A healthy relationship is one that adds to both people's overall well-being, fueled by communication, respect, and boundaries. For a relationship to be healthy, it requires more than just shared interests and strong feelings for each other. It requires two people who truly understand and care for each other, while also caring for themselves.
Here are the most important characteristics of a healthy relationship:
You respect each other
Respect is one of the most important characteristics of a healthy relationship. Once the chase is over, some people can forget about tending to their partner's feelings and needs. In lasting, healthy relationships, partners value each other and take care with their words, actions, and behaviors. If you want to be with that person each day, make them feel that way. Likewise, you should receive this care from your partner day in and day out.
You're vulnerable with each other
Good communication is a necessary quality of a healthy relationship. If you're not willing to share what's going on with you or what you need from your partner, you're not going to get what you need. Yet people—out of shame or a habit built over a lifetime of bottling up our feelings—don't want to let anyone else in on what's going on with us. If you can trust your partner enough to share your feelings, you're more likely to find yourself in a safe relationship that lasts.
You have total trust in each other
Healthy relationships require trust. You have to be willing to trust your partner not only with your feelings but with your weaknesses. You will have to learn trust at the emotional, physical, and spiritual level. Trust takes practice and is earned one step at a time. Even when trust is broken, you can find a way to repair a breach in trust if you're willing to work on it.
You both maintain unwavering honesty
In a healthy relationship, you have to be willing to share what's going on, no matter how ugly. You can't hide behind lies and deception if you want your relationship to last. If you can't believe your partner when they tell you something, or if your partner is hiding things from you, it's going to be hard for you to feel safe. Honesty helps foster trust and a belief in each other, which is crucial to making it over the long haul. (Here's what open and honest communication in a relationship looks like.)
There's mutual empathy
Another key quality of a healthy relationship is empathy. Empathy means trying to understand what your partner is feeling. It isn't about trying to fix your partner's concerns and problems, necessarily, but about being able to be there for them. If you can pay more attention to what's going on with your partner and strive to see things through their eyes, you will find yourself getting closer over time rather than more distant.
You both prioritize kindness
Do all the things for your partner that you would do for your best friend. Try to anticipate their needs. Think about what they need help with and try to be there for them. Cut out the behavior that gets on their nerves, and find ways to uplift your partner. Thoughtfulness, consideration, and kindness is the recipe for healthy relationships.
You respect each other's boundaries
It's important not to forget that you're two separate people with separate needs, including some needs that you may not share. You will not agree on everything, and sometimes you may not want the same things. It's important to respect these differences and not push each other's boundaries, including emotional boundaries, physical boundaries, and any other types of boundaries. Boundaries are a necessary characteristic of a healthy relationship.
You're both totally committed
You have to be committed to your partner, yes. But more than commitment to your partner, you have to be committed to the relationship. If you think about the health and future of the relationship instead of just your own, you're likely to take more constructive actions and behave differently. It's not just about getting your needs met. It's about replenishing the fire so your relationship can last. That's what a healthy relationship is all about.
You're both thoughtful
Thoughtfulness is a characteristic of a healthy relationship that often gets overlooked because it can be hard to articulate. Essentially, thoughtfulness means keeping your partner in mind and striving to do things that will make their lives better. It's knowing their preferences, opinions, and quirks so you're able to dance with them, not fight them with. The better you know your partner, the more you can practice thoughtfulness. What can you do today to help them or improve their lives? What can you do today to make your partner's day?
You can forgive each other
Any partner will have qualities, characteristics, and behaviors that push your buttons. To make your relationship last, you have to accept your partner unconditionally—quirks, behavior, flaws, and all.
Likewise, you will sometimes feel hurt throughout a relationship because we're all humans who make mistakes. The key is to forgive quickly, let go of grudges, and start over each day. Yes, this is easier said than done, but forgiveness is crucial to the long-term health of the relationship. You have to let go of trespasses and also be willing to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness takes courage, vulnerability, and practice.
Of course, forgiveness doesn't mean being a pushover or accepting mistreatment from your partner. There are many signs of an abusive relationship that aren't physical to be aware of. In a healthy relationship, you first you make the commitment to accept them completely. Then, you speak up and say what it is that's bothering you. If hurtful actions continue, it may be a sign you should break up.
You're gentle with each other
Gentleness comes through in thoughts, words, actions, and your general state of being. It's understanding and accepting your partner completely and treating them delicately. It's not yelling, not name-calling, and not being verbally or emotionally harsh with each other.
Gentleness is treating your partner in a respectful, kind, and compassionate way. It's recognizing your soulful connection and appreciating their inherent humanness.
There's a lot of affection
After some time in relationships, we often forget to show love and affection toward our partners. But affection is a key quality of a healthy relationship. It's the stuff that make relationships great.
Affection can be as simple as touching, holding, or kissing your partner for no reason at all. It's a warm embrace, a light touch, a loving word, or any other small way you can show your partner that you love them.
To be most affectionate, you have to know how your partner receives love best and do more of that. Is it a loving word, a thoughtful gesture, help around the house, or doing something special for them? The better you know what your partner enjoys, the more affectionate you can be.
The love languages quiz can help you figure out how you and your partner can most effectively show your love to each other.
You consistently appreciate each other
Gratitude is another key quality of a healthy relationship. We all take our partners for granted sometimes. If you can regularly remind yourself how lucky you are and how valuable your partner is, and tell them so, you will boost the happiness and longevity of your relationship. Partners who stay together appreciate each other and compliment each other. Recognize what your partner is doing, and let them know that you're thankful for it.
You both feel validated by the other
Most of the time, people don't really understand us. Everyone has different opinions, and needing to always be right can negatively affect your relationship. Validating your partner shows them that you're on their side. When you understand and accept what they say, they feel fully seen, heard, and accepted. It's acknowledging what your partner is saying to you and showing them that you get them—you understand what they're saying and experiencing. When you validate, you accept. And when you accept, you show unconditional love, which is ultimately what keeps people and relationships together in the long run.
Now that you know the characteristics, here are some tips on how to have a healthy relationship.
Vishnu Subramaniam is a writer, coach, and author of nine self published books, including The Sacred Art of Letting Go: Walk 12 Steps with Spiritual Masters to Let Go of Past Relationships and Find Peace Today. He attended UCLA and worked as an immigration lawyer, but left the legal professional to help people overcome breakups, get out of a rut and build a life they've always wanted.