back and look for improvements you can make together. Healthy relationships are marked by an ability to recognize problems, including your own, that might pose a threat to the long-term success of your relationship. By being willing to analyze your relationship, you can work together to build a more fulfilling partnership.