Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW
When you’re in a relationship, it can be easy to get caught up in the “grass is always greener” thinking. It seems like your friend’s husband listens to her more than your husband listens to you. Or maybe it’s that your buddy’s wife takes an interest in his hobbies, but your wife doesn’t do the same for you. Relationships aren’t always easy and that can leave you asking, “What does a healthy relationship look like?”
When couples first get together, everything feels and seems great. You get butterflies in your stomach when you see each other. You can’t get enough of seeing them or talking to them. And you miss them when you’re not together.
But after you’ve been together for a while, you may start to notice that things don’t feel like that anymore. You’ve started to notice a lot of things about your partner that you didn’t notice in the beginning, like the way she always interrupts you or how he cracks his knuckles while he watches football. Those little things start to make you feel crazy.
And those are just the little things. You may also notice that you are getting on each other’s nerves. There may be more disagreements and arguing. And you may start to wonder if you’re in a healthy relationship or not.
What a healthy relationship looks like
While you may worry that you aren’t really in love because of the changes that you’re noticing in your relationship, it’s helpful to know that it’s normal for a relationship to progress. Many of those initial feelings you have in a new relationship wear off over time.
It doesn’t mean that you’re not really in love. Instead, it means that your relationship is growing to another level. There’s no way that couples could maintain the other areas of their lives if they remained in those initial love stages – when they struggle to think of anything but the other person.
With that information in mind, below are some signs of healthy relationships. Please keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive list.
When you’re wondering, “What does a relationship consist of to be healthy?” the first thing is mutual trust. It is the centerpiece of a healthy relationship. If you and your partner aren’t able to trust each other, then there will be many disagreements between the two of you.
You may find that if you don’t trust each other you will be constantly suspicious of what the other person is doing. This can make it difficult for every other area of your relationship as well.
Communication is a big part of a successful and healthy relationship. But there are also a lot of communication problems that couples can face. In healthy relationships, there is open communication. Both partners feel comfortable sharing with one another even when they have to say something the other might not be happy about.
You may believe that forgiveness is only for unhealthy relationships, but that’s not true. Relationships are always made up of two imperfect people. There will be times when you and your partner will offend each other or do or say something that upset the other person.
Couples with healthy relationships know how to take responsibility when they do something wrong and ask for forgiveness. They also know how to extend forgiveness when their partner has asked for it.
An important part of forgiveness in relationships is also the ability to not bring up old fights after they are done and to not keep track of who is right and who is wrong. These are not always easy things to do in a relationship, but they do help to build a healthy one.
Empathy is an important part of any healthy relationship, not just romantic ones. When you have empathy, it means that you’re able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You can listen to what they share about what they’re going through and feel for them.
Being empathetic helps you to be a kind and compassionate partner to your significant other.
Willing to compromise
In healthy relationships, both partners are willing to compromise and put the desires of the other person before their own. It’s very difficult to have a healthy relationship if one person is always doing the taking and the other person is always doing the giving.
Good relationships are give-and-take. You need to be able to do both parts instead of only trying to get your way.
This is something that many people overlook but friendship plays an important role in healthy relationships. Not only should you love your significant other, but it’s helpful to like them as well. Your partner should be one of your best friends. You should enjoy spending time together and have some interests that are in common.
How to improve your relationship
If you read through the list above and found yourself thinking that you wished you had a relationship that looked like that, don’t give up on your own. Remember that the grass is usually greener on the other side because it’s getting watered and taken care of. If you want your relationship to improve, you’ll need to do the same thing.
Stop trashing your partner when talking to friends
If you feel that your significant other isn’t treating you the way that you want to be treated, it can be easy to complain about it to your friends or other family members. Stop doing this. When you do this, all you’re doing is putting these negative thoughts about your partner in your mind.
If you feel that you need to talk to someone, make sure it’s a trusted person and someone that won’t take sides. It may be best to find someone like a therapist who doesn’t know both of you in your personal life.
Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader
Good communication in a relationship requires you to share what your needs are. You can’t just expect your partner to be a mind reader. There are some people who feel that if their partner loves them, they will know exactly what they need without being told.
But that’s not true. It still shows that they care about you if you tell them what you need or would like from them, and give them a chance to respond to that.
Stick to your word
Because trust is so important in a healthy relationship, it’s crucial that you stick to your word. If you say that you’re going to do something, make sure that you do it. Don’t give your partner a reason not to trust you.
If you have already broken trust in your relationship, it can be rebuilt with work. You’ll have to make sure that you focus on following through on not only the big things but also the small. Rebuilding trust in a relationship is not always easy, but it is possible.
Find shared interests
Once you’ve been together for a while it’s easy to let life get in the way of spending time together. You may find that you are so busy during the day taking care of all your responsibilities that you forget to prioritize your partner.
If you want to work on improving your relationship, make sure you focus on spending time together. Carve time out of your day to do things together. Talk to them and listen to how their day was. It’s even helpful to find activities or hobbies that you can enjoy doing together.
Work with a couples counselor
If you want to improve your unhealthy relationship, you may want to meet with a couple's counselor. There are a lot of issues and challenges that can arise in a relationship, leaving both partners wondering, “What should a relationship be like? What is a normal relationship supposed to be like? Or is there anything we can do to make our relationship better?”
A counselor or therapist can help couples work through their challenges from the small, everyday issues that couples face to the big obstacles that can feel insurmountable.
Build up your partner
If you’re in the habit of constantly complaining about the things that your partner does, shift your attention. Work on trying to find the things that they do well and then compliment them for it. This can feel difficult if you aren’t used to doing it. You may also find that your significant other is suspicious of your kind words at first. If they are, it’s a good indicator that it’s an area that could use some focus.
Wondering where your relationship falls?
The health of relationships isn’t really black or white. There are many shades of gray. You may think that your relationship is bad when there is another couple that is in a much worse situation. Or you may think that your relationship is good because you’re comparing it with other unhealthy relationships.
Comparing your relationship to those around you doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the health of your relationship. If you’re curious to learn what the health of your relationship is, you can take this online relationship quiz today to find out.