Each relationship is unique as are the individuals in it. Each one requires the right tools to grow, just like a houseplant can thrive in one environment and not the other. Think of your relationship the same way you would if you were baking a cake. Certain ingredients like intimacy and shared interests could be considered the icing and sprinkles on the cake. While more foundational ingredients, like trust and communication, can really act as the flour and butter. If you’re wondering what characteristics to look for in a healthy relationship, then you came to the right place. Below are seven signs of a healthy relationship that can support your overall well-being and foster long-term, side-by-side growth and happiness:
This is the foundation for the beginning of any relationship. Trust looks different for each couple and person. Although it can be uncomfortable, having conversations about trust might mean establishing what is considered cheating in your relationship. It also might mean having mutual respect for the other person when you both disagree. When a relationship has a strong foundation of trust, it brings both people closer and makes you more willing to work through problems that arise.
If you’re unsure where to start, simply ask what trust looks like to the other person to hear their perspective and go from there. An important aspect of trust is feeling comfortable enough to be vulnerable around your partner. This might mean talking about an issue you’re struggling with mentally or maybe something that the other person did that upset you. The key here is that your significant other doesn’t attack or judge you. Dealing with emotionally challenging situations is never easy and you want someone at your side who will listen and respond thoughtfully.
2. Effective communication, especially during difficult times.
There is nothing like the pressure cooker that is riding in a car to a new location with your significant other, without cell service and feeling lost. Ask your person what is and what is not helpful during tough situations. Have these types of conversations frequently. Not only will this help you work through times when you get lost in the car, but it will also teach you how to best support your person in stressful moments. Check in with yourself and identify what support you would be receptive to as well is helpful. Strong communication is a crucial sign of a healthy relationship, but it takes patience and effort.
Throughout my last relationship, I found the practice of stating ‘I just need you to listen, I do not need you to fix anything,’ gave me the space to feel heard and to process whatever was going on. It also gave a good direction to my significant other on what kind of help I was looking for.
3. Showing respect for each other’s differences
When in a relationship, would you want to date yourself? For me, my answer is no. I don’t want to date me, not because I am not great, but because I want to learn and grow with another person. To do this, I need the space to sit with the discomfort of change and differences. Remember, each person comes to the relationship with different things to offer like personality traits, talents, quirks, and past experiences. Just because you haven’t had the same life experiences as your significant other doesn’t mean either is invalid. It takes time, but try to empathize with them and put yourself in their shoes.
This is a great opportunity to set boundaries as well. If you start to notice yourself listening to respond, instead of listening to understand, it’s a good opportunity to take a pause and regulate your emotions. Then, return to the conversation (within the same day if possible!) to be curious and listen with the intent of learning.
4. Feeling cared for and supported.
Experiencing the feeling of being heard is another crucial sign of a healthy relationship. This is so individual to each person. To know how someone perceives being cared for and supported, a person must be able to identify what that feels like for them. Sometimes people aren’t sure where to begin, so you can also look outwardly and notice how you show care and support for others. For me, when someone I love is struggling, I often prepare a dish of food to bring over and show them this is how I can be thoughtful and caring.
Relationships should be an equal exchange of energy. That balance of power can quickly shift if you are the one always dropping everything and listening to your loved one’s concerns. When it comes time for you to vent, if your partner often makes excuses for not being there or looks distracted, they are not treating you fairly.
5. The support of each other’s hopes and dreams and encouraging each other’s success.
Dreaming up a life with a partner is so exciting and hopeful. You should understand their “why.” Ask your loved one what their dreams and passions are and try to understand why it’s important to them even though you may not get it yourself. You can reveal your own dreams which lets them know they are not alone and both of you will need the support to reach them.
Wherever you are now, take a self-inventory of your relationship. Ensuring that your needs and goals are still possible while supporting someone else’s can be a good clue that you have a healthy bond with a partner. Keep in mind that this is not a one and done conversation. Checking in with your person from as much as quarterly, to as infrequently as once a year that your person is getting the support they need, as well as yourself, can be imperative to show the strength and direction of the relationship.
Think of this more like a yearly review with a job where you explore and address how chores around the home are being distributed and or whether resentments are being had over a particular task to ensure all persons are feeling heard and supported.
6. Overall feeling safe and secure with that person.
Explore what safety and security mean to you and go from there. Having some of the things we’ve mentioned already, such as trust, good communication, and respect will naturally make you feel safe with your partner over time. Some other signs of a healthy and safe relationship may include consistency. This is about knowing your partner so well that you can predict how they will react to certain situations. But’s it also about knowing they will show up for you in times of need. Another indicator of safety is if you can feel completely comfortable being vulnerable with them without fear of judgment. Finally, your partner doesn’t try to change you, rather they encourage you to become a better version of yourself because they want what’s best for you.
7. Being comfortable with spending time alone.
Each person is different in what spending time with self will look like. If you’re not getting this in a relationship, it’s important to advocate for it as well. There is something so empowering about going to a movie by yourself or doing an activity on your own. It gives the opportunity to share stories and experiences with your person while keeping some of your individuality. Remember, do you really want to be in a relationship with yourself?
Of course, there are various signs of what a healthy relationship should look like, some not mentioned here. There are no set guidelines! At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide whether you are in a happy and balanced relationship. However, if you are worried you may be leaning towards an unhealthy or toxic relationship, there are resources available:
- Reach out to loved ones about your situation
- Attend weekly support groups
- Talk to a therapist
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