How do I know if my relationship is healthy?
Relationships are full of ups and downs and it’s widely agreed that disagreements and arguments in a relationship are normal and often a healthy way to overcome obstacles and frustrations within the relationship if done in a way that generates a productive outcome.
This article aims to highlight the elements that make up both a healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamic, not just with people we are in intimate relationships with but also with friends, colleagues, and family members as these are just as important to focus on if we are to feel content engaging in quality relationships that enhance our daily lives.
Who did you have in mind when you decided to read this article? Are there any other relationships in your life you feel you’d benefit from reflecting on? It can be useful to write down the significant people in your life and consider how these different relationships feel to you. Do they raise a sense of contentedness or anxiety? Are they enjoyable or frustrating? Do they offer you fulfilment or apprehension?
The following list is a guide to what a healthy relationship looks like. The characteristics of the kind of relationship that will offer you overall contentedness, enjoyment, fulfilment, and peace, even with the odd challenge thrown in.
A healthy relationship will include:
Open, honest, and effective communication is essential in healthy relationships. Both parties will feel heard and understood and they feel able to discuss their feelings and concerns openly and safely.
Each person respects the other’s boundaries, opinions and individuality. There is an absence of demeaning or disrespectful behaviour.
Trust is a fundamental component of a healthy relationship. Both individuals have confidence in each other’s intentions and actions.
Healthy relationships are based on a balance of power and decision-making. Both parties have an equal say and feel that their opinions are valued.
Emotional and practical support is given and received freely. Partners, friends or family members help each other through challenges and celebrate each other’s successes.
Physical, emotional, and psychological safety is paramount. There is no fear of abuse, violence or manipulation in a healthy relationship.
The fact you decided to read this article suggests you were questioning a relationship or two and it’s unlikely that you were able to tick off all the healthy qualities in regard to these relationships. It’s important to note that the above characteristics can be worked on if the two of you are prepared to work on it together. It will mean identifying the reasons that some (or all) of these elements don’t exist for you.
It will take individual ownership of attitudes and behaviours from both parties and a commitment to finding a healthier balance that fits the two of you. It’s important to recognise that you can only be responsible for yourself. If the other person isn’t prepared to reflect and work on a better dynamic, your efforts will be wasted and you need to consider whether this relationship is manageable or whether you need to bring it to an end.
To highlight further when a relationship needs urgent attention, the following list describes what an unhealthy relationship will look like. These characteristics will be detrimental to the well-being of one or both parties:
Lack of communication
Poor communication, constant arguing, or silent treatment can indicate an unhealthy relationship.
Any form of disrespect, belittlement or humiliation is harmful to a relationship’s well-being.
If trust is consistently broken, it can erode the foundation of the relationship.
Imbalance of power
One person may exert excessive control or manipulate the other in unhealthy relationships to ensure they get their own way.
Isolation from friends and family, or an attempt to control the other person’s social life is a red flag.
If the relationship causes constant stress, anxiety, or feelings of unhappiness, it is likely unhealthy.
Physical, emotional, and/or psychological abuse is a severe indicator of an unhealthy relationship and should not be tolerated. Other types of abuse to watch out for are financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect of the other person’s basic needs.
It is important to note that the health of our relationships can vary over time and we may need to work harder on our relationships to maintain their well-being at certain times more than others.
It is vital that you consider your role in your relationships, consider how you are treating your friends, family, colleagues, and partner, and reflect on how you are being treated by them and, if it is looking unhealthy, make changes.
You can only change yourself. If another person is treating you badly, the only sensible thing you can do is highlight it and refuse to accept it. Setting boundaries, asserting those boundaries, and committing to taking action when someone pushes your boundaries, will be vital to your health and well-being.
If you’re finding yourself in an unhealthy situation, it is vital that you offer yourself some self-reflection. What is keeping you in that relationship? Are you hesitant to challenge poor behaviour? What stops you from taking action to keep yourself safe, either physically, emotionally, or psychologically? And so on.
It’s unfortunate that for some, the need to exert control, abuse, and manipulate others is the only way they know how to feel good in their relationships. This means they will never know the benefit of deeper love and fulfilment that comes with a healthy relationship. It isn’t your responsibility to teach them how. It is your responsibility to show them what is and isn’t acceptable to you, and that often means removing yourself from the relationship entirely. This is likely the only time they may feel any kind of respect toward you – when you do not accept their behaviour.
If you’re offering healthy relationships to others then you deserve healthy relationships in return. Find good people who want this for you and who are worthy of your love, respect, trust, and support. If you look after yourself, have healthy boundaries, and refuse to tolerate unhealthy behaviours, you will naturally find yourself in relationships with people that enhance your life.
If you are in an abusive relationship and are in immediate danger, ring 999. And bear in mind there are many support services that can offer you practical support if you need help in escaping an abusive relationship. A simple internet search will locate services in your area that often offer information on ‘covering your tracks’ so you can protect yourself in your online searches.
If you are simply in need of support to talk through your relationships, either as an individual or as a couple, please reach out today and get your first appointment booked in. There’s no time like the present to start working on your well-being to reach that point of fulfilment. Clarendon Counselling has a wealth of training and experience in relationship dynamics and well-being so you’re in good hands.