People seek couples counseling to change something that is not working for them in their relationship. Often there are a number of issues and perceived differently. The problems can include poor communication, lack of emotional safety, resentment, trust violations and general relationship disconnection.
The stronger the relationship foundation, the better position to work through challenging situations as they arise. And they will. If you understand what leads to unhealthy relationships, you’ll be better able to monitor yours.
Consider the following:
10 Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship
- Friendship: Couples who have a strong friendship have staying power, especially if they not only love each other but genuinely like each other as people. They might even consider each other their “best friend.”
- Good Communication: Those who are able to openly express their feelings, especially sadness, frustration or anger, the better they are able to work through challenges in the moment. This avoids the build-up of resentment.
- Chore Sharing: Couples who both participate in the household or parenting responsibilities benefit from a sense of collaboration in their relationship. Problems can arise when one feels unfairness in how labor is divided.
- Affection: A hug, kiss, tussle of the hair and other brief displays of affection are easy gestures that don’t take much time but can be part of the glue in your relationship, reminding each other that you are loved. This is especially important with hectic lives with work and family obligations.
- Sexual Intimacy: Couples who feel sexually and physically connected are able to nurture this important layer of their relationship. A discussion about different libidos, meaning around sexual intimacy and what each person likes can also be important. Talk to each other about what you need and find ways to compromise. If needed, learn how to put a spark back in your sex life.
- Watch for the “Horsemen of the Apocalypse”: This is a term coined by couples researcher, John Gottman,PhD, who is able to predict divorce with incredible accuracy. His “four horsemen of the apocalypse” are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. High levels of any of these behaviors can lead to serious damage to the relationship.
- Mutual and Separate Friends, Hobbies: Partners who socialize with other couples and also maintain separate friendships demonstrate balance in regards to honoring themselves as individuals and the relationship itself. Self satisfaction and fulfillment contributes to relationship satisfaction. Keep an eye on your relationship balance and be sure you are both satisfied with what this looks like.
- Reliability: Couples need to feel they can rely upon each other. Doing adds to the emotional safety in knowing their words and actions mean something. They both can rest assured knowing the other has their back.
- Repair Attempts: When couples take responsibility for their mistakes with each other by owning their errors and apologizing, it blocks resentment from developing. This is especially true when one feels hurt by the other’s actions.
- Humor: Couples who can make each other laugh tend to be good at de-escalating conflict when it arises. Be cautious of appropriate use of humor. Be aware that it’s not always appropriate if things are too tense in the moment.
A bonus “characteristic” are good boundaries. The article, The 14 Most Important Characteristics of Healthy Relationships, on MindBodyGreen.com, does a good job explaining this:
It’s important not to forget that you’re two separate people with separate needs, including some needs that you may not share. You will not agree on everything, and sometimes you may not want the same things. It’s important to respect these differences and not push each other’s boundaries, including emotional boundaries, physical boundaries, and any other types of boundaries. Boundaries are a necessary characteristic of a healthy relationship.
Boundary problems and the others listed above can be challenge and sometimes exploration into both partner’s family of origin is needed, to fully understand the roots of the issue.
Relationships require nurturing and yes, sometimes work, to stay healthy, connected and secure. If you’re having trouble making the needed changes to your own relationship, seek couples therapist for help. The Psychology Today Therapist Directory is a good resource.
If you would like to try a self-help route, I’m offering 50% off all of my digital products through the end of January, 2024 in The Toolbox Store, including several workbooks for couples. Enter the code G4FERDYU at checkout.