A healthy relationship does not mean a perfect relationship. People define what is healthy for them. There are however, characteristics that make the relationship healthy. These characteristics are, healthy communication, effective conflict resolution, security and where both partners’ needs are met.
Healthy communication means being able to talk openly about problems and listen to one another. It is also being able to respect each other’s opinions, even when you have differences in opinions. Effective communication is important in all relationships because it allows us to resolve conflict effectively.
Conflict in a normal and healthy part of relationships, and cannot be avoided. Being a couple does not mean that we stop being individuals. As individuals we come from different backgrounds, were raised differently and we reason differently. This means that we will have a difference in opinion, have disagreements and misunderstandings. Therefore, this will definitely create conflict in the relationship. The most important thing is being able to effectively resolve the conflict. Conflict resolution means being able to effectively communicate our perspectives and find a solution that works for both of us and is beneficial for the relationship. If you can talk about your differences politely, honestly, and with respect, you’re on the right track.
Physical intimacy is not just sex, it might involve kissing, hugging, cuddling, and sleeping together. Whatever type of intimacy you share, physically connecting and bonding is important and enhances the relationship. Healthy intimacy also involves respecting sexual boundaries and being able to communicate those boundaries.
Sexual boundaries include:
- Feeling comfortable initiating and talking about sex with your partner
- Being able to positively handle rejection. Not pressuring your partner when they are uncomfortable or unable to participate in certain sexual acts.
- Being able to discuss desires
- Feeling safe expressing your interest in more or less sex
- Sharing information about other partners
- Discussing sexual risk factors
Real, long-term relationships are built on a lot more than chemistry and compatibility. Commitment is the essential ingredient that keeps it all together and leads to longevity. A committed relationship is an interpersonal relationship based upon agreed-upon commitment to one another involving love, trust, honesty, openness.
Trust involves honesty and integrity. Honesty about your emotions and intentions is important in a relationship and helps to build the trust. Integrity means being able to do the right thing, even when you are not in your partner’s presence. It also means you feel safe and comfortable with them and know they won’t hurt you physically or emotionally.
An unhealthy relationship is a relationship where one or more of the people involved exhibit behaviours that are not healthy and are not founded in mutual respect for the other person. Unhealthy relationships often include set patterns of behaviour and can sometimes escalate into emotional or physical abuse.
Breakdown in Communication
In toxic relationships it becomes difficult to have healthy and effective communication because the only one who will ever attempt real communication is the person being abused.
Abusers are often manipulative, controlling and they exert power and dominance over their partners, therefore they are not willing to hear and understand what the other person is saying or what they need. The aim for the abuser is often to weaken the other person and then win, this is because abuse is a choice. The abuser already knows that their actions are harmful and controlling. There may be verbal abuse and disregarding your opinions or ideas. If your partner responds to your (different) viewpoint with dismissal, contempt, or other rudeness, this often suggests they don’t respect you or your ideas.
Abusive behaviour comes in different forms. It can be emotional, verbal, physical or financial. A relationship where you are manipulated, belittled, physically assaulted or oppressed financially is an unhealthy relationship. When one of you tries to control or change the other, it is an indication that there is controlling behaviour in the relationship. This includes isolating your partner from their support structures and wanting to control every aspect of their lives.
Possessive behaviour is also a sign of an unhealthy relationship, this is when your partner treats you like they own you. A possessive partnership is where an individual doesn’t encourage and allow healthy parts of your life to grow and flourish because of their own unhealthy relationship views of what partnership is and/or their own insecurities. If your partner responds to your different viewpoint with dismissal, contempt, or other rudeness, this often suggests they don’t respect you or your ideas.
Boundaries are an integral part of a relationship because they help us to express our discomfort, concerns, inabilities and unwillingness in certain areas. They help us understand and respect each other. They range from respectful communication to privacy needs. If you set a boundary and your partner pushes against it or pressures you to change it, that’s a serious red flag.
When a relationship is healthy it tends to feel fairly well balanced. Equality can also relate to affection, communication, and relationship expectations. if your relationship regularly feels unbalanced in any way, this can become problematic. An example would be feeling that you are putting in most of the effort in the relationship, and you end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. This creates an imbalance in the relationship.
Relationships are not perfect and require us to consistently put in effort to make them healthy. It’s important to always look out for the red flags.