Being in a healthy relationship requires a certain level of vulnerability and insight to reach the depths that make a relationship meaningful, and in turn, healthy. Both of you need to be able to navigate your respective personal history and experiences and create a healthy relationship together.
These eight characteristics of a healthy relationship are a guideline to creating and maintaining a relationship you can both be happy and grow in. In order to have a healthy relationship, communication is the single biggest contributor towards a healthy relationship.
Communication is the golden thread that runs through each one of these characteristics of a healthy relationship. Communication not only means your ability to communicate, but also both of your ability to listen and more importantly to hear. Communication goes awry when we think we have understood our partner but in actual fact, we may have filled in gaps with our own interpretations or processed what our partner has said through our own perspective. Using communication as a foundation, here’re the other attributes you want to develop and grow for a healthy relationship.
The Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship You Want
When one has been in previous relationships, there will always be some scars that remain. Sometimes we are aware of what these are and other times, these can be brought to our attention through triggers when our new partner acts or responds in ways that remind us of our past or incidents that have happened in our past. Open communication about trust issues goes a long way to defusing trust issues because ultimately gaining and maintaining trust is fundamental to a healthy relationship.
Openness and Honesty
The ability to openly discuss a range of topics, from one’s feelings to vulnerabilities, insecurities to hopes and dreams, are central to a healthy relationship. Often openness and honesty grows from the depths of trust that you are both able to reach. Again, open communication plays a vital role. The ability to be vulnerable and to hold your partner’s vulnerabilities gently opens the doors to an honest relationship.
Flexibility and Compromise
The art of compromise ensures that both of you are willing to and able to acknowledge the other’s worldview. Knowing that you can be flexible to accommodate your significant other means that you are both open to the possibility of exploring newness. Being flexible could open up a whole new dimension to your relationship. Instead of your traditional pizza night, you might start cooking up a storm together or that regular Sunday walk in the park becomes an opportunity to explore a new neighbourhood.
Boundaries and Privacy
Some things are yours and yours only. A healthy relationship means maintaining your individuality within the context of a shared relationship. You fell in love with one another as individuals, and all your characteristics and values are the sum of who you are. Boundaries are important to maintain. They encompass things like keeping your friendships and family relationships, your hobbies and your personality.
Respect and Support
Mutual respect for one other can further grow out of the ability to respect boundaries and privacy. It is also evident in how you interact with and treat one another. Support means knowing your significant other can give you encouragement and support, allowing you to feel safe and secure both in your relationship and in your interactions with the world. We all need to feel that someone has our back, that we will be supported and encouraged in our endeavours and through the good and the bad times.
Knowing your worlds intersect around your shared values can provide a great deal of comfort and security. Shared values can lead to a sharing of goals, aspirations and dreams, and in turn, shape your future lives. Examples of values would be things like shared views with regards to money, religion or spirituality, attitudes towards family and friends, a shared tolerance and understanding of the world.
All healthy relationships need intimacy as the lining that feathers the nest. This intimacy is not only physical intimacy but emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy comes with sharing lives, becoming the best of friends, sharing dreams and most importantly, the ability to love one another and express this love.
If you can nurture these characteristics of a healthy relationship in your own relationship, you are fast on the way to creating lasting love and happiness together.
Louisa Niehaus is a psychotherapist and relationship expert specializing in love, the second time around.