Instead of jumping into a marriage, a lot of people now choose to be in a relationship for a while before making any life decisions. But it is still hard to talk openly about relationships. Most of us get our knowledge about love and relationships from books, movies or TV shows. Very often, these depictions can be misleading. So are you curious about what a healthy relationship looks like? After talking to a few relationship counselors and psychologists, here are some tips on what makes a relationship healthy!
1. Communication. Being able to talk to your partner about what you are feeling is important, but communication means more than this. Communication is also about how you talk to your partner. For instance, if you are upset that your partner has cancelled a plan, not telling your partner what you are feeling is lack of communication. Telling your partner what you feel in an aggressive or accusatory way- ‘you always cancel plans!’ or ‘I can’t believe you cancelled plans again!’ is unhealthy communication.
The best way to communicate is to focus on the behaviour of the person- what they did, instead of making statements about who they are. Secondly, try to talk about how the behaviour made you feel, instead of attacking the behaviour. So instead of making a character judgement like ‘you are such a bad partner, how could you do this?’ it is better to focus on how you feel and say ‘I feel bad that I couldn’t meet you tonight. I know you are busy, but I would have loved to spend time with you.’
And communication isn’t just for negative feelings! Make sure you tell your partner what you like and appreciate about them. A common complaint in relationships is that people feel unappreciated, not valued or ignored. Compliment each other about even small things, and try to make the other person feel good about their hobbies, talents and strengths. A little communication goes a long way!
2. Trust: Do you find yourself constantly lying to your partner? Or are you always worried that your partner is lying to you? Do you find the need to check each other’s phones and social media and get jealous when the other person is with friends or family? These are usually signs of an unhealthy relationship. When communication (point 1) is strengthened, trust takes place naturally. If you really trust one another, you needn’t worry about who your partner is texting or going to meet.
The first step to building more trust is understanding that neither you, nor your partner are perfect. Talk openly about your fears and insecurities, and find ways to overcome them. Most of the time, we tell lies because we don’t want the other person to realise our mistakes, or see us as flawed. If you accept each other as complicated, but imperfect people, it is easier to be honest with each other.
Commit to being truthful, even if the truth is sometimes hard. In a healthy relationship, there is no need to snoop on the other person’s phone, or prevent the other partner from meeting a certain person. This kind of behaviour adds up and can become very toxic and negative. Honesty is essential for a strong relationship.
Space & Boundaries: Sure, you love each other, but this doesn’t mean that you need to spend all your time with each other! If you can’t imagine doing any activity without your partner, or you need your partner with you 24/7, this might be the sign of an unhealthy relationship. You are a unique person. You should not be so dependent on the other person, that you forget who you are.
The first step to avoiding this is making sure that you have some ‘me’ time, especially if you live with your partner. Set aside some time of the day to do your own activity. This could be reading, jogging or listening to music. This time is for you, to be yourself and pursue your own hobbies.
Secondly, don’t leave behind your friends once you get into a relationship. Many of us drift apart from our friends after getting into a relationship. But everyone needs more than one person to rely on. While your boyfriend or girlfriend is important, they should not become your entire life. You still need friends, family and a life outside of your partner.
So go ahead and schedule in some ‘me time!’ Along with this, you can also plan some activities that you can do with your partner. Think of something that you and your partner can do together on a daily or weekly basis. Some couples like to cook together, go on a walk or catch up on their favorite TV show. This ensures that distance does not grow between the couple. Try new activities as often as you can, so that it does not get boring.
Finally, keep in mind that these are only some broad points. At the end of the day, a relationship is supposed to feel good and make you happy. Remember that you don’t have to stay in a relationship that doesn’t make you feel good! And you know your feelings best. So understand your feelings better, and know that you deserve a healthy relationship!