Maybe you’re single, or in a relationship that’s not working. Or maybe you’re just embarking on a new romance. Whatever your situation, we’re going to explore 6 things we all deserve in a healthy relationship, and how to get them…
We may be happy, healthy and successful in so many areas of our lives, but sometimes, a fulfilling relationship is the one thing that evades us.
So, it’s good to know that there are a few special characteristics that most successful relationships have in common.
Understanding these basic principles can help you find a more suitable partner. They can also help keep your relationship meaningful, fulfilling and exciting, whatever goals you’re working towards or challenges you’re facing.
Mutual trust and respect
This may seem obvious, but you can’t have a healthy, long-lasting relationship without mutual trust and respect. If, deep down, you know these basic elements are lacking, it’s time to move on.
Respect isn’t just a feeling you have for someone, it’s also the way you behave towards them – and the way they act towards you too.
It’s about deeply appreciating and admiring their uniqueness and who they really are. Yes, you can recognise their achievements and successes, but on a fundamental level, everyone needs a basic form of respect which honours their humanity.
When you feel respect for someone, you naturally want to act in ways that honour them. When you’re with them, you show them kindness, fairness and consideration.
To feel respected is to feel safe and accepted for who you are. It is to feel valued and to be encouraged to be your highest, truest self.
And, once the respect is there, trust can follow.
For most people, this is one of the hardest areas in a relationship to work out. And, when you’re out of touch with your innermost needs, it can become virtually impossible!
So how do we establish them?
You may already be in a couple or you may be single – either way, it’s important to know that setting boundaries – and enforcing them – starts with you.
If you can’t maintain boundaries with yourself, it’s going to be really hard to ask your partner to respect them.
Think about where you are letting yourself down or not honouring yourself. When do you push your needs aside just to please others?
This is the first step in finding out where your boundaries lie. The next step is to actually enforce your boundaries with both yourself and with your partner. Be sure to support and honour their boundaries as well.
Honesty and openness
It’s no secret that good communication is the cornerstone to any healthy relationship, romantic or otherwise. When both people are honest about what they want from the relationship, and are comfortable expressing it, it increases mutual trust and strengthens the bonds between you.
Vulnerability and availability are some key words here. When you experience a positive connection with your partner, you feel safe and happy. You are vulnerable to each other, and available. This increases the positive connection, which makes you feel safer and happier… It’s like an infinite loop!
When you stop communicating well, you stop relating to each other, and your connection weakens. Add to that the stresses of daily life, and you could be faced with a relationship breakdown.
As long as you are communicating, you can usually work through whatever problems you’re facing.
Listen to each other
This one is connected to the point above: practice good communication and you invite in honesty and openness.
Everyone has the basic desire to be heard and to be understood. But it’s actually really hard to be a good listener! Most people are too caught up in their own inner emotions or are busy thinking of what they want to say next to really listen to what the other person is saying.
In this moment, you are actively blocking the other person, and communication breaks down. When you notice yourself doing this, take a breath and correct your pattern.
We naturally bond with people who really listen to us, who really hear us. Be that person for your partner and ask for the same in return.
Practice unconditional love
Sorry, here’s another hard one… but it’s super important!
Most of us are already very familiar with conditional love – the sort of love where the other person makes us feel good, where they have similar interests to us and who we have fun with. We receive something from those kinds of relationships, and so do they.
Speaking honestly, most of our relationship experiences are based on this sort of love, or at least the feeling that the love given is conditional.
Unconditional love is different because it’s not based on what we ‘get’ from the other person. It’s based on our ability to love through hardships, difficulties and frustrations. It acknowledges the quirks and flaws in others – and ourselves – and accepts them.
It’s always healthier to give your love without strings attached, and to receive love in the same way.
We can learn to love unconditionally, but it takes daily commitment and a real change in our behaviours and thinking. We need to practice non-judgment and forgiveness. And we need to learn to approach tough issues with acceptance and calm.
Gradually, as we begin to practice unconditional love on a daily basis, we start to experience a new sort of emotional freedom and release.
We realise that we don’t have to be in charge anymore, or cling to resentment, anger or insecurities. We become able to forgive without expecting anything in return, and the effect on our emotional wellbeing and relationships is massive.
Go on, give it a try!
Intimacy is something that has really changed over the last few years. The ways we can be intimate with people online, over messages, video chat and through dating apps has completely altered our perception of it.
But at its base level, intimacy is touch. Experts have found that affectionate contact is fundamental to the human condition, as it affects brain development as well as physical and emotional wellbeing. It boosts the levels of the hormone oxytocin in our brains, which influences how we bond and attach to others.
So, while sex is crucial in a healthy relationship, it shouldn’t be the only method of physical intimacy. Frequent affectionate touch, like hugging, holding hands and kissing, is just as important.
Even if you have pressing workloads, young children or hectic schedules, it’s worth keeping the physical intimacy alive by carving out some regular couple time.
Want more? Check our our recent post Learn how to practice self-love, which lies at the heart of every successful relationship.