"What makes a relationship healthy?" It can be challenging to spot the signs when you're enjoying romantic dinners, handmade cards, and mind-blowing sex. I took a look back at the things I've done (and had done to me) to present you with the 15 habits of healthy couples.
1. You give without the expectation of getting anything in return.
You give out of compassion, empathy, and mutual respect. In an unhealthy relationship, giving is used as a tool to get something in return. Avoid the quid pro quo mentality by giving from a place of presence and abundance, not just so he’ll assemble your shelves from Ikea.
2. You love your partner for who he is, not for his potential.
In a healthy relationship, you love your partner for who he is at that moment. You work to learn more about him, his hopes, and his dreams. In an unhealthy relationship, you work to change your partner to be what you want or you love him for the person he could one day become.
3. Your relationship is a safe space.
A healthy relationship creates a private world where both parties can share themselves. Your experiences together and deep knowledge of each other are guarded in that place. In an unhealthy relationship, your weaknesses, intimate details, and secrets are shared with others or become the punch line of a joke.
4. You fight to fix instead of fighting to win.
A fight is not a sign of the apocalypse, it can be a tool to build understanding. Communicating your needs lovingly, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and finding resolutions are powerful tools to build intimacy, connection, and trust. In a healthy relationship, a fight means there is real effort on both sides to see the other person’s point of view, understand each other's feelings, and work toward an equitable resolution. In an unhealthy relationship, a fight is a power play and an opportunity for payback.
5. You have more common ground than competition.
In a healthy relationship, both parties have a shared vision and goal for the future. Actions are taken to support one another in reaching that goal. Each win is considered a win for the team. In an unhealthy relationship, there’s a competition to outdo the other. It is filled with self-interest and demands that one must sacrifice his dreams rather than achieve them.
6. You use sex to connect, not to fill a void.
As someone who tried to find happiness externally, I was never truly aware of why I craved affection. I've since learned that it's vital to know when you want affection and why you want it. Don’t believe having good sex will address underlying issues or make you feel validated. That needs to be worked out with a therapist or coach, not in the bedroom.
7. You choose to see the best, not the worst.
We choose where we want to place our attention. And as the saying goes, where attention goes, energy flows. In every situation you have two options: (1) You can nitpick and use that as an excuse to end the relationship, or (2) You can choose to appreciate what's good about your significant other.
What are the things that make you love and appreciate your partner? Take a trip down memory lane and remember the funny jokes, hikes, and adventures. This isn’t to say you should deny reality, but it’s a tool to help you work on the relationship from a place of love rather than fear.
Ultimately, if you look for what he does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he does right, you can find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.
8. You see things in the present rather than generalizing patterns.
In a healthy relationship, each person avoids making grandiose statements like “You always...” or “You never...” One instance of doing something that you don’t like doesn’t define your partner or his behavior throughout the relationship. It’s easy for us to want to lump things into patterns, but when you’ve put an issue to rest, mass generalizations open up old wounds. Treat each instance as a unique event unless you’re sure you want to end it.
9. You take responsibility for your growth rather than using the relationship as an excuse to avoid growth.
In a healthy relationship, you take space to pursue a life outside your partner. After all, he signed on for a partner, not a groupie. In an unhealthy relationship, you define yourself through that union, losing touch with your authentic self. Relationships are spiritual assignments, helping us to evolve into who we're meant to be. When the relationship gets in the way of that, it’s time to reevaluate your situation.
10. You communicate what you want instead of what you don't want.
There’s a difference between a complaint and a constructive comment. In a healthy relationship, you communicate what you want. For example, it's much more effective to say “I want us to spend time with my family” rather than saying “We spend too much time with your family and not enough with mine.” Your positive approach will help put your partner at ease rather than signaling that he should prepare for war.
11. You're open and honest instead of passive aggressive.
Saying “whatever you want” may squash a problem now, but it creates a pattern of apathy and resentment. In a healthy relationship, you take responsibility for your decisions and communicate them in a healthy way.
12. You apologize because you care, not to make a problem go away.
You don’t get points for saying “I’m sorry” abruptly or for playing the martyr. An apology isn’t about making a fight go away, it’s about overcoming an issue as a team. In a healthy relationship, you choose to be happy rather than right. Often that requires a sincere apology. To do that, don’t end an apology with a qualification (“I’m sorry, but…”). Instead, take responsibility (“I’m sorry because I…”)
13. You show love every day, not just on special occasions.
I once dated a guy who felt that saying “I love you” often would cheapen its meaning. He preferred to save it for special occasions. A healthy relationship is based on a pattern of positive expression, creating intimacy, and connection. Each party acknowledges and recognizes the other daily. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does have to be sincere, for example, “You are a wonderful friend.” In a healthy relationship, love is expressed with words, acts, and gestures.
14. You spend time together.
Quality time together connects both people. It doesn’t have to be formal. For many, intimacy is built through conscious connection. For example, reading the newspaper at the same time, exercising together, or sharing your morning routine. It’s about quality time, not the amount of time. Someone can be great on paper, but without those little moments each day, his resume doesn’t mean much.
15. You don't take all his choices personally.
I once argued with a boyfriend over his lifestyle decisions, believing that he needed to address his love of burgers, pizza, and cigarettes in order for us to be a happy couple. As much as I liked to rationalize my arguments, the truth is that he is the one who had to deal with the consequences, not me. Things are only your problem when you make them your problem. And while it’s your decision to accept his life choices and decide whether or not you can live with them, it’s important to remember not to take them personally.
While there are many tools to spot an unhealthy relationship, it comes down to connecting with yourself. Are you your authentic self in this relationship? Are you making heart-centered choices? At the end of the day, a healthy love should leave you feeling energized, whereas an unhealthy love leaves you feeling drained and disconnected.
The choice is yours.