A healthy relationship is an aspiration for many people. Seeing other happy couples around you may make you wonder — what is it that they have? Financial stability? A house under their ownership? Well-mannered children? An exciting sex life? While a happy couple may have all of these and more, the true backbone of a healthy relationship is commitment, communication, and a mindset geared towards bettering the relationship.
1. I Respect and Appreciate My Partner
Mutual respect is a fundamental aspect of making a relationship work. One element of it involves speaking to your partner respectfully. For example, if you argue, refrain from making contemptuous remarks that will hurt your partner and contribute to a resolution. Aside from arguments, everyday conversations also deserve a modicum of respect — pay attention to your body language and consider how it looks to your partner. Scrolling through your phone or acting like you have something better to do than listening can be disrespectful towards your partner. At the same time, it is only human to zone out of a conversation once in a while.
Other elements of mutual respect include keeping your partner in mind when you make decisions and paying attention to their wants and needs. This does not mean that you always have to put their desires above yours, only that you need to keep them in mind to find a compromise that makes both of you feel satisfied.
2. I Can Be Honest With My Partner
When asked about regrets from past relationships, one of the most common answers among older people is that they wished they could be more honest with their partners. Honesty is a crucial element of a long-lasting relationship. While you do not have to tell your partner every little thing, being open about your thoughts and feelings is essential. At the beginning of any relationship, you may be wary about revealing your genuine self in front of a then-stranger, but as time goes on, allow them to see more behind the walls you put up. After all, you do not want to be forced into keeping up a facade in front of a partner you may want to spend the rest of your life with.
3. I Can Compliment Instead of Criticize
Criticism is an essential part of recognizing issues and eventually addressing them. However, if all your partner hears from you, day in and day out, is criticism about them, they will understandably become frustrated, and resentment will begin brewing. According to a study by Gottman and Levenson, the “magic ratio” in stable marriages was a ratio of five positive interactions for every negative interaction during a conflict. Even during an argument, there is still space for laughing, teasing, and signs of affection because of the emotional connection partners have with each other. Showing appreciation and validation even amid an argument helps strengthen your foundations. It assures both partners that they can make up for their mistakes without jeopardizing the relationship.
Couples that suddenly get caught up in commitments that take up much of their time, such as becoming parents, often find themselves with less time to be together and act like romantic partners. Sometimes, being too busy can make both of you feel like roommates or co-workers instead. It is crucial to set time aside for activities that keep the romantic connection between you alive — whether it is as mundane as eating together at your favorite restaurant or going on a weekend-long getaway at a resort.
A healthy relationship comprises two individuals who love each other, not a two-for-one deal that can not function without the other half. While it is essential to spend time with your partner, at the end of the day, you must remember that you are two separate people, and you deserve space to grow on your own. It can be fun to participate in the same activities as your partner, but too much of it can make you feel stifled, as though you need to have your partner by your side before you can engage in any of your interests. Being too needy or clingy can drain both partners, making one feel as though they are always obligated to give the other their attention.
According to Gottman, the average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital issues. That is six years too long, likely spent in silent suffering, unproductive arguments, or growing resentment. Couple counseling is a perfectly valid option that allows both of you to speak about your issues with an impartial, knowledgeable third party that can guide you towards a resolution.
You might already understand the importance of communication for significant issues, but what about minor ones? If you have ever considered living with your partner and assumed everything would work out perfectly because both of you are in love, stop there. It is easy to think you will work out minor issues such as dividing household chores or where to put the peanut butter (the pantry or the fridge?), but the two of you may have differing assumptions. Take time to discuss topics such as chore division to prevent growing resentment in the future when one partner feels like the situation is unfair to them.
Becoming comfortable enough with your partner to develop familiar patterns and routines is a beautiful thing. However, never straying from these routines can foster boredom and disinterest, among other more toxic behaviors. For a healthy relationship, constantly work to bring in new things. A partner who rejects new things or takes the activities you did at the beginning of your relationship for granted can make you feel tired and suffocated.
A healthy relationship does not just appear out of thin air. It requires commitment from both partners to make things work, along with the right mindset — respect, appreciation, honesty, positivity, independence, novelty, and communication.