What makes a relationship healthy? That’s a question that’s different from what one looks for in a relationship. Some couples want adventure and travel, others may prefer the quiet of home. Sometimes people are friends for years before realizing they’re in love. “Love at first site” is the mantra of still others, who fall in love first and then become best friends.
What makes a healthy relationship?
A healthy relationship, however, is less about what you have in common, and more about the quality of your relationship for the long haul. Ann Tharayil, who is an LCSW and a therapist at The Juniper Center, has over 20 years of experience working with couples. “I have seen folks who make it work and folks who can’t,” says Ann. Here are Ann’s top three characteristics that she has seen in successful couples:
Three Things Couples in a Happy and Healthy Relationship Do
Both partners tend the garden.
The relationship doesn’t need to be 50/50 every day. Certainly individual needs of partners vary at different times of life. But each partner needs to be contributing what they can…something that they know the other partner appreciates or values. And, it’s crucial to show appreciation when effort is put in.
Relationships are two-way streets, and both need to do things to make the whole stronger.
The relationship is a safe place to be vulnerable.
Your relationship should be a place where you can go to your partner when you’ve had a bad day and just get a hug or vent about what has upset you without being judged or fixed. There also needs to be enough safety to ask for what you need and to voice what hurts you.
Conversations to share what you are feeling can be hard. “Lots of couples avoid this stuff so much they get to a point where they can no longer express themselves,” says Ann. “Sadly, you can’t be in a relationship without getting feelings hurt at least sometimes.”
Sharing your feelings is a practice that becomes easier the more you do it. Listening to someone express their feelings also improves with practice.
The couple fights well.
Conflict is inevitable. In the heat of the moment frustrations come out. Even the best of couples may hurt each other with words sometimes. However, couples who make it work know to return later with cooler heads and more empathic hearts to do some repair and re-grouping.
Ann’s most important words for healthy relationships are:
- willingness to be wrong
- willingness to forgive
- willingness to learn
- staying hopeful
- staying curious
She also shares some red flags in relationships:
- People who need to control others
- People who see things as black and white / right or wrong
- People who personalize mistakes
- People who always make themselves the victim–see everything as being done to them
- People who lack empathy for others
Why talk about healthy relationships now? It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (#DVAM on Social Media in case you’ve seen it there.) Domestic violence is never okay. If you need assistance or know someone who needs help, find local resources on the OVW map or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Photo Credit: Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay.