October 2022

What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like, According to Experts?

There are a few key signs that stand out in healthy relationships...

No two couples are the same. So what might work for one may not work for the other. And because there are so many styles of relationships, such as open relationships, monogamy, ethical non-monogamy (has an Aphrodite escort caught your eye? wink wink), polyamory, and more, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to defining a healthy relationship.

Not just that, but the needs and ideals for people in different life stages differ too. What one may want in their 20's may not align with what they want in their 30's, 40's and beyond.

And then, of course, there are people who aren't sure what they want. This could be because they've never been in a serious relationship before, or perhaps they've not had ideal role models growing up. Maybe their parents acted out chronic toxic patterns. These patterns could leave a person feeling as though those behaviours are normal, making it difficult for them to understand the baseline of what a healthy relationship is.

On the other hand, there are some elements that one can identify that'll help them learn whether they're in a healthy relationship or not. Despite one's upbringing, their lack of experience, or their newness to relationship, we'll look at some of the key signs of a healthy relationship.

These 15 signs, as written by experts Kaytee Gillis, psychotherapist, and Andrea Bonior, clinical psychologist, can help anyone on their journey as they navigate new or ongoing relationships.

Are you in a healthy relationship

Healthy, functional relationships, especially in committed relationships, have these characteristics. They aren't optional. If they're missing, it's important to address the problem.

1. Trust

Without trust, there is a lack of a solid foundation. Trust is a basic need that allows both partners to build emotional intimacy. Without trust, individuals are often left in a constant state of whether they can count on their partner or not. It also leaves people wondering if they can truly count on their partner and believe what they're actually saying. If there is no trust, there's a likely chance that you'll feel vulnerable and stressed a lot of the time. Trust comes with time. And even if one's trust has been broken, it can be rebuilt... which also takes time. It's about saying what you mean, and meaning what you say, being vulnerable, respectful, and being able to express one's feelings functionally.

2. Communication

Communication is always important, but it's especially important when it's difficult. This doesn't come naturally to a lot of people. Many of us want to keep things under the surface in an attempt to keep the peace or to make things appear perfect, but this doesn't work. Communication can also be difficult for those who have a hard time acknowledging difficult feelings themselves. Either way, communication during hard times may lead to feelings of resentment, being threatened, and could wind up in an argument. At the end of the day, communication is essential to expressing needs and wants, and to discussing boundaries... all of which are healthy elements of a relationship. It may take some time, but all it takes is practice and self-reflection.

3. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. So when one is willing to take another person's perspective, it can be extremely helpful. To practice empathy, you would need to make the effort to really try to understand your partner's perspective, even when you disagree with it. When they feel bad, for any reason, are you able to try and help them to feel better? And when they're happy, can you join in with their triumph and truly be excited with them?

4. Affection & Interest

Love, in the form of affection, shows a genuine interest and a liking of each other. This kind of affection could be a hug, a kiss, holding hands, comforting touch, or cuddling. These gestures often allow partners to feel comforted and secure within a relationship. Of course, each couple is unique, and every individual has a certain type and amount of affection that makes them feel good. Finding this out and sharing affection in this way simply means that one is really interested in and fond of their partner. It's a sign that one is with another, in conjunction with other reasons, out of attraction rather than obligation.

5. Compromise

A key component of compromise is the ability to be flexible. When both partners have flexibility in their day-to-day lives, it leads to a healthy balance. This balance shows that they're willing to grow and change in order to meet the needs of everyone involved. If one person is not willing to compromise, this imbalance can become toxic over time. Compromise is especially important during conflict. Both partners should be able to express their feelings, and with that, a bend in order to meet and satisfy the needs of each other can come into fruition. A relationship isn't walking two separate paths, it's walking together on one.

Healthy Relationships according to experts

6. Gratitude

When there is gratitude in a relationship, both partners often tend to be much happier and feel more secure with their partner. Not just that, but it allows individuals to feel more appreciated for who they are. Overall, a sense of gratitude and appreciation can increase a relationship's wellbeing ten-fold. Expressing gratitude can come in various forms. It could merely be saying "thank you" for something a partner did, or being thoughtful towards a partner with no motives.

7. Room for Growth

When the honeymoon phase is over, it's easy to become bored or feel as though you're stuck in a rut. This is why room for growth is so important. Individuals don't want to feel as though they're not progressing. And it's unhealthy to believe that individuals and couple will remain the same across months, years, and decades of a relationship. When you're able to talk about and allow your partner to work towards goals, interests, fears and hope together, you're giving them space to grow. It's about realising that individuals change over time, hardly anyone stays the same. Take the time to learn what's important to your partner, and leave all expectations at the door.

8. Respect

There are various ways to respect people, in and outside of a relationship. But when it comes to your partner, respect means talking to each other in a way that doesn't devalue, invalidate, or belittle them. Disrespect is to not protect each other's privacy, to use their partner for any reason, or to talk ill of them to others. Having respect is to value a partner's time and opinions just as they would their own. When there is a lack of respect, it can be hard to rebuild a relationship. It's easier to simply respect a partner than to undo the damage of disrespect.

9. Healthy Conflict Resolution

Couples fight. Friends, family, co workers... we all have the capacity to argue with others. But there is such as thing as healthy conflict resolution. The way in which couples fight can actually predict a lot about their success. For starters, holding in anger or resentment won't work. It's best to express emotions and work towards resolving them rather than hiding them. And when emotions are expressed, talking about them in a respectful, empathetic, and understanding way will be way more successful than simply attacking or stonewalling one another. In fact, this will most likely escalate the problem. Remember you're on the same team, so working together is the key.

10. Individuality

There are two extremes when it comes to two people interacting. They may have a massive amount of things in common to a degree that things could get boring over time, or they have so little in common that they don't share the shame values or daily styles of living. In both of these scenarios, it's highly likely that these two people are incompatible. But when partners have a few similarities that create a foundation in which to connect with one another, and individual differences that are still respected and valued, that's the sweet spot. Individuals in a relationship should be allowed the freedom to express themselves and honour their individuality while keeping their relationship strong.

Experts 15 Signs of Healthy Relationship

11. Boundaries

When it comes to boundaries, there are basics things, such as not look at a partner's phone, e-mails, calls etc. without their permission, yes. But there are also deeper boundaries that should be respected. Boundaries are made and kept in-place in order to keep people safe and comfortable. It could range from limiting the kind of physical contact or intimacy that's experienced, who individuals allow into their lives, what topics they discuss or aren't comfortable discussing, etc. With this, respecting a partner's boundaries is paramount. If they're not, it can lead to arguments and resentment.

12. Openness & Honesty

When someone hides who they truly are from their partner, they run a big risk of ruining or not achieving a solid foundation of trust. And, as we mentioned, trust is a big thing in a healthy relationship. Everyone has their own level of how they disclose themselves, whether they're open to a degree that's intense or perhaps more conservative. Whatever the style, it is most important that there is that level of authenticity and honesty. Hiding emotions can be a big culprit that stands in the way of having a healthy relationship.

13. Security

Similar to that of trust, security is an additional layer that allows partners to feel at ease with each other. One example would be if one were to go out with their friends, travel solo, or partake in other activities without their partner. In this scenario, if there is security in the relationship, these activities shouldn't be of any issue, as it wouldn't arouse any suspicion or jealousy. It would instead be a way in which to celebrate their partner's unique and individual interests and hobbies. If there isn't security, one may have a gut feeling as though something isn't right, and this in itself, is unhealthy. The underlying cause may not have anything to do with one's partner, in fact. It could just be from past experiences. But to uncover the cause of insecurity can be extremely beneficial.

14. Intimacy through Shared Interest & Passions

We've mentioned the importance of individuality, and how couples should be able to enjoy their own interests and hobbies. On the other hand, when couples enjoy shared enjoyment in their relationship, it tends to have more meaning and longevity. These shared activities can be comprised of intimate experiences and beyond. Going for coffee together, doing a workout class once a week, taking a walk together.. these are shared interests. And then, with the element of intimacy, it could be whatever you both enjoy as part of your relationship rituals.

15. Physical Intimacy

We often think that sex is the sole definition of physical intimacy, but this isn't the case. A relationship can healthy with or without it, depending on both of your needs. Physical intimacy, in this realm, means being on the same page and having both of your needs met. It could involve kissing, hugging, cuddling, foreplay, or sleeping together. These acts help strengthen bonds and increase levels of connection. Remember, healthy intimacy means respecting your partner's boundaries too.

So, after having reviewed these 15 aspects of a healthy relationship, have you ever been in one? And if you're currently in a relationship, do you feel it's a healthy one? It's something to ponder on for sure...

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