It’s often difficult to gauge the healthiness of our love relationships. This is understandable when we consider how many of us grew up with parents who didn’t model caring behavior or who had little knowledge of positive or productive ways of dealing with problems and the natural conflict that arises when two people commit to live together. Having trouble in a relationship is actually to be expected. And it’s an indicator that something is going right. Yes, it really is! Conflict provides an opportunity to become aware of an area of need in our own personal growth.
Our intuition tells us that something is not right in our relationships. Keep in mind that blaming (oneself or one’s partner) serves no purpose and actually prevents us from moving forward. We may have fallen into patterns of disconnecting from one another when conflict arises by using silence, criticism or anger. If we feel sad more often than happy with our significant other, this is a sure sign that something is amiss, and we may need support looking at the relationship with the help of an objective party.
Below are some elements operating in healthy romantic relationships. I invite you to reflect on your relationship and consider whether these principles are characteristic, most of the time, of your interactions with your mate. If you feel these traits don’t describe the way you and your partner relate, you may want to discuss your thoughts and feelings, either with your partner or with a therapist.
Kindness – Do you and your partner treat one another in a gentle and considerate manner?
Trust – Do you and your partner feel that you can be vulnerable with one another and speak honestly about your feelings for each other and the relationship? Do you feel you “have one another’s backs” when difficult situations arise?
Respect – Do you and your partner feel equally important and valued in the relationship? When either of you expresses the need for a limit or boundary, is it respected?
Safety – Does it feel safe for you and your partner to experience conflict with one another and disagree?
Sexuality – Do you and your partner enjoy being intimate with one another and able to communicate your preferences or difficulties around sexual relations?
Fun – Do you and your partner enjoy your time together and find things to laugh about? Are there fun activities you share that bring you closer and make you laugh at one another and together?
Differentiation – Do you and your partner maintain a healthy sense of individuality and the ability to continue activities and engage in friendships that were meaningful before the relationship began?
Keep in mind that the principles above can never be operating in every moment of a relationship. The sense of connectedness and belonging a romantic relationship brings us is extremely powerful, and we are going to have difficulty maintaining a connection all the time. While love is the most profound emotion we experience as human beings, our ability to create and sustain a healthy relationship is something almost all of us need to learn. As difficulty arises, embrace this challenge and know it provides an opportunity to take responsibility and figure out where we may need to do some work on ourselves.