Healthy relationships allow you to express yourself (both with and without your partner), bring out the best in both of you, and foster growth. It is best to lay the groundwork for a positive and healthy relationship from the beginning, especially if you are in a new relationship. You can have a healthy and satisfying relationship by focusing on respect and helpful communication.
1. Raise your hand. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind or “figure it out.” If you have a need or want to express something, you must do so yourself. When you don’t communicate your needs, you’re not being fair to yourself or your partner. Similarly, don’t keep things that bother you inside. If something bothers you, express it to your partner.
If you’re at a loss for words, try saying, “There’s something on my mind, and I’d appreciate it if you listened.” You could also say, “Something bothers me, and I think we should talk about it.”
2. Pay close attention. Knowing when to speak and when to listen is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. Improve your listening skills by not interrupting your partner and allowing them to finish their thoughts and feelings. Listen carefully and don’t try to respond while your partner is speaking.
Reflect the content and emotions of what your partner is saying using active listening skills. “Let me make sure I understand,” you say. I hear you saying that you’re upset that I didn’t tell you what time I’d be home and that you wish I’d said something sooner because you were worried.”
3. Set up healthy boundaries. Boundaries are not intended to make you feel trapped; rather, they are intended to maintain respect and understanding in the relationship. If something makes you uneasy, bring it up and talk about how things need to change and how each of you will change. If one person wants to spend a lot of time together and the other does not, it is critical to establish a limit for how much time is appropriate to spend together and apart.
You might want to set sexual boundaries (being sexually exclusive) and social boundaries, for example (having one night a week designated for friends or activities).
Don’t allow your partner to control you, and don’t try to control your partner. Setting boundaries entails respecting one another and working out compromises to make the relationship work.
4. Clear communication is essential. A relationship can quickly bring out the worst in people if there is no clear communication. When you have a desire or a need, express it clearly to your partner. Don’t beat around the bush or say something that will make your partner happy if it will make you unhappy. Use “I statements” to express your feelings, make an observation, or share your point of view. I statements allow you to express yourself clearly and directly, take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, and avoid blaming and accusing others.
To properly communicate, use the phrase “I think/feel/want…. when….. because…” “I get upset when you leave the door open because the room gets cold and draughty,” for example.
5. Emotions should be expressed. Share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, and be open to new feelings. Show concern for your partner’s feelings and offer support during stressful situations. When you connect emotionally with your partner, you can empathise with their situation.
Start asking questions about feelings if you’re feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner (without blaming or making assumptions). You may begin to feel more compassion for your partner as you learn about their feelings.
6. Check in with one another. Make time to talk about the relationship on a regular basis. Changes happen, schedules get busy, and you may miss out on connecting or talking about things. You may want to discuss relationship goals and expectations, as these can shift over time. Ignoring difficult subjects or hoping they will go away is one way for a relationship to fall apart.
As an example of checking in, consider the following: “Hey, how are you doing after our argument yesterday? I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any unresolved feelings or issues.”
In terms of relationship expectations, ask your partner if you are on the same page. You could talk about moving in together, sexual satisfaction, marriage, children, or future plans to relocate. Be clear about what you want and how your partner fits into that picture.
Treating Each Other Well
1. Establish a foundation of respect. Relationships can be fun and exciting in the beginning, but it is critical to ensure that you and your partner are grounded in respect. Act in ways that make your partner respect you. Even when you’re irritated with each other, try to treat each other with respect at all times.
The desires, thoughts, and feelings of your partner are valuable. Communicate to your partner that you care about how they feel. Mutual respect is an essential component of maintaining a healthy relationship.
Discuss with your partner how to build respect in your relationship. Make a list of “do’s” and “don’ts,” such as name calling and sexual contact.
You might want to institute “fair fighting” rules. These are their names:  Formalized paraphrase
There will be no derogatory language.
There will be no finger pointing.
There will be no yelling
There will be no use of force.
There will be no talk of divorce or breakups.
Don’t try to tell your partner what they’re thinking/feeling/experiencing.
Stay in the moment, take turns speaking, and use time outs as needed.
Make them smile.
2. Respect one another. A healthy relationship should make both you and your partner feel valued. Relationships are frequently built by layering many small things on top of one another. Find out what your partner does for you and express your gratitude. Instead of focusing on your partner’s mistakes, consider how your partner contributes to your life. When you notice something, speak up and express your gratitude.
Inquire about your partner’s preferred method of feeling appreciated. Make an effort to write a note or a card, or to say “thank you” frequently.
Tell your partner how you want to be appreciated. “It means a lot to me when you notice the things I do for you,” you can say.
3. Spend quality time with each other. It is simple to transition from face-to-face time to digital communication. However, meanings can be lost in translation, and nonverbal communication can become non-existent. Spending quality time together can help strengthen your relationship and strengthen the bond you have with your partner.
Look for activities that you can do together on a regular basis. It can be as simple as sharing a cup of coffee in the morning or reading a book together at night.
Trying something new as a couple can be a fun and exciting way to spend quality time together. You don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary; even going out to dinner at a new restaurant or trying a new cuisine can be a memorable experience.
4. Allow each other space. There is no way for one person to play every role for another. Allow your partner to spend time with friends and family as well as engage in hobbies. It is essential for each individual to have their own set of friends and activities that they enjoy on their own. While you may want to spend every moment together in the beginning of your relationship, respect each other enough to spend time apart and understand that time apart does not harm the relationship. Help your partner maintain friendships.
Avoid giving up your friends or putting pressure on your partner to give up theirs. It is critical to have friends and the emotional support they offer. Similarly, don’t let your partner decide whether or not you can see your family.
5. Expect to see some changes. Recognize that your relationship will most likely change. Allow yourself, your partner, and the relationship to grow. Recognize that changes in your relationship represent new opportunities for growth. Change is unavoidable, so embrace it and accept that your relationship will adapt.
Take a deep breath and deal with the changes one at a time.
Improving an Unhealthy Relationship
1. Consult a therapist. If you’re stuck in unhealthy patterns and want to change them, ask your partner to join you in seeing a therapist. A therapist can assist you in breaking unhealthy patterns that you may be stuck in, such as yelling, blaming, isolating, making assumptions, and failing to communicate effectively. It can also aid in emotional avoidance, behaviour modification, and changing your perceptions of your relationship. Seeing a therapist does not imply that your relationship is doomed; rather, it indicates that you are willing to work together to improve it.
More information can be found at How to Attend Couples Counseling.
2. Allow yourself to be free of codependency. In a codependent relationship, dysfunctional behaviour can manifest as one person supporting or enabling the other person’s irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, or poor health. If you are the enabler, you may feel guilty if you do not assist, even if you are aware that it is detrimental to your partner in the long run. Codependency is frequently rooted in childhood and may include repressed feelings (such as not speaking up when you have a need or staying quiet to avoid a fight) and an inability to say “no.”
You and your partner may become estranged from others and have no friends outside of your relationship.
Learn about codependency and devote some time to identifying your (or your partner’s) self-defeating behaviours. You might want to see an individual or couple’s therapist.
To learn more, read How to Tell if You Are Codependent.
3. Maintain your partner’s privacy. Being in a relationship does not imply that you must spend every waking moment together or share everything. Recognize and respect your partner’s need for privacy and space. If jealousy arises, remind yourself that it is a feeling that may or may not be directly related to your partner’s actions.
Do not demand your partner’s social media or email passwords. Respect your partner’s privacy and be willing to put your trust in him or her.
It is unhealthy for you and your partner to constantly monitor each other’s actions. This can be rooted in jealousy or control, neither of which are healthy components to have in a relationship.
4. Take note of any signs of abuse. Relationships should be based on mutual respect and equality, not on power and control. While you may not think much of certain behaviours at first, disrespectful behaviours set the tone in a relationship. Take note if your partner is possessive, insulting, yelling, humiliating, or disrespectful in any way. Abuse has no justification. Abuse is a decision made by an individual, and you do not have to be the victim.
Check out How to Recognize a Potentially Abusive Relationship for more information.
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