Romance and partnership are two things just about everyone wants in life. However, as time goes on, and relationship after relationship fails, it can feel as if those things aren’t possible.
Luckily, that’s not true. Romance is alive and well, and with a bit of effort and knowledge regarding what works and what doesn’t, it’s attainable for anyone.
The problem is building a healthy relationship that establishes must-have traits and nurturing them for the long haul. This is where many couples fail.
So, to help you build a healthy, thriving relationship that is both fulfilling and exciting, we’ve put together a list of the most important characteristics of a healthy relationship. By being able to identify these characteristics, you can more easily evaluate your current relationship or proactively focus on building those healthy relationship characteristics in future relationships.
Let’s get started.
1: Understanding Individual Responsibility for Happiness
It’s true that your partner should be supportive and willing to not just help you reach your goals or pull you out of a funk, but also function as a sort of “other half”. A supportive pillar who you trust and rely on as much as you do yourself.
However, that doesn’t mean your partner is responsible for your happiness or vice versa. The truth is exactly the opposite.
While your partner is probably your biggest support pillar, and you are theirs, you’re both still responsible for your own sense of individual happiness.
If you’re feeling unfulfilled or generally beaten, it’s not your partner’s job to sacrifice their happiness and pile all your emotional baggage on their shoulders. It’s not their job to tackle your problems and MAKE you happy. While they can help and be supportive, it is up to you to dive into whatever problem you’re having head-first and tackle it.
Understanding this is such a key part of any relationship because when you expect your partner to take responsibility for your individual happiness, it puts a lot of stress and burden on them, and that can eventually turn into resentment; in the end, that breaks a lot of couples up.
2: It’s Balanced Naturally
In a relationship, your partner isn’t your pet. You don’t take on 100% of the responsibility, make 100% of the decisions, and ultimately keep them around as a sort of trophy; they’re your equal, and they have to be treated in that manner.
This goes both ways.
When it comes to decision-making and responsibilities, both partners should have their own input, and the other should take it seriously. Neither partner overrides the other or pushes everything onto the other.
However, this does not mean that you have to sit down and debate every little thing. It just means that, overall, each partner should be handling their fair share of the relationship.
Let’s use buying and settling in a home together as an example.
This is a huge step that both partners should be on the same page with, but that doesn’t mean both of you need to sit down and debate whether or not a blue carpet is better than red and every other detail.
Let’s say your partner is exceptionally talented with interior design, and you’re a bit more knowledgeable about finances and the logistical side of things. In a healthy relationship that exhibits balance, the partner who is better with logistics would handle much of the financial budgeting decisions, and the partner who is better with interior design would focus on designing how it will all come together while honoring the budgets made by the other. All the while, each partner would communicate and allow room for input.
This would be an example of balancing the relationship out, but it’s not just relevant for major steps such as buying and creating a home environment. The same type of balance needs to be present in day-to-day life, and it can take many different forms, or tasks can be split differently, depending on the couple.
Most importantly, this characteristic of a healthy relationship requires respect. It’s important to see your partner not as a subordinate you need to provide for, but as a teammate with just as much pull in the relationship as you.
3: Resolving Conflicts Immediately and Decisively
This is a big one, and it’s one thing that many couples get wrong.
Oftentimes, in an attempt to “keep the peace” or avoid a major argument, couples will brush off conflicts and try to move on without any sort of meaningful resolution. This is why, for many couples, the same issues tend to crop up over and over again; unfortunately, the intensity of the ensuing arguments also tends to rise every time the problem is brought up.
In a way, this reluctance to resolve the problem taints the relationship and allows the problem to keep building. Eventually, a small conflict that could have been resolved fairly easily turns into a deal-breaker.
In a healthy relationship, conflicts aren’t brushed off and allowed to stew. They’re immediately tackled in a head-on, proactive manner, and then they’re dropped for good.
Let’s use a conflict over a reckless financial move as an example.
Your partner decided that spending $500 on fishing equipment was a good idea during a moment of weakness. They didn’t talk to you first, and now you’re experiencing a short-term financial struggle.
Rather than giving each other the quiet treatment and moving on, a healthy couple would sit down, get the argument out of the way, proactively find a solution such as returning the items that are eligible for a return and promising to do better in the future and then making amends. Not just that, but they’d leave the issue in the past where it belongs.
Of course, this doesn’t just go for relatively big arguments or conflicts. Every conflict should be met with this same level of teamwork and proactive problem solving; from one of you failing to wash the dishes on a certain night, to one of you making a major mistake such as spending way too much money.
With this method, problems are solved immediately and prevented from causing long-term damage, which is absolutely key considering how unavoidable conflicts are.
4: Honest Expression
Your partner is supposed to be the person you trust the most in the world. They’re your biggest support pillar, or at least, they’re supposed to be once you’ve hit a certain point in your relationship.
Naturally, this means that you and your partner should feel comfortable freely expressing your true feelings to one another. This should come naturally and without hesitation. If you’re upset about something, you should feel comfortable telling them without expecting them to brush off your feelings or vilify you for having them. If you’re happy or proud of something, that should come just as easily.
This does a couple of things. First, it obviously provides your partner with the information necessary to support you or join in your joy. If you’re always hiding your true feelings out of fear or whatever mental and emotional wall you may have up, your partner can be confused as to what they’re supposed to do to help.
Not only that but it prevents more negative feelings from building and spilling out into every part of your life. When you bottle up your emotions, it’s kind of like a bottle of soda. Every time you take a metaphorical bump, it gets shaken up a bit. Eventually, you get bumped enough, and the lid pops off; creating one big, sticky, annoying mess.
Of course, this is something both members of the relationship need to do for it to be a healthy relationship.
5: Putting the Relationship First
In any relationship, there is a need for individuality. You don’t want to basically become your partner. You’re still a unique person with your own unique interests and needs. However, that doesn’t mean you can be selfish.
In a healthy relationship, you’ll be able to express your individuality without issue, but you also need to know how to put the relationship first.
For example, let’s say you really want to fly to Germany for the summer. In an unhealthy, broken relationship, you might just plan the whole thing out for yourself, and a day before you fly out, you’d tell your partner. In a healthy relationship, you’d be considerate of your partner and include them in the planning process. You’d consider their needs, and you’d consider your joint needs such as needing to pay your rent or handle your car payments before you just took all your portion of the money and flew off to have fun; leaving them with twice as much responsibility, zero explanation for your actions, and probably a bit of a mental puzzle to go through.
Keep in mind, this does need to account for where you’re at in your relationship. If you’ve been dating for a couple months, it may be a good idea to tell them you’ll be going on vacation, but you probably don’t need to put off your own bucket list to consider whether or not they’ll survive without you for a week. In comparison, a couple that relies on each other should speak very heavily about the topic and tackle any obstacles regarding it together.
6: Love Yourselves Individually
You can’t give your partner the love they deserve if you can’t even do that for yourself. The same goes for them, too.
While you do need to bond and tackle issues together, you also need to ensure you’re taking an appropriate amount of time out for yourselves as individuals. Maybe you really enjoy playing darts at the local bar, and your partner enjoys painting? In a healthy relationship, both partners would take the time to enjoy those hobbies separately and regularly.
This also goes for self-care and mental relaxation. You need time to recharge and work out any self-care issues you might be having, and your partner can’t be forcefully inserted into that personal time. It’s okay, though. It’s this personal time that allows you both to bring your best to the table when you’re finished practicing self-care.
7: Accepting Conflict
Conflict happens, and if one or both partners expect it to never crop up, even small, insignificant conflicts can ruin the relationship.
Both members should accept that conflict is a part of life; especially when two unique people are so close and intimate with one another.
However, simply accepting conflict as a fact of life isn’t enough. As outlined earlier, it needs to be promptly dealt with in an appropriate way, too.
8: Valuing the Relationship as a Partnership – Not a Transaction
If both members don’t want the relationship solely for the fact that they get to be with the other person, you’ll have problems. Basing the relationship on the material belongings one has or what they can do for the other is a good way to experience a sudden heartbreak when life circumstances inevitably change.
9: Both Partners are Seen as Whole and Capable
When you get into a relationship, your partner is not property; nor are they a weekend project.
There should be no attempts to control the other person. Whether you’re trying to control them or vice versa, that’s no way for anyone to live life. You should see each other as capable of functioning at an equal level without the need for being one another’s parents.
Also, there’s no such thing as “fixing” someone. People aren’t broken playthings that need to be mended and melded into your ideal individual. Each partner should embrace the other exactly how they are, even if there are flaws that need to be worked on, without trying to play Bob the Builder with their partner’s life.
Actively Push for These Traits
Okay, now you know the 9 crucial characteristics of a healthy relationship, and you’ve got some pointers on how to facilitate them. However, just knowing them isn’t enough.
These things rarely develop on their own. You’ll have to put in the work to consciously build the trust necessary to create a relationship that exhibits all these characteristics, and it won’t happen overnight.
Luckily, with a little effort and a proactive mindset, you can build a healthy relationship.
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