People seeking couples counseling seek change to a relationship dynamic that isn’t working in some way. The problems can include poor communication, lack of emotional safety, resentment, trust violations and many other issues. It might even be that the couple have different ideas of what the problems are or simply a felt sense that things are not right. Couples who demonstrate the makings or potential of a strong relationship foundation are in a better position to work through challenging situations as they arise.
There are many attributes of healthy and connected relationships but here are some of them:
10 Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship
- Friendship: Couples who have a strong friendship have staying power. They not only love each other but genuinely like each other as people. They enjoy hanging out together. They might even consider each other their “best friend.”
- Humor: Partners who can make each other laugh tend to be good at de-escalating conflict when it arises. Be cautious of appropriate use of humor. If things have gotten too tense, it might not be appropriate in that moment.
- Communication: Those who are able to openly express their feelings and avoid burying hurt or anger, often deal with situations as they come up more effectively. This avoids the build-up of resentment.
- Chore Sharing: Couples who divvy up the household or parenting responsibilities collaboratively are less likely to harbor bad feelings about what they perceive as “unfair.” When both are participating in the relationship and related duties, it lends itself to a team atmosphere.
- Sexual Intimacy: Couples who feel sexually and physically connected, tend to feel more cared for. But keep in mind there are varying levels of needs and meanings to sexual intimacy. Talk to each other about it.
- Affection: A hug, kiss, tussle of the hair and other brief displays of affection remind each other that they matter. This is especially important with hectic lives with work and family obligations. Brief displays of affection can remind each other that you’re still there and love each other.
- Avoidance of 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. Work hard to avoid these behaviors to minimize damaging 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. Self satisfaction and fulfillment adds to relationship satisfaction. It’s important to feels secure being who you are within the dynamic as well as be clear on how each partner views a satisfactory balance.
- Reliability: Partners in a relationship want to feel they can rely upon each other. If couples do what they say and say what they do, they create an atmosphere of safety in knowing their words and actions mean something. They can both breathe a sigh of relief to know the other has their back.
- Repair Attempts: When couples take responsibility for their mistakes with each other, take responsibility and offer a repair attempt, there is another important way to avoid resentment to grow. This requires an ability to be humble.
A bonus add-on here 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 and secure. If you’re having trouble making the needed changes on your own, seek a relationship therapist to help you out.