The term “healthy relationship” gets thrown around more than confetti on New Year’s Eve, but people tend to have vastly different ideas of what a healthy relationship actually looks like based on a variety of factors — including the relationship examples they grew up seeing and the values instilled in them from childhood. But despite these different ideas, most healthy relationships will have similar qualities that are important to seek out and strive for if you want a relationship that’ll make you feel stable and happy.
Psychotherapist Dr. Vassilia Binensztok defines a healthy romantic relationship as one that is “resilient” in the face of stressors. “Every relationship has ups and downs. Arguments will happen and problems will arise,” Binensztok tells us. “A healthy relationship is one that has been strengthened by both people so that it can weather rough seas.” Another way of conceptualizing what a healthy relationship looks like is to think about your relationship in terms of how happy and fulfilled you feel. “In a relational context, I like to focus on satisfaction,” Todd Baratz, a psychotherapist who focuses on sex and relationships, tells Elite Daily. Do you feel good about your relationship dynamic? Do you feel respected by your partner, and like you can be your truest self? Your happy relationship might not necessarily look like your best friend’s happy relationship, and that’s OK. What matters most is how you feel in your own partnership.
Binensztok and Baratz laid out five solid relationship qualities that the most basic healthy relationships should have. Other qualities, like your sex life or how much time you dedicate to each other, can be subjective. Again, you and your partner’s ideal might not be the same as someone else’s, but a physically and emotionally healthy relationship will usually have the below.
1. A Deep Knowledge Of Each Other
Knowing your partner isn’t just about how many years you’ve dated them. It’s about having a deep sense of how they really are as a person. Partners who truly know each other “understand each other’s reasons for doing things, or at least strive to,” says Binensztok. “They know the other person’s experiences, inner world, dreams, and desires.”
While you and your SO might not necessarily agree on everything, Binensztok says, you understand where the other person is coming from when you do disagree.
2. Genuine Connection
Another quality a truly healthy relationship will have is authenticity in the couple’s interactions. In practice, this looks like you and your SO continuing to turn to each other for connection and conversation. Partners are “present and responsive, rather than dismissive or hostile,” Binensztok says. Baratz emphasizes emotional and physical safety (as well as fun) as important qualities in satisfying relationships.
3. A Fair, Equal Approach To Arguments
People in healthy relationships won’t usually fight dirty when faced with conflict. Instead, Binensztok says, “[Partners] try to understand and empathize with each other. They attempt to compromise.” This also includes neither party getting defensive when their partner confronts them with something uncomfortable.
4. Respect For Each Other & The Relationship
Mutual respect is crucial in healthy relationships, Baratz says. And according to Binensztok, partners in healthy relationships “don’t insult, mock, or diminish each other.” Sure, some roasting or spicy banter can be fine every now and then (if that’s the established dynamic between you and you’re SO). But it’s not OK to genuinely degrade your partner, insult them, or make them question their value.
Last but not least, all parties must be willing to put in the effort necessary to make their relationship work. It’s a quality that Baratz calls “mutuality.” Respect, while important, isn’t the only value that has to go both ways. Each partner has to be committed to the relationship, and to the work, it takes to make it a safe, nourishing partnership to be in.
Yes, there will be ups, downs, and plateaus. But when a couple can accept that these are natural parts of a relationship, they will be more willing to work through them. “When we expect that work is part of the process, we become more open to doing the work,” Binensztok says.
What Do You Do If Your Relationship Lacks One Of These Qualities?
The good news is that your relationship isn’t doomed if you feel it’s missing one of these qualities. If your relationship seems to be missing intimacy, mindfulness, fair fighting in arguments, general respect, or the feeling that the other person cares, “do not freak out,” Baratz says. Instead, try to stop judging yourself or your relationship.”Learning is never a bad thing,” Baratz says. Think of this realization about your relationship as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Binensztok explains that these five healthy relationship qualities are all things that people can learn. “Partners can seek counseling, read books on relationships, and make an effort to improve areas that are lacking.” The only catch, she says, is that all parties have to be committed to the relationship as a whole, “rather than seeking only to get their personal needs met.”
Often, people may think that the existing dynamic between a couple is set in stone, but it’s normal for relationships to need some work. And while the nuances of healthy relationships may look different for everyone, at their core, all it takes is keeping patience, honesty, and kindness at the forefront of your thoughts and actions.
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