Every relationship is different. With the vast range of personalities, interests, dating styles, theories of love, and experiences out there it’s important to realize what works for your relationships and what makes you happy, isn’t going to necessarily work for the next person. That being said, the idea of what makes a relationship healthy and fulfilling is something worth exploring. And by looking into what the different kinds of healthy relationships out there have in common, can help us understand what to strive for in our own.
Your relationship may be different in many ways from another person’s, but there are some core values that should match up.
Here are a few things to look for that healthy relationships have in common:
1. You feel safe.
Safety, whether in a relationship or not, is something that should not be compromised. Your safety and the safety of your partner is vital. If you’re in a relationship where you feel comfortable speaking your mind, discussing your needs, and being honest without fear of repercussions, your relationship health is strong. Naturally, there are tough subjects for anyone to bring up in any kind of relationship, but if you feel like you won’t be harmed emotionally or physically, that’s most important.
2. You respect one another.
There are plenty of couples who love one another, but are lacking a mutual respect. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at your partner’s choice of career, hobby, friends, or anything else, you may want to ask yourself why. (And vice versa.) Respect is so important to both give and receive, but the truth is, you will not live your life fully respecting everyone you encounter. If you don’t feel respected by your partner, or you don’t respect him or her back, your relationship may need a bit of work to regain that aspect of health.
3. You’re affectionate.
Affection is a broad topic, and one that looks different for everybody. If you and your partner are not constantly holding hands in public or texting one another sweet nothings when you’re away, don’t fret. Affection is not one size fits all. The important aspect of affection, as it relates to your relationship’s health, is personal. Do you and your partner spend time together at night, discussing the events of your day, while truly listening to one another? That’s a form of affection. Do you always kiss goodnight and good morning? That’s a form of affection. Discover your love languages, and utilize them often. Being affectionate and expressing love to one another is a huge part of a relationship.
4. Quality time is a priority.
The more comfortable a relationship is, the easier it can be to skirt over the things you prioritized in the beginning. Being comfortable with one another is great (in fact, that’s another sign of health), but being too comfortable is a slippery slope. If you two live together and are used to being in each other’s presence, make sure you are carving out time to have experiences and create memories. It’s easy to feel like you’re spending time together simply because you exist in one another’s space, but quality time should be a priority. Go out on dates, laugh together, make a night at home special with a nice bottle of wine or a home-cooked meal—or both. Make sure you’re always trying new things and spending time together, no matter how long you’ve been together.
5. Your goals are aligned.
A healthy relationship should have shared values and goals—basically, it’s important to see eye-to-eye on a few main topics. And it’s good to make sure you have the same vision for the future. Not everything has to be perfectly aligned, but the major topics include: sustainability, marriage, children, and location. Do you two both want to be together for a long time? Do you want to get married? Do you want to have kids? Are you both or neither open to moving somewhere else?
You don’t have to answer yes to all of these questions. You can both definitely not want to get married, and that counts as an aligned goal. You can decide as a couple that kids aren’t in the future, or that you’d both prefer to adopt than have biological children. That’s great. It’s the agreement part that matters. If one of you wants to live in Europe for five years and come home and get married and the other person can’t imagine leaving your hometown of Phoenix, Arizona then the relationship needs a bit of elbow grease.
6. You’re a team.
A relationship should be give and take, not take and take, or give and give. If you’re doing all of the heavy lifting and feel unsupported, your relationship may not be at its healthiest. If you two are great at balance, then congratulations. If you’re always the one to go grocery shopping because you love grocery shopping, that’s wonderful—but hopefully your partner is always the one running some other errand that you would prefer to never do. If you like to cook, great. But maybe your partner always washes the dishes or packs the lunches for the next day. Teamwork applies to more than mundane tasks, as well. It’s important to be there for one another when the other person needs it most. Your relationship’s health depends on it.
It’s really something special to be able to make a relationship work and feel fulfilling, balanced, safe, and loved. Your relationship’s health is really important. Everyone deserves to be happy, and you and your partner deserve to be happy together.