5 Tips for a Healthy Relationship
By Melissa Lipari
Relationships are complicated. I think we can all admit that we have had a toxic relationship with a partner, friend, maybe even a family member, at one point in our lives. It is not easy navigating human emotions, external circumstances, and all the other roadblocks that might complicate your connection with someone. However, in my 22 years on this Earth, I think I have figured out a few important ways to navigate a healthy relationship with someone. It all relies on a few basic forms of communication, understanding, and overall self-empathy.
- A Healthy Relationship Requires Self-Love
Self-Love is a big lesson that I have learned in crafting a healthy relationship, as I have noticed over the years that I tend to be codependent on others. I naturally tend to lean on others for happiness and love, which could be attributed to my struggles with anxiety and the insecurity that comes with mental health issues. With that said, I should be looking towards myself for those things, and rather take the extra feelings of enjoyment as an added bonus. I have been in a healthy relationship with my boyfriend for almost three years and I chalk a lot of that success up to my feelings of love towards myself and him. I used to allow previous partners to push me around a little bit, due to my own insecurities, which a part of me regrets but is thankful for the growth that has come with it. Now, I love myself and I make sure to prioritize myself in the relationship while also prioritizing us as a duo – which also translates to all my relationships (romantic or not). As RuPaul once said, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love someone else?”
- A Healthy Relationship Requires Space
Another tip that I have learned from overcoming my codependency issues, is the need for space in a relationship. I used to think that constantly being together was a sign of a flourishing relationship. However, I now realize that being able to have your own separate space and to distinguish your life from your partner’s or a best friend’s, is extremely healthy. Always being around each other can create tension or feelings of codependency, something that I have experienced all too well. You can think of this tip like going to the gym. An odd comparison, maybe, but just like we stretch our muscles, we also stretch ourselves when we are in a committed relationship. Most doctors recommend taking a day in between workouts, so think of this when you want to make daily plans with someone in your life. The more time you spend together in a short period of time, the easier it is for the relationship to exhaust itself. Take things slow and make sure to have your own passions that differ from your loved ones. If you live with your partner or best friend, try to have your respective spaces to do work or enjoy leisure time. When you reconnect, it will feel much more genuine and exciting.
- Healthy Relationships Require Respect
Respect is something that seems to be a no-brainer but is actually hard to come by these days. To have a flourishing and healthy relationship with someone, you have to respect each other. This does not just mean respecting their tangible stuff or understanding boundaries, you must dig deep and respect even the things that you might not understand. We are all hard-wired a bit differently, so I will admit that it's not easy to respect people’s choices or lifestyles that do not correlate with yours. Perhaps you are more of a homebody and your partner loves to go out. Finding that respect for their wants and needs that you would hope they can implement towards your habits, is what is going to solidify a healthy relationship. You can offer to go out on Saturday nights but to stay in on Sunday’s for example. This is an easy way of showing respect towards someone’s lifestyle while also not compromising your beliefs. Respect goes extremely far in sexual relations as well. Consent is the basis for all healthy relationships. You must respect what people are willing or are not willing to do with their bodies for you to maintain a safe and equal partnership.
- Healthy Relationships Require Communication
This is a difficult tip for many people to master, as communication can be hard, especially if you are unsure how to express yourself. I used to be one of those people that thought fighting automatically meant an unhealthy relationship. However, sometimes confrontation is needed to get your point across. So long as you are being respectful towards one another in your communication, there is nothing wrong with a little disagreement. It is human to have your own ideals that do not connect with your partner’s or family members’ ideals. Amherst College discusses the importance of “I statements” when communicating with a loved one. In an article about relationships, they advise to, “Share how you feel and what you want without assigning blame or motives. E.g. “When you don’t call me, I start to feel like you don’t care about me” vs. “You never call me when you’re away. I guess I’m the only one who cares about this relationship.” When you choose to directly acknowledge your feelings, instead of deflecting or projecting them onto something else, you can communicate your feelings more effectively. Amherst also notes that some problems are not always solved so easily. It is important to recognize that when you are communicating, you have to be considerate of the other person’s feelings. There is a chance that your loved one has deeply rooted issues that will not go away with just one conversation - especially if the argument or conversation leans on the personal side. Communication is a build-able form of trust, which is another important factor in a positive relationship.
- Healthy Relationships Require Trust
As mentioned above, trust is everything. Sure, we all get insecure sometimes and have that urge to maybe check our partner’s phone. It is recognizing your boundaries and understanding that if you do not have trust, then you have nothing, that will separate negative behaviors from positive ones. If you feel unsure about something, use the skill of communication to fight through that uncertainty. If you have been badly burned by a previous relationship, trust that not every person will hurt you in the same way that you once were. Your trauma does not determine the rest of your relationships. You must trust yourself and your loved ones to uphold the emotional or physical accountability that you each deserve. Someone out there is going to love you in the way that you are meant to be loved. Do not fall into old habits because of an experience you have had before. A new relationship is a clean slate, so treat it as such. Have faith in one another and allow yourself to lean on each other when times are tough or in the happiest of moments. Faith in one another will get you extremely far.
Healthy relationships require a lot of maintenance and care. With the right person however, they can be a lot easier to upkeep than you think. When the going gets tough, remember why you are trying to harbor a relationship with someone. Keep the end goal of having a beautiful, open, trusting, and respective relationship in sight. You will be surprised at how easy it is to let love in when the person and the timing feels just right.
For more tips on Healthy Relationships, visit Love is Respect.org.