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Unless you live in total isolation, you are probably involved in a relationship – with a parent, a sibling, a friend, a life partner, or a work partner. As social beings, we crave relationships, but it doesn’t mean that they are always balanced. If you are not sure whether your relationship is healthy, see if the characteristics of a healthy relationship listed below reflect your experience.
In a healthy relationship, both partners have their own identities. They know who they are – their own likes, dislikes, needs, deal-breakers. They understand what feeds their soul and how they need to recharge when they are tired. This self-knowledge creates personal boundaries. Neither partner is lost within the identity of the other or depends on the other partner to define who they are, what they should like, and what they should need. For example, Bob identifies himself as a physically-active person. He likes to work out and loves to start each day going to the gym. He prefers to rise early. Mary, Bob’s partner, identifies herself as a creative and an empath. Connection with nature is what feeds Mary’s soul. She prefers to sleep in when she can because she does her best creative work later in the day.
In a healthy relationship, both partners are aware of each other’s boundaries, and they honor and respect them. Both partners support each other’s needs and desires in a way that is nourishing and uplifting. For example, Bob takes care of house chores so that Mary can have time to walk in nature, and Mary does the same so that Bob has time to go to the gym.
In a healthy relationship, both partners feel safe to be themselves and respond to life in a way that feels most appropriate to them. They feel that they are accepted and loved just the way they are, and they experience a sense of belonging, knowing that they are an important and equal member of the relationship and that their “membership” in it is not in danger and does not depend on their partner’s mood or outlook on life on a particular day. For example, if Mary feels unmotivated and stuck, she feels comfortable sharing that with Bob, knowing that he will not ridicule her for losing her creative flow.
In a healthy relationship, both people can share not only their personal joys and sorrows but can express to each other their concerns about the things within the relationship that hurt or upset them. For example, Bob can tell Mary that when she made a large purchase without discussing it with him, he felt left out.
In a healthy relationship, both partners hold themselves accountable for their impact on the relationship. They don’t become defensive, passive-aggressive, or abusive to their partners when their partners express a concern or share how they are affected by the other person’s actions. They acknowledge the person’s feelings and reflect on the issue or behavior with a willingness to take reasonable steps to resolve the situation. For example, Mary acknowledges Bob’s feelings about being left out of the decision-making process, and they decide together on how to handle such situations in the future.
All relationships have ups and downs, but these five characteristics can help a relationship endure difficult times. Remember that these characteristics should be applied to both partners (whatever the relationship). And if your relationship does not show signs of robust health, perhaps it is time to reflect on what should be done to heal.