We’re so used to reading/ hearing about toxic love and unhealthy relationships that we have become almost accustomed to identifying the bad in the relationships we see around us. There are no relationships that are all good but there exist many which are considered healthy love.
I have friends, family members and clients that have, at some point in their lives, experienced bad relationships. So I’m often asked about choosing a ‘healthy’ partner and making a relationship ‘healthy’, so let’s take some time to explore healthy love instead.
“A healthy relationship is one where two independent people make a deal that they will help make the other person the best version of themselves.”
What is ‘healthy love’ and why do we need it?
There is no correct or single definition for ‘healthy love’ – it is essentially made up of different components that work together to make you feel loved, cared for, admired, respected, cherished, appreciated and safe. Some of these components you will be responsible for, but working together to make your love healthy is ultimately the goal to work towards.
Healthy love is not the same for everyone – as we are all individuals, our love is unique too. Our needs, wants, desires are different from each other. It may look similar to someone else’s love, but it is not exactly the same.
Also, what you may have required in your 20s, may not be the same as in your 30s and your 30s, not the same as your 40s and so on. Your exact needs around communication, affection, shared interests, values and morals, sex and so on are possibly going to change many times throughout your life.
“The relationship we have with ourselves sets the foundation for every other relationship we have.”
― Gina Senarighi,
What does ‘healthy love’ look like?
This may work differently for everyone so read and adapt to your perspective.
This is a tough one, even in a healthy relationship you are not going to agree on everything and you really don’t have to! But the point is to communicate through the disagreements in a way that does not hurt the other person or make them feel attacked. Expressing your thoughts, ideas, feelings, moods etc. in a respectful, open manner, even when you don’t want to will show the other person that the relationship is more important.
Giving them space to talk and discuss issues at hand without being judged, yelled at or made to feel anything negative will create a safe, open environment for communication. Partners who can resolve conflict without judgment or contempt can often find a solution. This is one of the most important aspects of healthy love.
Physical intimacy does not only refer to sex, and a relationship can still be healthy without it. It also includes the bond you share with your partner, the desire to be in close proximity to each other, holding hands and hugging.
If you both enjoy sex, your physical relationship is most likely healthy when you:
- feel comfortable initiating and talking about sex;
- can positively handle rejection;
- can discuss desires;
- feel safe expressing your interest in more or less sex.
Healthy intimacy also involves respecting sexual boundaries. This includes:
- not pressuring partners about sex or specific sex acts when they say no;
- sharing information about other partners;
- discussing sexual risk factors.
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
– Harry, from When Harry Met Sally
This aspect of relationships can be determined very early on. Trust enables your relationship to grow. Trust is being there for the other person and knowing without a doubt, that they will be there for you.
It also goes beyond believing they won’t cheat or lie to you. It means that you feel comfortable and safe with them, knowing they will not hurt you physically or emotionally. Trusting and being trusted opens space to better share innermost thoughts and feelings with each other. There is a mutual sense of belief and faith.
It is meaningful in a relationship to be fun and spontaneous when the mood is right. Those who tend to be more playful in their relationships have said to experience more positive emotions and feel more satisfied in their relationship as well as feel closer to each other.
Playfulness usually starts off as spontaneous once-off actions, which sooner or later, morph into habits and evolve over time. These are expressed with underlying affection and understanding and attribute to better communication, better conflict resolution and a positive outlook on the relationship.
Even though you and your partner are a couple, it’s important that you continue your independence even when you’re in a relationship. As much as you love spending one on one time with your partner, it’s important that you have a social life outside of your relationship. It’s actually not that healthy to do EVERYTHING as a couple. And it’s also really not cool to ditch all your friends as soon as you get into a relationship.
It’s important to pursue a personal hobby when you’re in a relationship, so that you have a way to blow off steam. It can be easy to rely on your partner when you are feeling overwhelmed, but if you can find a way to channel those feelings elsewhere, it can take a lot of stress off of your partner. You can also create a space to practice self care of your relationship.
“…good relationships are based on kindness. On putting the person you love before yourself. On thinking of what you can do to make that person happy. Good relationships require kindness, commitment, and appreciation”
― Jane Green, Falling
Relationships require work and effort on both parts. The honeymoon phase eventually ends for everyone and that’s where the reality sets in. Setting relationship goals and talking about the future of your relationship will make it real for each one.
Enjoying and making the most of the happy moments, but also facing the bad times together will make you and your partner want to work on the relationship. There is no right or wrong way of doing things as long as you are doing it together.
To conclude, maintaining a ‘healthy love’….
Is complicated and messy but when you are working on a common goal and keeping each other happy, it’s well deserved. Everyone deserves a healthy love. Everyone is unique and has individual needs and desires when it comes to relationships; and a healthy love will help you cope with everyday things, leaving you little stress and leading a healthy, meaningful life.
Experiencing and maintaining a healthy love during the Coronavirus pandemic is like no other, read more about how you can keep positive during this time, here.
“A healthy relationship keeps the doors and windows wide open. Plenty of air is circulating and no one feels trapped. Relationships thrive in this environment. Keep your doors and windows open. If the person is meant to be in your life, all the open doors and windows in the world will not make them leave. Trust the truth.”