Relationships come in all shapes and sizes throughout life, and many people find themselves with long-term partners that commit to each other to go through different stages of life together. So, maybe you’re wondering what healthy relationships look like and if you are doing the necessary work to be in a good space with your partner.
We have pulled together a list of the characteristics of a healthy relationship using the expertise of many relationship experts to give you a resource to start reflecting on where you are as a couple and where you want to be. This article covers the benefits of good relationships, what a healthy relationship looks like, and some red flags to watch out for. You’ll also get a few tips to help you make improvements and grow stronger together.
Strengthen Your Bond With Adventures From Scratch
One of the things that can help keep relationships healthy is shared interest in activities and time spent together. With Adventures from Scratch: Date Edition, you and your love can tackle unique tasks, bond over new experiences, and “play” together at any age!
Each of our Adventures From Scratch books includes over 50 ideas to keep you on your toes! Additionally, you’ll get to enjoy tear-out cards, conversation starters, and other interactive elements. There’s just one catch: date prompts are hidden beneath a scratchable coating. We suggest making a pact that you must do whatever you uncover!
The Benefits of Healthy Relationships
The human race is social. It’s part of our genetic makeup. That’s why our connections with others are so important. Whether it’s romantic relationships, family members, or a new relationship with a neighbor or coworker, that connection with another human has many benefits to your overall well-being. Benefits of healthy relationships include:
Improved Mental Health
Mental wellness is impacted by the relationships you have in your life. Strong, healthy relationships can help reduce anxiety and depression. Plus, your self-esteem will be higher and stronger if you have a support system of people around you who care. You’ll have people you can go to when you’re struggling and cheerleaders when things are going well. In return, you’ll be able to invest in other people’s successes and celebrate with them.
In addition to the mental health benefits, healthy relationships can also help support your physical health. Decreased levels of stress can lead to a longer life. Blood pressure will be lower and you’ll enjoy a stronger immune system. Connections are important and can give you the motivation to remain healthy and make good proactive choices.
New relationships start all the time because you are constantly meeting new people. But it’s important to maintain your closest relationships and allow them to grow and flourish. The longer you know someone, the deeper your bond becomes and the more you learn about them and share about yourself. Those long-term relationships can offer some stability and keep you grounded.
Not every relationship is going to stick around for a long time, but the ones that do will provide additional benefits. We are going to focus mainly on long-term romantic relationships in this article, but a lot of this information applies to any type of long-term relationship.
Signs of a Healthy Relationship
How do you know what a healthy relationship looks like? We are going to cover some of the important signs and characteristics of healthy relationships. It’s also important to remember that relationships come in all shapes and sizes and there isn’t a definition that fits all. These good signs should feel familiar to you and if you aren’t able to recognize these characteristics in your relationship, it might be time to put some time and energy into making improvements and changes (but we will cover that later).
Openness and honesty are important for good communication between two partners. Talk about the things that are going on in your life. Share the good things and the bad things that happen to you and the little details of your life. Show interest in each other’s lives and be engaged when you’re chatting with each other.
Be open with issues that come up in life. Talk through everything from daily stresses to big things, like finances and big life decisions. If your opinions differ, that’s OK. Real relationship growth happens when you listen to one another and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Healthy conflict will make your connection stronger because you’ll learn to compromise and meet your partner halfway on issues you disagree on.
This is especially important if there is something in the relationship that is bothering you. You need to feel comfortable bringing it up and working through it with your partner. If you allow things to build up and go unaddressed, it can lead to bigger issues and a build-up of frustration and resentment. Being able to discuss and share calmly and with an open mind to resolve a conflict is a strong sign of a healthy relationship.
Trust is a key characteristic of a healthy relationship. Your significant other should be someone that you can confide in and you need to trust that they will protect your secrets and share theirs with you. Feeling safe and comfortable with each other and knowing that you will not be physically or emotionally hurt or hurt your loved one. A healthy relationship should be a safe space where you feel protected and embraced for who you are.
In a relationship, it’s also important that each person trusts that the other will not betray them or lie to them. You don’t want to worry about your partner pursuing another person behind your back. Lying and cheating are both death sentences for the trust in a relationship, but the smaller interactions matter as well.
If you are someone that dealt with some troubled relationships early in your life, self-awareness and reflection are extremely important. You might have some trust issues that you need to work through and if you’re open with your partner and work to improve them, there is hope that you will be able to enjoy a healthy and trusting relationship.
Playfulness and Curiosity
A strong, loving relationship involves a sense of intrigue and curiosity about each other. Your partner should be interested in your thoughts and interests. Try new things together and explore interesting places to grow together as a couple. This is how you can inspire each other to be better.
Feeling a sense of fulfillment from each other is something that a healthy relationship should give you. There should be some shared things you can do together to have fun. Laugh together, learn together, and continue to be playful together. If the relationship becomes too businesslike, you’ll start to lose some of the strength in the partnership.
Sharing lighter moments and knowing how to make each other laugh and smile can relieve tension in the tough moments of life.
Healthy couples respect one another. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s so important. This applies to even the smallest things, like poking fun on social media sites like TikTok. If you’re having fun together, it’s one thing. But if you’re shaming your partner for something little, but embarrassing, it’s crossing a line. Too much of that behavior can be a sign of bigger issues festering under the surface.
In addition to respect for your partner, you should have respect for the people and things that are important to them. People might vent about family members or struggles that they have and you can be an ear for them, but there is a line that you shouldn’t cross when it comes to the things you say or assume so you remain respectful. Badmouthing your loved one’s inner circle can be a bad sign.
You can also think of this as reciprocity, or the give and take. Each partner should feel the desire to do things for the other and help when they are able. It doesn’t require scorekeeping, but, instead, it’s just offering support to each other whenever you’re able. You’ll fall into a natural rhythm and dynamic that makes both people feel supported and appreciated.
Often, intimate relationships involve a physical connection. Both parties need to be on the same page about the level of intimacy they are looking for. Being able to talk about sex and desires is important in a healthy relationship.
This also goes the opposite direction. Both parties should feel comfortable with rejection and be able to handle it positively and recognize that it’s not always the right moment. There should be a comfort level in communicating desires, needs, boundaries, and any concerns with each other.
Affection is another way to think about this characteristic. Sometimes passion is very strong early in the relationship, but as you grow together and become more familiar, the intimacy can change and feel more affectionate and tender. There are a few ways to express your affection, so it’s important to know what your partner likes.
When it comes to intimacy, every relationship is going to be unique, so being able to be open about what you want and need and ready to listen to your partner.
Individual Sense of Self
A healthy relationship requires both parties to also have a strong sense of self as well. By enjoying your own interests and having personal space, you’ll have more to share with your partner and more to talk about. Taking time apart from each other to spend time with friends or take part in hobbies will make the time you do spend together more meaningful.
Each relationship will have its guidelines regarding the amount of time spent together. You just want to make sure that you aren’t too dependent on one another and can get out and have some fun with other people to continue to build and improve your friendships and relationships with family members.
Encouragement of One Another
As we mentioned above, each partner needs to have their own hobbies and interests. One giveaway for a healthy relationship is two partners that cheer each other on. Show support by showing up when your loved one has an event. Whether it’s a sporting event where you can be on the sidelines or calling out your loved one on social media for accomplishments at work, it feels so good to have someone that understands the work you put into something and celebrates your successes and roots for you even when things are tough.
Unhealthy Relationship Warning Signs
So if you are missing all the characteristics listed above, does it mean you are in a toxic relationship? Not necessarily. It takes work to keep all engines firing for your relationship. We covered what healthy relationships look like, but let’s look at some red flags you should be aware of in case they pop up in your life (or even someone you care about.)
Disrespect Towards You or Your Loved Ones
Some say there’s a bit of truth behind every joke. Too much joking about your partner (or people and things they care about) can feel horrible from their perspective. Do those jokes mean that your partner feels that way about you? It’s hard to know, that’s why respect and kindness are so important.
The minute you start to feel that your partner is not respecting you, your boundaries, or the things that mean a lot to you, it should be a red flag. Bring it up to them and let them know that it hurts your feelings and see if there is just a misunderstanding, but if it continues, you don’t need to deal with that.
When one person has an issue with the behaviors of the other, it’s perfectly healthy to have a conversation about it and share their feelings. What you don’t want to have happen is any sort of controlling attitude to change someone. There should never be any language where someone is telling someone else what to do or how to act.
Controlling can happen in many ways. Some people use a guilt trip to manipulate their partner. Gaslighting is another form of controlling and manipulation. Watch for any of that language in your relationships.
People with controlling personalities, or tendencies, often work to remain the center of attention and insist that everyone do things their way. There is never any acceptance of blame in arguments. This can be very troubling in relationships and should be considered a red flag.
It’s also good to share responsibilities and access to shared resources. If one person controls all the money or the transportation option or even the family calendar, issues could come up. It doesn’t all necessarily have to be an even 50/50 split for everything, but there should be clear and open conversations about these things and it should be revisited every so often to make sure everyone is still on the same page.
Lack of Teamwork
Teamwork is important in a relationship. Examine your decision-making process—are your opinions taken into consideration? Are you hearing your partner? Each of you should have a say, especially with big decisions.
If you discover that your partner is making decisions that can impact your life without consulting you, it is a red flag. It could signal that your partner is not thinking about you as a part of their future or doesn’t have the same investment in the relationship that you do.
On the other hand, you need to make sure you are considering your partner when making long-term decisions. These can be financial, home-related, or career-based, but if it could have an impact on your loved one, you should be talking about it together and finding a solution that works best for everyone.
Not Spending a Good Amount of Time Together
Having fun together is the cornerstone of a good, strong relationship. If you find yourself making lots of plans with your friends and not your partner, you should ask yourself why. Setting aside time to date each other and spend fun, quality time together is important.
Even if you live together, you want to make sure you’re not just roommates passing in the hallway. Schedule movie nights, dates at restaurants, or other fun activities you like to do together. Make it a priority and if it is hard to get both people on board, it might be a red flag. It shouldn’t feel like an obligation, but instead, it should be a treat for both of you.
Constant Miscommunication and Misunderstandings
Communication struggles are very common in relationships, but, usually, these things can be cleared up with a quick sit down. If you and your partner are constantly bickering or running into issues and the root cause seems to be communication-related, you need to get to the root of the problem or you could be dealing with a red flag.
If you feel like you aren’t comfortable sharing your feelings or your opinions, there is an issue with your communication and there’s no way you’ll be happy in the long run. Any conflicts should be settled fairly and with input from both parties.
How to Improve the Health of Your Relationship
If you are feeling that your relationship is heading in a negative direction, there are a few things you can do to try and turn it around. These tips are also good for healthy relationships to keep things moving in a positive direction as well.
If you feel like you’re struggling to communicate with each other, put some time aside to have important conversations. In today’s world, we are so often distracted by notifications on our phones, work obligations, or family members requiring attention. By setting some special time aside, you’ll be able to talk to one another without distractions.
Take a daily walk with each other where you leave phones at home and can catch up and check in with each other. You could decide together to have a cup of coffee before work each day without distractions. Maybe you even plan a Saturday brunch date each week. However you can sneak in that time and be present with one another, it will do wonders in your communication.
Keep things interesting!
When each week feels the same, it might be time to do something out of the ordinary. Plan a vacation together or plan a staycation filled with some of your favorite activities. Making new memories and getting out of the usual routine can help jumpstart your relationship again.
Surprise your partner and do something special for them on a random day when they aren’t expecting it. Another fun way to get out of the normal routine is to learn something new together. You can sign up for a cooking class or pick a language to practice together. Getting out of your comfort zones is good for you and allows you something new to talk about and practice.
Focus on gratitude.
One of the biggest problems in long-term relationships is the feeling that there is a lack of appreciation. People feel like the nice things they do are going unnoticed. Routines are formed and it’s easy to come to expect certain things from each other, but it’s so important to continue to show appreciation and gratitude for the kindness of your partner.
This is one of the simplest actions you can do to improve your relationship. You can simply call it out, write little notes, or find creative and unique ways to show your love and appreciation for the people in your life. Showing your appreciation can help encourage your loved ones to continue to do kind things for you.
Learn about love languages.
The idea of “love languages” became popular thanks to a book written by Dr. Gary Chapman. The simplest way to explain the concept is that there are five ways to give and receive love from others. People tend to lean towards one of these languages as their preference and your partner will have more success if they understand your love language.
The options are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and touch. If your love language is quality time, but your partner falls into the gift category, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work. It just means that you need to remember to put effort into gifts for your partner and they need to make sure they are spending quality time with you. You’re just working to show love in the ways that they respond most to.
Grab the book, or take the online quiz, to find out what your love language is if you don’t know already. Share that information with your partner and talk about the ways that you can increase the love you share.
Work on conflict resolution.
When resolving a conflict, certain methods and strategies work better than others. For example, it’s best to have a calm conversation. If both parties aren’t calm, it’s not the right time to have the conversation. It’s also important to give time and space for each party to share their point of view and what they are looking to accomplish at the end of the conversation.
Conflicts happen in every single relationship, but learning how to fight smart will make your bond even better. Conflicts can lead to productive growth and be beneficial to the end game. Work on how you have difficult conversations and avoid getting into a yelling match because it just won’t accomplish anything.
When to Involve a Professional
If you are not able to solve your relationship issues together, meeting with a professional can help. Therapists can help moderate the conversation and help you work through your problems and find a resolution. There are tons of strategies they use, and it helps to have an unbiased person work with both of you.
If you find yourself in a situation where there is abuse of any kind, it’s important to get yourself out and seek help. You can contact the national domestic violence hotline and get assistance.
Have some fun with each other, grow together, and enjoy the process. Nothing strong comes without some work and commitment, so, hopefully, these tips and ideas gave you a good starting point. It’s important to focus on what healthy relationships look like. Give yours some attention today!
For more inspiration, keep your eyes on the couples section of our Connect Blog! We frequently post ideas for unique dates and expert advice. Pick up a hobby you can do together, find awesome dates within your budget, or try some conversation starters to get communication flowing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Consider the characteristics that define what healthy relationships look like and do some reflecting on your own relationship. Do you spend time together? Are you affectionate? Do you support each other’s endeavors?
Trust, communication, and time together are crucial in maintaining healthy relationships. Start meaningful discussions with conversation starters and engage in exciting activities designed for couples.
Some warning signs of an unhealthy relationship include disrespecting you or others, controlling behavior, lack of teamwork, less time spent together, and constant miscommunication or misunderstandings.