Signs of a Healthy Relationship
Signs of a Healthy Relationship
Healthy relationships don’t look the same for everyone since people have different needs. Your specific needs around communication, sex, affection, space, shared hobbies or values, and so on may change throughout life.
So, a relationship that works in your 20s may be nothing like the relationship you want in your 30s.
Relationships that don’t align with more traditional definitions of a relationship can still be healthy. For example, people who practice polyamory or ethical nonmonogamy might define a healthy relationship somewhat differently than people who practice monogamy.
In short, “healthy relationship” is a broad term because what makes a relationship thrive depends on the needs of the people in it.
But a few key signs do stand out in flourishing relationships.
One thing healthy relationships largely share is adaptability,” says Lindsey Antin, a therapist in Berkeley, California. “They adapt to circumstances and the fact we’re always changing and going through different phases in life.
Here’s a look at some other hallmarks of healthy relationships.
Partners in healthy relationships typically talk about the things going on in their lives: successes, failures, and everything in between.
You should be comfortable talking about any issues that come up, from things that happen in everyday life, such work or friend stress, to more serious issues, such as mental health symptoms or financial concerns.
Even if they have a different opinion, they listen without judgment and then share their perspective.
Communication goes both ways. It’s important you also feel that they’ll voice their own concerns or thoughts as they come up.
People in nonmonogamous relationships may place even more value on emotional check-ins and frequent communication about what’s happening with other partners.
Trust involves honesty and integrity. You don’t keep secrets from each other. When you’re apart, you don’t worry about them pursuing other people.
But trust goes beyond believing they won’t cheat or lie to you.
It also means you feel safe and comfortable with them and know they won’t hurt you physically or emotionally. You know they have your best interests in mind but also respect you enough to encourage you to make your own choices.
A sense of yourself as a separate person
Healthy relationships are best described as interdependent. Interdependence means you rely on each other for mutual support but still maintain your identity as a unique individual.
In other words, your relationship is balanced. You know you have their approval and love, but your self-esteem doesn’t depend on them. Although you’re there for each other, you don’t depend on each other to get all of your needs met.
You still have friends and connections outside the relationship and spend time pursuing your own interests and hobbies.
One key characteristic of healthy, long-term love is curiosity.
This means you’re interested in their thoughts, goals, and daily life. You want to watch them grow into their best self. You’re not fixated on who they used to be or who you think they should be.
“You hold flexible mindsets about each other,” Antin adds
Most people in healthy relationships prioritize spending time together, though the amount of time you spend together can vary based on personal needs, work and other commitments, living arrangements, and so on.
But you also recognize the need for personal space and time on your own. Maybe you spend this time relaxing solo, pursuing a hobby, or seeing friends or family.
Whatever you do, you don’t need to spend every moment together or believe your relationship suffers when you spend some time apart.
Playfulness or lightheartedness
It’s important to make time for fun and spontaneity when the mood is right. If you can joke and laugh together, that’s a good sign.
Sometimes life challenges or distress might affect one or both of you. This can temporarily change the tone of your relationship and make it hard to relate to each other in your usual ways.
But being able to share lighter moments that help relieve tension, even briefly, strengthens your relationship even in tough times.
Intimacy often refers to sex, but not always. Not everyone enjoys or wants sex. Your relationship can still be healthy without it — as long as you’re both on the same page about getting your needs met.
If neither of you have interest in sex, physical intimacy might involve kissing, hugging, cuddling, and sleeping together. Whatever type of intimacy you share, physically connecting and bonding is important.
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
A strong relationship can be considered a team. You work together and support each other, even when you don’t see eye to eye on something or have goals that aren’t exactly the same.
Even in a healthy relationship, you’ll have occasional disagreements and feel frustrated or angry with each other from time to time. That’s completely normal. It doesn’t mean your relationship is unhealthy.
What matters is how you address conflict. If you can talk about your differences politely, honestly, and with respect, you’re on the right track.
Partners who address conflict without judgment or contempt can often find a compromise or solution.