If Valentine’s Day is here, dreams of true love and romance can’t be far behind. New relationships may start with the excitement of a Nicholas Sparks novel, but later, sometimes we need to do a reality check to determine whether our relationship is truly healthy. This begs the question, what does a healthy relationship look like?
Good communication: Healthy relationships are characterized by open, effective communication. Each person in the relationship should be able to communicate what they want and need, both from their partner and life in general. Yelling, blaming, name-calling, not listening, not talking, and sarcasm are all examples of unhealthy communication.
Trust: Each partner must trust the other in order to be vulnerable and emotionally intimate. Constantly checking up on your partner is not the sign of a trusting relationship.
Respect: Partners should have high regard for each other’s experiences, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and boundaries. It’s not necessary for all these things to coincide—in fact, it’s unrealistic, since no two people are alike—but without mutual respect, a relationship withers.
Care and Love: This one might seem obvious, but sometimes people don’t always do their best at showing these emotions. It’s easy to settle into a routine and stop doing the little things that show your partner how much you care. Small but thoughtful gestures can mean a great deal.
Honesty and Openness: This is difficult, because it often involves admitting our mistakes. Honesty requires practice. Start with being forthright about the small things; it will make openness about the big issues much less intimidating.
Compromise: Relationships are partnerships, and it’s often necessary to find a middle ground. Compromise doesn’t necessarily mean giving in to what one partner wants. Often, it’s about finding a solution that both partners can live with. Sometimes, it helps to think, “Is this decision worth an argument?” Often, we find that it is not.
These are a few components of a healthy relationship, and they look different in each relationship. It can be difficult to pinpoint problems within a relationship, but the good news is that most of these aspects can be worked on and improved, if both partners are willing to make the effort. Nicholas Sparks may know how to tell a story, but you and your partner also have the power to write your own.