4 Signs of a Healthy Relationship
Relationships are a part of each of our lives. Whether you are in a dating or marriage relationship, both require attention and care. Relationships impact all aspects of our lives including home, work, and leisure activities as well as our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. They can add joy and fulfillment to our lives but can also be a source of stress.
You may be questioning whether you should be in your current relationship or if there is anything you can do to strengthen your relationship with your partner. There are countless dimensions to every relationship, but here are four essential cornerstones to every romantic, healthy relationship.
Signs of a healthy relationship
Couples who have respect for one another accept each other’s differences and opinions. They feel free to share thoughts and ideas knowing they will be thoughtfully received and considered. It is trusting that your partner will make choices that are uplifting to both of you.
Respect builds one another up. In a respectful, healthy relationship, daily interactions are kind, honoring, and uplifting. This does not mean that there will not be disagreements, but both parties are willing to listen and compromise equally. Are you always the one to give up on your ideas, activities, dreams, resources, or your friends? If so, the respect may be one-sided.
Intimacy is all about connection. Intimacy requires vulnerability and transparency and involves meeting one another’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Vulnerability is being open with the parts of yourself that you only share with your innermost circle. It means sharing parts of yourself that, if revealed, make you feel open to rejection. Maybe it’s a difficult part of your childhood that you have never shared or maybe just the willingness to try something new with your partner that you are afraid you will fail at.
Transparency is the openness and honesty in a relationship to share difficult thoughts, feelings, desires and concerns without fearing rejection or judgment. A lack of transparency can lead to confusion or mistrust. Mutual intimacy should leave both partners feeling heard, accepted, and safe. Ask yourself, is there an imbalance in my relationship? Am I walking on eggshells trying to ensure his needs are being met while mine are taking a backseat? Am I asked or forced to engage in sexual acts more or less frequently than I am comfortable with or is there mutual intimacy?
Sometimes a lapse in intimacy is a result of not understanding how your partner gives and receives love. If you feel most loved when your partner serves you by helping around the house, but your partner feels most loved when you hold hands or give him a massage, you may feel as if your partner is ignoring your needs.
Communicating your “love language” can help couples recognize and appreciate differences while being intentional to show love in the way your partner prefers to receive it.
Dr. Gary Chapman speaks of this in his book The 5 Love Languages. In his book, Chapman states, “My conclusion after many years of marriage counseling is that there are five emotional love languages—five ways that people speak and understand emotional love.” He goes on to say, “Seldom do [intimate partners] have the same primary emotional love language. We tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when our [partner] does not understand what we are communicating. We are expressing love, but the message does not come through because we are speaking what, to them, is a foreign language.”
Communication is more than just letting your partner know your schedule. It’s more than asking about their day. A healthy relationship can deepen with communication that expresses gratitude and appreciation for what you enjoy about your partner. In a healthy relationship, both partners enjoy the fruits of appreciation and the trust to bring up things that are troubling them.
As with any healthy relationship, the ability to be open and vulnerable in our communication is key. Communication is as much about listening as it is talking. Both partners should be invested and focused on the conversation as well as on their non-verbal cues.
Listening without interrupting and acknowledging how your partner feels leads to greater intimacy and trust. Ask questions and confirm what your partner is saying. Try responding with, “I hear you saying…” When your partner feels you truly understand what they are trying to communicate, they feel validated and heard. When communicating about a conflict or concern, good communication involves taking responsibility and owning one’s mistakes, avoiding becoming defensive, and seeing one another’s point of view.
Trust is built over time with consistency in all of these areas. It leads to further intimacy and feelings of safety between a couple. When a couple has built a partnership on trust, they are free to be their authentic selves, and one does not have “control” over another.
Do you trust your partner to accept and consider your feelings? Does your partner consider you when making decisions? Are they true to their word? Do you feel safe enough to be yourself at all times? Love is born from trust, and a relationship without it will not stand the test of time.
All relationships take work and effort, whether you have been together for two months or 20 years; however, it should involve equal effort and compromise by both partners. Each one of us brings our own habits, trauma, and family background into the relationship.
Couples should offer and accept grace as you learn together. We all have room for personal improvement, and sometimes it is easiest to see faults in those around us; however, don’t make the mistake of excusing unhealthy behaviors that are physically, emotionally or mentally damaging to you.
Without practicing these essential habits on both sides, the relationship could become cold or even toxic over time. If trust is broken, it can take time and sometimes the help of a professional to build up again. If your relationship is struggling, consider consulting with a professional counselor. Don’t be ashamed. All relationships go through stages where a reboot or outside perspective is helpful.
Lastly, be willing to listen to wise and trusted friends and family members who are willing to ask the hard questions about your relationship. Although it may feel unwanted, allowing them to point out areas of concern can help you address potential issues head-on or help you reassess the relationship as a whole.
Chapman, G. D. (2010). The 5 Love Languages. Print.
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