Healthy relationships take on a variety of forms and look different with every couple. However, there are key elements that are necessary for any successful relationship.
- Respect–or more specifically–Mutual Respect. Dictionary definitions of respect include, “an act of giving particular attention: consideration” or “a high or special regard: esteem.” Respect is not simply a lack of saying or doing unkind things, but the active practice of giving meaningful consideration to an individual you hold in high esteem. If you find yourself focusing on the flaws of your spouse, try to remember how you fell in love and why you married them in the first place.
- Trust, Honesty and Loyalty. All healthy relationships are based on honesty and loyalty which create a mutual and meaningful sense of trust in the relationship. Beware of keeping secrets and fudging the truth; it only makes it easier to be dishonest in the future. Most trust, honesty and loyalty issues start small and are seemingly innocent, but lead to major conflict and trust issues. These may include hidden spending/debt, social media communication and participation (meeting new people online or reconnection with old friends that your partner is unaware of or may be uncomfortable with), flirting with someone other than your spouse, or sharing personal/marital information with friends and family members.
- Good Communication. Most marital issues are somehow related to difficulties in communication. Learning to listen well, validate and share your emotional experiences in a non-blaming manner is an important trait of happy couples. Refer to my blog post, 11 Rules of Good Communication.
- Separate Identities. No Brangelinas over here! While having an identity as a couple is fun and can be very healthy, it is important that who you are as a couple does not completely overshadow who you each are as individuals. It is common for individuals to feel as if they have lost themselves in their relationships. They may lose touch with previously close friends or family members, they may no longer engage in their favorite hobbies or activities, or do the things that once felt important to their identities.
Healthy couples, while still nurturing their relationship and cultivating an identify as a couple, also spend time as individuals cultivating their own identities. While life is full of excuses, do not put off developing as an individual and spending some time doing the things you love or that define who you are as a person. Not only will you be a happy and more fulfilled individual, your relationship will also benefit.
There is no secret, and luck is rarely involved, in creating a healthy relationship. Almost anyone can have a positive and healthy relationship if they are willing to engage in these basic (but not necessarily easy) marital practices.