Photo by Priscilla Du Perez from Unsplash
Healthy relationships are formed not because both persons in it are good-natured and perfect. They are created because two people chose to work it out despite the odds. All relationships have series of challenges to go through, no exemption. They have their ups and downs. It takes intention, compromise, love, and commitment to take care of your relationship.
For it to be considered healthy, necessary steps need to be taken. Both people have to adapt to the changes in their relationship by considering the other’s goals, attitudes, and mentality. A clear proof that a healthy relationship is shared by two people is a healthy physical, social, and emotional well-being. Whether a couple is just starting or has been together for years, the same formula is still used to maintain and fortify their bond.
It isn’t enough for a couple looking cute in their pictures to say they’re in a healthy relationship. They need to genuinely feel good and happy behind the pretty photos. Both people should choose to stay emotionally and mentally connected, fulfill one’s duties and responsibilities, and love the other unconditionally. The goal to enjoy lasting happiness is a tough pursuit, but it’s more likely to be achieved when both are on the same page.
WERE WE TOXIC?
In the first two years, I would say yes. We had our differences. We tended to our ego at times when we should’ve let it go. We weren’t ready for the reality of being in a relationship. We weren’t ready for the sacrifices it took to commit to another person. There is no perfect, toxic-free relationship.
But over time, we fought, we hurt, and we learned. We evaluated our feelings and thankfully landed on the same page. We loved each other and wanted to be in another’s arms until we grow old, so we made it work. Remember, a healthy relationship overcomes the toxicity through forgiveness and compromise.
HOW DID WE REACH 4 YEARS (AND COUNTING)?
Every relationship is unique in its way. Two people combine in the most unexpected time and the most unpredictable circumstance. Regardless of how two people came together, both can start and maintain a healthy relationship when they build their love on a truthful and strong foundation. First of all, they need to work on themselves to survive the hurdles of a relationship.
For couples in puppy love, most of them may be able to tolerate immature, selfish, and rude behavior for artificial reasons. But when it comes to building a real, pure connection, both people need to fix their attitude and complete themselves first before making other people feel complete. For one, they have to share a common goal about how you want your relationship to go. Other couples have different goals for where they want their relationship to lead, so you have to talk about your own honestly.
WHAT DOES A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP LOOK LIKE?
A healthy relationship continually develops and maintains a deep emotional connection between each other. You know you have a healthy relationship with someone if you don’t see flaws and shortcomings as threats and weaknesses. You love each other despite the many instances that the other person has failed you. You see that person for who they are on the inside, and you believe his character is beautiful and redeemable.
You don’t see your partner as ideal or perfect in any way, but you trust his capabilities and attitudes. You don’t express love only superficially, but through the simplest, most genuine instances. A healthy relationship brings out the best in both of you and makes you see your worth. It doesn’t drain you in a way that deteriorates your self-confidence and denies your feelings.
You make the other feel fulfilled and appreciated because you want to see him happy. You plan out your future carefully and sensitively because you see yourself spending the rest of your life with him. You don’t feel scared when you ask for reassurance because you know your partner understands you, even when you don’t say anything. There is a meaningful, unique connection only both of you share that stands the test of time and distance.
6 SIGNS AND CHARACTERISTICS THAT MAKE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP:
TELL THE TRUTH
We tell each other the truth all the time no matter how painful it is, but we carefully say it in a manner where it least offends the other. There are times when we find it hard to express our true feelings right away but eventually, we do. In the first two years of dating, I used to have this mentality where I expect my boyfriend to know exactly what’s on my mind. Any hint of him not knowing means he doesn’t know or understand me enough to say he loves me. I wanted him to know what makes me upset, bothered, scared so that he’ll avoid any situation that will urge me to experience those feelings. But the reality is, he’s not a mind reader.
He’s not always going to be aware of what my mood is or when I’m feeling blue. I need to be the one who communicates with him respectfully and straightforwardly. We assume and expect our partners to always be present and attentive to our feelings, and so anything less than that, we see it as his fault. We shouldn’t put our partners in that position. The right and healthy way to avoid miscommunication is to express our needs and feelings.
On the flip side, you should also learn how to read your partner’s nonverbal cues. You need to pay attention to his body language because this is one way to express one’s feelings. Every person has a unique body language, so take time to learn your partner’s bodily responses. It’s not easy to talk about your emotions and needs, but you need to confide in your partner to slowly build trust. If you don’t understand what you’re feeling yourself, make your partner understand that you’re trying your best to convey your emotions to him.
Also look at the situation from your partner’s lens, who only wants to help you but you’re not providing him enough knowledge to lean on. It’s also not easy to be in that kind of position, so give him the comfort and reassurance he needs as well. The truth may hurt, but at least it’s the truth. As long as both of you are willing to work on your lapses, you will find comfort in the fact that you’re hurt because of the truth, not a lie.
An open and effective communication line is crucial in any relationship. Without being able to freely talk to your partner, you couldn’t discuss and convey the truth about your goals, feelings, and fears. Communication is key to vulnerability. When people are aware of your deepest vulnerabilities, you feel comfortable about expressing your most authentic self to your partner. On the flip side, both of you can directly address the key issues in your relationship.
As a result, a good communication habit can strengthen the trust and foundation between both of you. Every time we argue, we’re not like most couples who raising their voices to force the other one to listen. Fortunately, we haven’t experienced screaming at each other. I hope we’d never reach that point. We take turns in listening to the other’s point, and when he’s finished, I give my thoughts.
Because we’ve developed a habit of respectful disagreement, I’m not afraid when fights arise. We’re the kind of couple who talk things out calmly. We attack the main problem by acknowledging the minor issues and resolving them one by one. When we don’t find a rather (ideal) solution yet, we stick to a reassuring, “We’ll figure it out.” I don’t fear arguing with my partner because I know he’d listen and understand me.
HAVE ROOM FOR MISTAKES
No relationship is formed and fortified without conflict. It’s important to be prepared on how you address a problem, for it can arise anytime. You can’t predict exactly how you’re going to feel and react to a key issue, but you can always assess how you fight. You can take down notes about your observations on how you communicate and break down the problems at hand. Don’t focus more on situations you can’t change.
You will only end up draining each other by looking for solutions that don’t exist. For my boyfriend and I, we know when to let something go. We know when to draw the line between digging more about an issue or letting it be. Before opening your mouth, consider the emotion you’re feeling right now. Think about the consequences you’ll face should you fail to control your temper. Take the time to relieve yourself before doing something you’ll regret. Words are so powerful and can never be taken back. Do not put winning into your head.
To resolve conflict, both of you must have room for your mistakes. Ideal expectations shouldn’t have a place in your relationship. Understand that all of us have good and bad sides, and you should learn how to get through those rough times. Your partner may be dealing with inner dilemmas that he doesn’t want to talk to you about. Be patient enough to be there for him even when you don’t completely understand.
Be willing to forgive when your partner messes up and be willing to accept the apology. You’re not always going to be right. There’s no point in holding grudges from yesterday. Conflict is inevitable, so you should be prepared for what’s to come. You need to be open to any feeling or idea that your partner is experiencing so he’ll feel heard and appreciated. Put in mind that when disagreements come, you’re not directly angry at your partner. You’re angry at the situation, at the behavior, so less blaming and more understanding.
RESPECT ONE’S INDIVIDUALITY
Just because you’re a couple doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. We still have individual interests we want to do alone. For my boyfriend and I, we have hobbies and interests that we can’t do together simply because we’re different in that department. I don’t personally enjoy playing video games with him for hours while he doesn’t really enjoy writing.
But the bottom line is, we support each other by uplifting our confidence and giving each other time to hone our crafts. We give each other space to enjoy our differences and do our own thing. But when it’s time to get back to each other, we set aside our hobbies to share an activity we love to do together. Remember that no person can cater to all of your wants and needs, not even your significant other. Your favorite hobbies don’t necessarily have to be loved or shared with your partner.
Stop expecting too much from your partner because you will end up changing him in the long run. It can put unhealthy pressure on a relationship and leave bruises on your partner’s ego. You need to respect your partner’s boundaries and give him his time to enjoy his own company doing what he loves.
Furthermore, it’s equally important to value your identity. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean everything that makes your identity and self has to be attached or associated with your partner and/or relationship. It’s essential to maintain and preserve connections with your friends and loved ones while still respecting your bond. To enrich your romantic relationship, you need to enrich the entirety of your being.
MAKE TIME TO SEE EACH OTHER FACE-TO-FACE
For both of us, physical intimacy is necessary. The longest we’ve been apart was 8 months when the lockdown was initiated. It was so hard not being able to see and touch is used to seeing each other in Senior High School. As an alternative, we constantly talked over the phone and expressed our sentiments. Although we couldn’t physically see each other for almost a year, we did what we can to keep the physical intimacy alive as much as we can. During that time, we longed for each other’s touch, but necessarily the sex.
Just the thought of being in his arms makes me hug the pillow so tight at night. Now, as the health protocols loosen in our country, we get to see each other already. Another challenge we face today is communicating and compromising when to see each other. I’m in college (via online classes) while he goes to work at the call center (graveyard shift) so you can see how this becomes a problem for us.
His schedule constantly changes depending on the needs of their company’s clients abroad because of the disparity of the time zones. Fortunately, my boyfriend and I are flexible with our time for the sake of seeing each other personally. I do as much homework as I can to make time for him while he gets enough sleep to do the same for me. It’s all about having a common goal (to see each other and spend time together) and working towards it by sacrificing.
Regardless of the demanding workload on your school or family or career, strive your best to set aside your time and energy for your partner. Even spending an hour or two with each other counts as a great achievement for both of you. The effort of seeing each other increases physical intimacy, and therefore, your affection for one another.
BE ADAPTABLE TO THE CHANGES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
The world continues to change no matter how much you want it to stay the same. Your relationship would change as well, like how often you get to see each other or if your plans are still what the both of you want in the future. One of the toughest decisions to make when in a relationship is to be open to change.
You need to be responsive to the abrupt changes on the inside and outside of your relationship. Whether you’re amenable to these changes or not, they will happen. You can gain control over your life back by acknowledging that you have the power to choose. You can decide how to react and how to address a situation, so be matured about it.
It’s essential for a couple to be flexible with their time, words, and actions for it can determine the consistency in your relationship. You and your partner must be ready to face these sudden adjustments from career, family, and other outside commitments which will sidetrack you from growing your relationship.
Shifting from one role to another is difficult, but it’s part of the everyday challenge of a girlfriend/boyfriend. Relationship development is achieved when both are flexible and willing to cooperate with their partner’s shortcomings. In the end, when you’re truly committed to one another, the distractions that are always taking place in your relationship wouldn’t feel any burden to you anymore.
A healthy relationship is all about understanding your partner on a deeper level. Hearing what he’s trying to say even when he’s not saying anything is a way of showing you know him. Remember that it’s pivotal to know what is important to your partner. When you know his intentions and fears, you can easily reassure him by giving him what he needs. You can start building trust by compromising with each other and receiving gain mutually. However, note that constantly giving in to your partner’s wants and needs have to be regulated honestly to avoid emotional manipulation and resentment.
Practice how to approach your partner without sounding like a brat who wants to always have it his way. Building a happy and healthy relationship doesn’t happen when you fall in love. It strengthens its core the moment you choose to stay with your partner despite the not-so-pretty instances. Preserving your whole journey with your partner from falling in love to staying in love requires a give-and-take commitment and honesty. You can’t stay in love only when it’s convenient or easy for you at the moment because being in a relationship means being there for the ups and downs.
You need to be alongside your partner not only for its rewards but also for the risks you’re going to take together. A healthy romantic relationship requires ongoing support, attention, and consistency, through the good, bad, and ugly times. For your love to flourish and stand to your lifetime, you need to strengthen and improve your self-development to be able to support your partner. Be the cornerstone of your relationship, not the weak foundation.
“In a healthy relationship, vulnerability is wonderful. It leads to increased intimacy and closer bonds. When a healthy person realizes that he or she hurt you, they feel remorse and they make amends. It’s safe to be honest. In an abusive system, vulnerability is dangerous. It’s considered a weakness, which acts as an invitation for more mistreatment. Abusive people feel a surge of power when they discover a weakness. They exploit it, using it to gain more power. Crying or complaining confirms that they’ve poked you in the right spot.”Christina Enevoldsen, The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal