My previous marriage was a dumpster fire. Sometimes I stood so close I got burned, or I was the one to throw more garbage in. Other times, I threw on some gasoline to make it burn even brighter. It was an unhealthy and toxic relationship that both of us should have ended long before we did.
I’m glad to say that my second marriage is much more like a lovely garden than a dumpster fire. We both tend it, and we enjoy doing it. I know today that any relationship takes work, but if both parties are willing to put that work in, it has a high change of success.
My second marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s fulfilling and loving, the kind of relationship I, as a relationship coach, would want for any of my clients. These are just some of the qualities of a healthy partnership:
1. You Treat Each Other With Kindness
Relationships must be built on mutual care, consideration, empathy, and appreciation. Basic human kindness will go a long way when you’re going through a struggle — either individually or as a couple. You can never go wrong with being kind and loving to one another. It also helps if you say “Thank you,” “please,” and “I love you” often.
If you treat strangers better than your own partner, then you need to reconsider your priorities.
2. You Have Your Own Space
My husband and I both need time away from each other to refresh. Being in love doesn’t mean spending every waking moment together. When I take time out for me by exercising or going out with a friend, I come back to our relationship fresh.
Plus everything you do to better yourself (like go to school, exercise classes, or therapy) also works to help better your relationship.
3. You Talk to Your Partner
I should be the one that knows that something I’m doing is upsetting my partner before anyone else. He absolutely should come to me instead of complaining about me to his friends. This is also described as, “don’t air your dirty laundry in public.”
Your friends should know what’s going on in your life, of course, but they shouldn’t help you avoid having tough conversations with your partner.
4. You Fight
Every couple fights, and it’s perfectly normal to do so. It’s even said that couples who argue together, stay together. What’s not normal is when fights devolve into name-calling, insults, or other abusive tactics.
If you’re not fighting, it could be because one or both of you is holding back or just being passive-aggressive (which is pretty nasty to be around).
Fights in healthy relationships are productive. You try to understand your partner instead of keeping score, and if you’re wrong, you apologize.
You also let things go. You don’t hang onto things to beat your partner up with later. Hanging onto things is how resentments form, so you make sure to forgive and forget.
5. You Express Yourself
Unhealthy relationships require a lot of holding back in order to not upset the other partner or the status quo. We call this tiptoeing or walking on eggshells.
Healthy relationships grow when both people can communicate honestly and freely, and both people feel heard. It’s not always going to be fun expressing yourself (especially if you have to have an uncomfortable conversation with your partner), but it will be valuable to the sustained health of your relationship.
6. You Like Yourself and Your Partner as You Are Now
It was important to me to be in this marriage, not up in my head making up how it should be. Healthy relationships are based in reality because it’s unlikely that having a baby or moving into your dream house is going to change your relationship all that much.
Some of us (me included) marry people for their potential, our hope that they’ll change. People may never reach their “potential,” or their idea of their own potential may differ from yours. You’ve got to instead accept and value for partner for who they are in this moment, instead of who they might become.
7. You Make Decisions Together
In healthy relationships, big and small decisions alike should be decided together. Even if it’s a simple, “Hey, you choose the movie tonight, and why don’t I choose the one tomorrow night?” Both of you should be able to express your desires and concerns and be able to come to an agreement.
You may not always like what you agree on, but you can at least see that you’ve decided something that’s best for your relationship.
8. You Pick Up the Slack
Trade-offs in your relationship are going to happen. You’re slammed by a work project, so your partner has to handle all the pick-up and drop-off duties. Other times, your partner may be sick or having to help an elderly relative.
Life is going to happen, but you both step up to fill in where the other can’t.
9. You Feel Safe
A healthy relationship should feel like a safe place for you to land, whether it’s because you’ve had a hard day or because you and your partner are arguing again. It should be the place you feel the most yourself, the freest.
You’re going to go through things in your relationship that will be tough, but because of trust and mutual respect, you know you’d rather be with them than anyone else.
10. You Are Intimate
A healthy sexual relationship that both partners are satisfied with is one part of intimacy, and a good sex life requires good communication.
But there’s more to intimacy than just sex. A friend of mine always says this word as, “Into Me You See,” as in you’re truly yourself with another person. You’re seen by your sweetheart, truly and utterly. You feel connected to them no matter what you’re doing nor where you are.
Previously published on medium
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