By Jamie Imperial, 08/30/2021
Romantic relationships can be really hard work!
Whether you’ve just met or you’ve been together for a while, it can be hard to tell from the inside if your relationship is healthy. And if you have a particularly challenging history with relationships, it can be even more difficult.
This is especially true when you’re in the honeymoon phase of your relationship. If you’re in a new relationship, you probably see your partner through a pair of rose-colored glasses. You might see them as the most fantastic, perfect person in the world.
Rose-colored glasses make it much harder to tell whether your relationship is healthy or not. This quote from BoJack Horseman sums it up well:
“When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”
Ignoring red flags and ending up in a toxic relationship can do some major damage to your mental health. It’s important to know what a healthy relationship is like so that you don’t end up in a toxic situation.
So what does a healthy relationship look like? Not every relationship looks the same. However, there are some definitive signs that can help you see if yours is healthy. Here are a few:
Signs of a healthy relationship
You trust each other
- When you’re in a healthy relationship, you have to be able to trust each other. This means trusting them with things like staying faithful, spending money, and making parenting decisions.
- Without a sense of trust, there’s no sense of security. That means there’s no solid foundation for you to build a healthy connection.
Your lives don’t revolve around each other
- It’s important for both your relationship and your mental health to have a life and identity of your own. That means not dropping your friends, hobbies, or interests just because you’re in a relationship.
- Your partner is meant to enhance your life, not become your life. There’s a misconception that your partner is supposed to ‘complete’ you. Believing that can lead to toxic and codependent relationships.
You communicate openly and honestly with each other
- Being able to open up to one another is an essential part of every healthy relationship. This means feeling safe to talk about what’s going on in your life and things that are on your mind.
- This can take time. Your partner might not understand your communication style right away, and vice versa. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, suggests sometimes it takes a bit of time to learn and adjust to how your partner speaks and hears love.
You’re comfortable around one another
- Being able to be yourself around your partner is a good sign that they are accepting and that your connection is strong.
- Do you find yourself walking on eggshells or being uncomfortable and anxious around your partner? That may be your body telling you that there’s something wrong.
You handle and resolve conflict together
- Just because you’re in a healthy relationship doesn’t mean that you’ll never fight. In fact, every healthy relationship involves conflict. Being able to handle conflict effectively with your partner is a good sign of a healthy dynamic.
- This means that when you and your partner fight, you handle it together as a team. You address the issue together and find a way to compromise with one another.
You keep the intimacy alive
- Physical intimacy like sex or cuddling is important in a relationship. This can vary over time, but making sure you’re keeping that part of your relationship alive is part of being in a healthy relationship.
- You should also keep the emotional intimacy alive in your relationship. This could look like checking in with each other regularly or doing meaningful activities together. Or, it could mean trying something new together.
You spend a healthy amount of time together
- It’s important to maintain your individuality outside of your relationship. Yet, that doesn’t mean that you have to lead entirely separate lives.
- Being in a healthy relationship includes spending quality time with one another. You could go on regular date nights, exercise together, or plan a trip together.
You respect one another
- Respect is an extremely important part of being in a healthy relationship. Respect can mean setting healthy relationship boundaries with one another. It also means respecting those boundaries when they are enforced.
- It can also mean respecting each other’s differences and needs. This includes not devaluing or belittling your partner to their face or behind their back.
You’re affectionate and playful with one another
- Who wants to be in a boring relationship? If you can joke around and be lighthearted with each other, that’s a great sign that your relationship is on healthy ground.
- Sharing playful moments and being affectionate with one another can help you build a strong relationship and deepen your connection.
You’re interested in each other’s lives
- Being genuinely curious about your partner and their thoughts, wishes, desires, or mundane daily activities is a surefire sign that you’re in a healthy partnership.
- This goes both ways. Your partner should be interested in your thoughts, wishes, desires, or whatever makes you tick.
It can be hard to tell from the inside whether you’re in a healthy relationship. But, these signs are a great place to start.
If you’re having relationship difficulties, it can help to do individual therapy before doing couples counseling. Sometimes we bring past relationship experiences into our current one without realizing it. Working with a therapist on your own can help you process them.
Even if you’re in a healthy relationship, seeing an individual therapist can help you develop communication and conflict resolution skills. They can act as an outside observer and give you an unbiased perspective on your relationship that your friends or family can’t give you. They can also help you see whether you or your partner are exhibiting healthy boundaries in relationships.
No matter where you’re at in your relationship journey, Cerebral can help! These resources are a great place to start:
Clinically reviewed by Scott Tony Reigle, PhD, LPC, CCTP-II, CCFP