First, let me start off by saying there is a lot of variation with what a heathy relationship looks like. Certain things work for certain people. For example, some people stay in long term relationships without ever getting married. The concept of marriage holds no value for them. However, trust, growth, companionship and good communication does. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this- if it’s working- it works-PERIOD. I’ve also seen SO much diversity with sex. A couple that has sex 4 times a year and they are both VEY ok with it because they both have lower sex drives- a couple that has sex every day because they have higher sex drives, couples that swing, couples that are into different sexual escapades…the list goes on. While these behaviors may be unhealthy for some couples and may make some cringe, for others it works.
So, relationships are as diverse as human beings.
So, are there some rules to healthy relationships? Are there some strategies, applications, and skills to healthy relationships- You Better Believe It! It’s important to recognize that healthy relationships are relationships that bring out the best in you. That make you feel safe, cared for, and acknowledged.
Communication skills are probably at the top of the list. In my opinion (both personally and professionally, the couple that has good communication skills (communicating their needs, wants and desires and listening to their partner’s needs, wants and desires) are in a harmonious relationship. And, let me tell you- this is easier said than done. Most often we fail at the listening part. With all of the distractions that surround us every second of every day- technology, things that need to be done, our own thoughts etc. Research states that we generally listen at a 25% level- which means we miss 75% of the message. That’s a problem.
In my work with couples I suggest there be time set aside to do daily “check ins” and weekly, more depthful conversations about how each partner is feeling. All electronics put away and letting go of the noise that is around you and in your head. The art of being present. Listen for feelings and respond to those feelings not in opposition- because you can’t tell someone how to feel. Respond to those feelings- “I am sorry you feel that way, that’s not my intention- is there anything I can do to help you not feel that way (even if it’s about something you did or are doing)?” This allows your partner to feel heard and acknowledged. Of course, if you say you’re going to do something you need to do it- that’s being responsible and accountable.
Then, there are the obvious signs of a healthy relationship- ones that don’t need much explanation such as trust and honesty, compassion, independence, growth, respect, intimacy (all of which need to be separate blogs because some get confused by what these mean. Growth is a great example of this- Growth is not sitting on the couch watching TV together and rationalizing that you spent time together therefore you’re growing your relationship. Growth is exploring ways to make your relationship better, learning new things with one another, having experiences together that create memories and inspiration. Growth is learning to problem solve effectively and forgiving each other. Growth is also allowing your partner to grow and being supportive.
There is no perfect relationship (we all know this). However, if you don’t feel happy in your relationship most of the time-there’s a problem. That problem may be within the relationship it could also be internally. It’s important to explore the origin of these feelings. Often, it’s lingering resentment, stories you’re telling yourself, or your incongruency with how you view relationships (they’re not Hollywood love stories every day).