Many of us strive for a healthy relationship, but fail to acquire one. Rather than dwelling on your past losses, you could instead educate yourself on the various signs of a healthy relationship. This can allow you to figure out if a partner is right for you, as well as to implement changes that will improve things with your current partner.
Aspects that are not signs of a healthy relationship
It is important to note that not all relationships can be salvaged. At times, people may appear to be wonderful in the first few weeks or months, but this can change. A relationship that has some negatives is completely different to one where abuse exists.
Some signs that a relationship is not worth saving, and that you should leave as soon as possible, can be:
- Violence to or from your partner
- Using past occurrences as ammunition in arguments
- Failure to listen
- Control of actions
- Not being allowed to see friends or family
- Control of finances
- Pressure for sexual intercourse
- Pressure to partake in drugs, alcohol, or illicit behaviour
- Failure to keep important promises
If any of these occur, you may want to gain support from an outside party, such as a friend, colleague, or even the police, to help you to free yourself from a toxic relationship.
Where none of these are present, but the relationship doesn’t seem ideal, you could instead begin to implement healthy relationship behaviours to improve your connection.
One of the first signs of a healthy relationship can be the acknowledgement of one another. Rather than simply co-existing in a living space, you need to truly take account of your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and wishes.
When I first chose to write this article, I planned to include some of the factors found within my own relationship. Yet, to be able to write about them candidly, it was important that Ash was also onboard. After all, it’s his relationship too. When I spoke to him, and gained consent to use our information, he made it clear that he was happy I had acknowledged him.
In showing acknowledgement for a partner, you are saying to them “I respect and value your freedom of choice”. Sometimes, choice can be very important to people. Learning to acknowledge a partner’s response, such as saying no, will show them that you care about their needs, not just your own.
There are many ways that people manage conflict and disagreements within a relationship, yet not all of them are beneficial or healthy. Arguments can be a perfectly normal occurrence, as you will never agree on everything. It is the way in which you deal with the aftermath that shows if you can go the distance.
Brushing things under the rug, and pretending that the disagreement never happened, isn’t healthy, and could cause the problem to rise time and again. One of the signs of a healthy relationship can be the ways you work through the problem, no matter how trivial it may seem.
The method that we use may sound like something straight out of couples therapy, but we have found it to be incredibly effective. After all, there is no point in waiting until you require counselling when you could implement some of those tools now to increase and maintain stability.
Our method for conflict resolution
For Ash and I, we have a set plan we follow when disagreements occur.
- If things get a little heated, we step away. One of us may go out for a walk, or into another room.
- When Person A has had enough “cooling off” time, they return to Person B and ask if they are ready to communicate.
- Person B must honestly answer. If they aren’t ready to talk, Person A leaves the room again and tries in 5-10 minutes. However, if they are also calm, communications can begin.
- Person A recounts their side of the matter, including emotions and thoughts, without any accusatory statements. Person B must remain silent throughout this.
- Once Person A has made it clear they have finished, it is Person B’s turn. They have the same platform to speak freely.
- Upon completion, the issue can then be discussed, as both now understand the other’s position. Again, accusatory statements are banned.
During this, you may find that there is a simple reason for things escalating. In our relationship, it is often tone of voice that is the problem. One of us may say something, unaware of a negative tone, which the other then gets defensive about.
A key point of this conflict resolution is that we remain honest at all times, and apologise for things we have done wrong. Something as simple as acknowledging that you may have inadvertently used a tone can help to resolve an issue.
It can also be a good idea to avoid “I’m sorry but…” as this can make the apology sound insincere. Using the above example, “I’m sorry but I didn’t know I was using a tone” makes it seem like you are casting off any blame on your part. However, “I’m sorry, although I was unaware I was using a tone, it wasn’t my intention to make you feel upset, and for that I apologise” makes it clear that, while not intentional, you acknowledge the upset your action caused.
This leads on to the next point.
No one likes to admit that they are in the wrong. Doing so can be a great way to strengthen your relationship. Giving an apology can be meaningless, especially if it is said simply to de-escalate a situation. Instead, consider holding yourself accountable for your words and actions.
Taking the blame can be difficult, and leave you feeling guilty, or your partner feeling upset. However, these feelings can be overcome. Failure to take that blame or hold yourself accountable can make your partner feel resentful. Over time, this could very well cause the destruction of your relationship.
Again, we have a real life example of this. For part of the relationship, I was out of employment. I blamed my mental health, surrounding factors, parenting… anything except myself. Due to this, Ash was left bearing the financial burden, while I did a whole lot of nothing with my days.
Understandably, over time, this left him feeling resentful, and even caused a period of rockiness. Once I held myself accountable for my actions, and put in the work to become an equal player in the relationship, that resentment ebbed away. While it would have been better not to be in that situation in the first place, it has left me with a high amount of respect for his levels of patience.
Many couples fail to communicate effectively, which can be a nail in the coffin of the relationship. Some discussions may feel awkward, but they can have a great benefit. For this reason, good, open communication is certainly one of the signs of a healthy relationship.
We live in a throwaway culture, where anything can be discarded and replaced with ease. Thanks to all the dating and hook-up apps available, this can include relationships.
Rather than throwing your partner away over a slight issue, or letting things fester, you may find it much more lucrative to keep discussions open.
Perhaps thanks to my personal insecurities and anxiety, I frequently ask Ash if we are alright. He usually then tells me we are, however will speak up if there is something he is unhappy about. Likewise, I also have the platform to say the same to him.
Previously, I had tried to utilise this method, however was met with lip service. Although it can be nice to keep your partner happy, failing to tell them about any problems in your relationship can lead to its demise. Your partner is not a mind reader. Unless you tell them about any dissatisfaction, you cannot hope for change.
Being both honest with your words and actions is fundamental for a healthy relationship. Some people may have a lack of understanding about what this truly means.
Lying to your partner to keep them happy is never a good idea. If they ask how that outfit looks, it can be better to kindly explain why it isn’t quite right for them. After all, if you can’t speak freely with your other half, what is the point of being together?
Likewise, honesty can be shown in actions. Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely normal to still appreciate the attractiveness of others, even in a strong, committed relationship.
I love Ash, and think he’s the most handsome thing to ever grace this planet, but that doesn’t stop me from salivating a tad at Angel or Spike when we watch Buffy. That doesn’t mean I’m mentally cheating on him. It’s just human nature. The point of honesty comes from knowing that I would never DO anything with another person. Think of it like art. You look at it, you admire, and then you move on with your day.
Understanding the differences between lies or infidelity, and honest or natural thoughts or feelings can help you to navigate a healthy relationship that much easier.
Showing respect for your partner is key. There are so many ways that this can be achieved, both big and small.
- Actively show you are listening by switching off the television, putting down your phone, turning away from the computer etc.
- Make it clear to your partner when you want to do something on your own, in good time, so that they can then make their own plans.
- Avoid their known dislikes when cooking meals or even choosing a movie to watch.
- Show care for their chosen levels of affection. As an example, I’m a very cuddly person, yet Ash hates to be touched when unwell, so I make sure I respect this when needed.
- Let them know if you are running late in plenty of time, as well as when you are on your way.
- Listen to hear what is said, rather than simply to respond.
- Take some level of interest in their hobbies or career. I may not understand half the things Ash says about car mechanics, but I try to.
- Let them speak about their day.
All of these may seem so insignificant, and not take a great deal of time, but they can be important. They show that you value the person you are with. Showing and receiving respect can potentially be one of the most important signs of a healthy relationship. Without it, the power balance may also not be present, leading to feelings of a level of hierarchy between you.
The importance of these signs of a healthy relationship
When you enter a relationship, you likely hope that it will last the test of time. Even though nothing is guaranteed, implementing strategies that keep you both informed about the others thoughts and aspirations can go a long way.
Many people believe that the honeymoon period in a relationship is finite. However, you need to consider that this usually ends when one or both partners stops making the effort. To keep the relationship feeling all shiny and grand, both people need to still put in that little bit of work to show their appreciation for their partner.
This doesn’t mean you need to doll up to the nines for your partner every day, but instead to avoid taking them for granted. Sometimes, the smallest things can make the biggest difference.
A healthy relationship may not be simple, but these little bits of effort can take you from strength to strength.