A healthy relationship is a paradox. Many people are plenty happy in relationships that are not “healthy” by definition — victims of abuse, for instance, are often reluctant to leave their abuser. This may be an extreme case, but it is a clear illustration of my point. Not all couples who are willing to fight to stay in a relationship are involved in something you can call healthy.
Seven Ways To Develop Healthy Relationships
A relationship is considered “healthy” if the two partners support one another and at the same time exist as individuals. It would be impossible to define a healthy relationship exactly, as no two people can ever share the same kind of healthy love — differences in political alignment, gender identity, and sexual desire mean that no two healthy combinations are the same. However, below are seven was to develop healthy relationships. These guidelines have been suggested by and agreed upon by therapists and relationship experts.
1. Spend “quality time” together
There is no better way to develop the love between you and your partner than to share time together. Whether you go to a movie, have a romantic dinner, take walks together, go to sporting events — whatever it is, experiencing things together will increase the bond that you already have. How can you make memories with your partner without sharing your time? Quality time also extends to the bedroom. Many relationships grow unhealthy because of a lack of sexual intimacy. You may find that a night of watching a romantic movie with a bottle of wine inspires the two of you to head to the bedroom — go with these feelings. Intimate time together is healthy, especially when both partners share in the excitement of physical love.
2. Make your own happiness
When our ego gets in the way, it is easy to forget that we all make mistakes. It is important to admit when you are wrong, and to tell your partner you’re sorry. Sometimes something as simple as an apology can go incredibly far in developing a healthy relationship, and when one partner apologizes for mistakes, it encourages the other to do the same. Healthy relationships include the occasional mistake, but the two simple words “I’m sorry” can clear up all the anger and resentment, and even lead to greater closeness between partners.
No two partners will agree on everything. The taboo topics of politics and religion will no doubt come up during the course of any healthy relationship, and it is unlikely that you and your partner will agree one hundred percent. Rather than see this as a weakness, use it as a jumping off point for communication. Having a healthy relationship means learning about your differences, and growing by sharing your different points of view. A healthy relationship includes some butting of heads, but instead of arguing or becoming angry, teach each other something. This is also a great way to spend time together — a friendly debate.
5. Keep commitments
Too often, our busy lives get in the way of our plans and dates, or miscommunication leads to broken commitments. By keeping your plans (“Let’s meet for dinner at 6:00 at Stella’s restaurant) you show your partner that you respect their time and care for them, and you can avoid petty arguing and disagreements. In the same way, when you commit to heavier things, like not cheating on your partner or not drinking too much, you show that you respect your partner’s opinions and want to maintain some integrity in the relationship. Sure, sometimes plans will get broken or mistakes will be made — but try your best to keep your word, and your relationship will be healthier for it.
6. Be honest
Most of us try to protect other people’s feelings — we are taught this strategy from birth. Unfortunately, in order to protect other people, we often feel we have to lie. Any lie, no matter how small, can chip away at a healthy relationship. Total honesty in all things will not only prove your love to your partner, but will make the relationship easier in the long run. If you hate Chinese food, why should you lie and tell your partner that you love it? You’ll just end up resenting your many nights at his or her favorite Chinese place, and this resentment will grow into something larger. Honesty about the big things is important too — if you’re not ready for the next phase of your relationship (say, getting engaged) then you must be honest, otherwise your relationship is doomed to fail. There is no greater sign of respect and love than complete honesty.
7. Appreciate your partner
When I do something small, like make my partner breakfast or get up in the middle of the night to get her a glass of water, she always shows her appreciation, even if it is just a simple “Thank you”. Likewise, when she helps me out, I remember to show my gratitude. While you may not consider it “ungrateful” to not say “Thank you” or “I love you” after the smallest of favors, your partner may slowly turn this lack of appreciation into a deep resentment, or may stop helping you at all. A healthy relationship is one in which even the smallest of actions is rewarded with love and respect, and sprinkling a liberal amount of gratitutde into your daily life can only improve your mood and the love between you and your partner.
There are many more little things that go along with a healthy relationship — but any couple that tries hard to follow these seven guideleines every day will be well on their way to forming a successful partnership. What is a healthy relationship? One in which neither partner disappears under the weight of the relationship, and both partners continue to grow.