Wouldn’t the world would be a better place if we approached love as a responsibility to keep another’s heart safe? We are often so consumed with what we want and need out of a relationship that we forget that we have a responsibility to our partner to provide a loving, safe place for them, too. We tend to focus on what the relationship isn’t giving us, rather than all the positive things we do experience from it.
This got me thinking about what a healthy relationship really looks like and the idea that we are always a work in progress. And as we grow from past and current relationships, we learn more about ourselves and what kind of partner is going to compliment us.
Here is a list of what components are necessary to have a healthy relationship that truly thrives:
1.) You can be happy and whole on your own.
While it is true that our partners encompass a big part of our lives, they shouldn’t be our end all be all. Their job isn’t to complete us. It’s important to have your own interests, friends and hobbies that make you happy and excited about your life. If you rely on your partner too much for your happiness, you place an unfair burden on him or her and you are creating an unhealthy dependence on the relationship. Get as healthy and happy as you can on your own and be mindful of vulnerabilities you may have that can cause you to become overdependent on your partner.
2.) There is trust on both sides.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. If you don’t have trust, anything you try to build will be questioned at some point. This is how it looks in my marriage: my husband and I trust each other, and we respect each other’s privacy. We don’t go through each other’s phone looking for things or question each other’s intentions with how we interact with other people. I trust that we have a similar heart and core values, which brings me to #3.
3.) Each person is authentic, and they love and respect who each other is at their core.
This means that you aren’t trying to change their personality or character traits, or core values. Yes, there are always going to be little things that you wish your partner would do differently, but those are really small things. For example, my husband often leaves the pantry light on in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter the time of day or night it is. If he ventured into the pantry at any point, the light is usually left on. It has actually become endearing to me now, and I laugh and shut the light off.
At the end of the day, your partner should see all of your flaws and love you anyway. You know that your partner knows your soul and has your best interest at heart and approaches things that way. You are each other’s person. Your person is an asset to you because they know you and can point out things that you might not be seeing because you’re too close to a situation. Your partner should be a positive reinforcer in that when you lose sight of yourself, they help steer you back in the right direction. Not because it is their responsibility, but because they know who you are at your core and care about you.
4.) You both know how to effectively communicate.
Communication is more than just being able to be open and talk to each other. How you communicate is just as important.
In a healthy relationship, you can communicate without projecting onto each other, closing down, stonewalling, being passive aggressive, giving the silent treatment or blaming the other person for your feelings. You can listen to hear your partner, rather than listen to respond. Ego is removed and you aren’t thinking of all the things you want to say while they are talking or ways you can defense yourself or prove your point.
Which brings me to #5, which I believe is the most important component of all healthy relationships.
5.) Each person takes personal responsibility for their own feelings, actions and thoughts.
When you take responsibility for yourself, you own how your actions impact the relationship – both positive and negative. You understand that other people don’t make you feel a particular way. You take responsibility for how you feel regardless of what your partner says or does. It’s saying no matter what happens, you will be responsible for yourself and will always have empathy for your partner and where they are are coming from. You will respect it even if you don’t agree with it.
This doesn’t mean that you’re a doormat or don’t stand up for yourself. It means you know how to take care of yourself emotionally and mentally, soothe yourself, and respond in calm, measured fashion. When you know how to handle and take care of yourself, you don’t put the responsibility of feeling okay onto someone else. You don’t allow what someone said or did to change your emotional state.
You see, people avoid owning their own feelings and actions because it requires them to take action. Think about it. When you stop and really think about how something makes you feel, and you know that how you are feeling is your responsibility and not anyone else’s, you have to make a decision and take action.
Responding in unhealthy ways, just keeps us on a hamster wheel of denial and avoiding responsibility. It keeps us stuck.
6.) You treat each other with respect.
Many people get hung up on respect, which I totally get. I used to believe it was #1 in relationships. And it is definitely important. But what treating each other with respect really is, is a state of the relationship. It’s how you both relate to each other and just are with one another.
This is reflected in communication, as well as owning what you say and do in the relationship.
7.) You both welcome boundaries and aren’t offended by each other setting them.
Boundaries are basically our standards. It is our way of communicating what we will tolerate and what we won’t accept. This where we teach people how to treat us.
It important to be clear with yourself about what your standards are. Then you can communicate it to your partner. Too often we find ourselves in situations where we are upset because a boundary has been crossed, but we didn’t even realize it was a boundary for us until it had been crossed.
If you are still dealing with wounds you haven’t healed, be careful with boundaries. When we come from a wounded place, we might not believe that we are worth enough to adhere to our own standards for what a relationship should look like. So we may set boundaries, but are unable to enforce them. And when that happens, we are teaching the other person that we will tolerate them violating our boundaries.
8.) Each partner makes the relationship a priority and actively put forth effort.
Even when you both have hectic and busy lives; it is critical to carve out time consistently to prioritize quality time to connect. This might be a date night once a week or every other week. Make it quality time by leaving your phones behind.
Couples often lose sight of the fun, light vibe they had in the beginning of their relationship. Keep flirting and having fun with each other. Put forth more effort into your appearance like you did in the beginning.
9.) You both know how to resolve conflict.
Approach conflict as a team and remember that what the argument is about isn’t as important as the relationship. Look for a solution to the problem as a team – like it is both of you against the issue rather than against each other.
10.) Both show gratitude and appreciation for each other.
Show each other appreciation and gratitude often. Focus on what your partner does give you, rather than on what might be missing on a given day, because life happens. Make sure you tell them what you appreciate about them – it goes a long way.