September 26, 2014
No two relationships look the same, but there are several characteristics that can help you determine if your relationship is on the right track or if it needs improvement. Whether you’re in a new relationship, an established partnership, or still searching for the right person, it can be helpful to know what makes a relationship healthy.
Conscientious communication is imperative to improving or maintaining a relationship. Take time to check in with each other and let the other person know they are loved and appreciated (a simple “thank you for everything you do” goes a long way!). It’s also beneficial to learn how to appropriately express disagreements or problems. Direct, respectful communication is much more helpful than passive-aggressive behavior or name-calling. Healthy communication also includes active listening. Focus on what your partner is saying without interrupting. To prevent misunderstandings, sometimes it can be helpful to repeat back what you heard for clarification (“I’m hearing you say ______.”).
Something that surprises many couples who seek marriage or couples counseling is that arguing doesn’t necessarily mean you have an unhealthy relationship. Most couples end up disagreeing or getting upset with each other at some point, especially in a long-term relationship. Having arguments isn’t always a bad thing. What’s more important to look at is HOW you fight. If your fights consist of personal attacks, hateful remarks, name-calling, or complete disengagement, you may have some work to do. If you want to improve your relationship with your partner, you need to learn how to communicate with each other respectfully (even when angry), accept responsibility for your actions, and work together to find a solution when you disagree.
People in healthy relationships view and treat each other as equals. Neither one believes the other to be “below” them in some way. While they may have different roles and responsibilities (for example, you clean the house and your spouse does all the yardwork), they make sure things are divided evenly or by what each person enjoys. These couples also give one another equal air time when making major decisions that affect both of them. No single person has a monopoly on decision-making or is the “boss” of the other.
Healthy partners are supportive of each other, whether it’s emotionally-based (like comforting a partner who just got laid off) or affirming of positive life choices (like supporting a partner who wants to finish their GED). Strong relationships are about encouragement and building each other up, not tearing each other down. This is, however, another area in which good communication is key. You may need to tell your partner how to best support you or ask how you can best be supportive in return. Sometimes a person has good intentions, but their words or actions end up being more hurtful than helpful. Respectfully communicating your needs to each other is a great way to establish a strong support system in your relationship.
Lack of trust or faith in each other can place a lot of strain on a relationship. Constantly feeling like your partner is lying to you or is unreliable can build resentment, jealousy, and tension. For a relationship or marriage to truly thrive, there needs to be mutual trust between partners. Couples can build trust by confiding in one another, respecting boundaries, being open and honest, and supporting each other. Your relationship is more likely to be fulfilling if it feels authentic and dependable.
Strong relationships tend to be built upon mutual respect between partners who value each other. This means that you and your partner do not insensitively mock, undermine, degrade, or insult one another. When a partner harms another using constant criticism, manipulation, or physical force, it can be a red flag of an abusive relationship. A positive relationship is one where you feel heard, valued, and treated with kindness.
If you think you and your spouse or partner may need to work on improving certain aspects of your relationship, marriage counseling and couples counseling are both wonderful resources. Unsure about whether couples counseling would benefit your relationship? Check out our marriage counseling page to learn more! To set up a consultation for marriage counseling or couples therapy at Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S and Associates, contact us today!