Every relationship is different and comes with its benefits and challenges however there are specific traits that can set healthy and functional relationships apart from unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships. Relationships that are centered around power and control, dishonesty, blaming, poor communication, or abuse are dynamics that we should aim to avoid and instead we should strive to establish and maintain relationships that are grounded in respect and equality. Here are some specific aspects associated with healthy relationships:
Respect: This means that partners accept one another for who they are and value one another’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions even if they are different from each other. Respect can be exhibited through expression of appreciation for one another and does not involve demands for the other person to change who they are.
Shared power and responsibility: This means that decision-making within a relationship is mutual because each partner’s input is experienced as being equally valuable. Partners are aware of one another’s needs and wants and maintain the position that a relationship requires ‘give and take.’ Couples who possess shared power within their relationship believe that the sum is greater than its parts, meaning that together they experience more benefit as a result of working together.
Negotiation and fairness: When differences arise, partners are able to acknowledge each other’s viewpoints, wants, and needs and engage in a process of working together to reach mutually satisfying resolutions, which can sometimes be let’s ‘agree to disagree.’ Negotiation and fairness does not involve the belief that an argument needs to be won by one partner but rather is associated with the belief that the relationship is far more important than any single issue or disagreement.
Trust and accountability: This means that partners are able to take responsibility for their past and present behavior without blaming or providing excuses. Partners admit when they are wrong and follow through with what they say they are going to do. Trust is established when couples feel secure in sharing intimate and private thoughts and feelings and can be vulnerable with one another. Trust does not include jealousy or possessiveness.
Open and honest communication: Healthy communication occurs when partners are able to express their true thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way even if their partner may disagree. Openness and honesty mean that partners feel comfortable and safe expressing themselves with one another.
Physical and emotional intimacy: Intimacy requires vulnerability between partners and is established when partners show respect for each partner’s boundaries around privacy and preferences.