Top 10 Characteristics Of Healthy Romantic Relationships

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people wonder whether their romantic relationships are considered healthy or unhealthy. Although every relationship is unique, there are several important characteristics that most healthy relationships share, such as respect, intimacy, trust, and good communication. Friendship, bondedness, commitment, healthy conflict, flexibility, and fun also play a role.

Even if your relationship doesn’t have many of the characteristics discussed in this article, it’s possible to improve your relationship health in various ways. Online therapy is one method of working together to speak honestly, address relationship issues, and develop healthy behaviors.

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Top 10 characteristics of a healthy relationship

Respect

People of healthy relationships care deeply for each other and have mutual respect for one another. They value each other for who they are and each individual shows respect for the other person’s boundaries.

Ask yourself:

  • Do my significant other and I respect each other for who we are, not for who we wish each other to be?

  • Do we respect and uphold each other’s boundaries?

  • Do we show respect for each other during times of conflict?

If you feel your relationship lacks respect, it may not be as healthy as it could be. You can improve this aspect of your relationship by communicating and reaching out for help if needed.

Intimacy

There are multiple kinds of intimacy, but physical and emotional intimacy often play large roles in healthy relationships. Physical intimacy refers to sex as well as other acts of affection, such as holding hands and cuddling. 

However, it’s important to note that not everyone desires or requires physical intimacy due to varying levels of attraction, and relationships can still be healthy without physical intimacy if both partners feel their needs are being met.

Emotional intimacy refers to a feeling of closeness and an ability to impart your innermost thoughts and feelings with your partner. In healthy relationships, both partners feel comfortable and safe talking about their thoughts and feelings.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you feel close to your significant other?

  • Are you satisfied with the current level of physical and emotional intimacy in your relationship?

  • If you feel you’ve been drifting apart from each other, what is a way you could grow intimacy?

Long-term relationships often go through periods when partners don’t feel as close, but it’s important to have a foundation of intimacy for a healthy relationship. Often, honest conversations and quality time together create the right type of environment for physical and emotional intimacy to improve.

Trust

Trust is a vital part of healthy relationships. In a healthy relationship, you should not have to doubt your partner’s loyalty or truthfulness, and vice versa. Healthy couples spend time together, but they also have parts of their lives that are separate from each other. These often include work, hobbies, and friendships. When those in a relationship trust each other, it’s less likely for them to feel jealousy or doubt when their significant other spends time away from them.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you trust your significant other? Do they trust you?

  • If you ever feel the urge to be untruthful in your relationship, why is that?

  • When your significant other does things without you, do you feel jealous or worried?

Healthy couples can spend time together and apart without being overcome by jealousy or suspicion. These feelings are normal and understandable, and everyone experiences them sometimes. However, healthy couples can express the way they feel about the situation and reassure each other to bolster trust. 

Effective communication

A hallmark of healthy relationships is effective communication. This means clearly stating what you’re feeling and thinking, rather than hoping your partner will read your mind and know exactly what you need. It also means expressing your feelings in an honest but kind manner so that any conflict can be addressed and resolved.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you comfortable telling your significant other about the highlights and challenges in your life?

  • Do you fear judgment or criticism when you open up?

  • Do you and your partner tend to avoid confrontation?


Healthy couples may feel some nervousness when discussing sensitive topics, but they are willing to talk things over and find solutions together, rather than letting their problems grow larger.

Friendship

If you're in a healthy relationship, you probably consider your partner to be one of your closest friends. Maybe you have a similar sense of humor, and enjoy spending time together doing simple things like running errands and cleaning the house. Your relationship doesn’t only revolve around physical intimacy but is built on a close connection.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you enjoy spending time with your significant other?

  • Are you an important part of each other's lives?

  • Do you have fun together regardless of what you’re doing?

Sometimes, couples jump into relationships, only to realize that they don’t have much in common. This can strain some relationships because it can be challenging to find topics to talk about or do together. Fostering a close friendship with your significant other can make it easier to spend time together and have open communication.

Connection

People of healthy relationships have a deep bond that can be fostered by spending time together and nurturing their connection. Checking in with each other regularly, even when life gets busy, is one way couples can reinforce their connection. Making time for experiences together, such as dates and trips, can also grow a couple’s bond.

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Ask yourself:

  • Do you and your significant other make spending time together a priority?

  • What are your favorite things to do as a couple?

  • What is a memorable experience you can plan to do together?

It’s not always easy to create space for quality time when you and your partner live busy lives. Sitting down together and comparing your calendars to find opportunities for common experiences can help, as can scheduling childcare and making plans to cover other responsibilities if needed.

Commitment

Commitment can be a key characteristic for some healthy relationships. When both partners choose to commit to each other and stay together through the positive times and the challenging ones, they may feel safe knowing they can rely on their partner.

Ask yourself:

  • Have you discussed your relationship status and agreed to a level of commitment that works for both of you?

  • Has there been any form of infidelity in your relationship?

  • Is commitment a priority to both of you?

Infidelity can be upsetting and difficult to cope with. In some cases, a breach of trust may be a reason to separate. For others, it may be a sign that it’s time to work on the relationship together, perhaps by attending couples therapy.

Healthy conflict

Conflict plays a role in every relationship, but it’s important to address that conflict in a healthy way. In unhealthy relationships, you may see styles of conflict that involve name-calling, manipulation, harsh words, or even violence. In healthy relationships, it’s still normal to feel upset or angry with your significant other. Continuing to show respect, love, and a desire to understand your partner’s point of view often results in healthy conflict resolution. Those in healthy relationships team up to address the problem together, rather than viewing each other as opponents. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, know that help is available. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Ask yourself:

  • When you disagree with your significant other, are you able to discuss the issue respectfully?

  • Are you and your partner willing to compromise when needed?

  • Have you noticed any unhealthy conflict styles in your relationship?

Many people in relationships struggle to control their emotions and maintain healthy communication during times of conflict. It’s important to remember that you can always change the way you address conflict and that there are many resources, such as online articles, podcasts, and therapy, that can help.

Flexibility

It’s normal to grow and change throughout your life, and in long-term relationships, both are likely to change over the years. Those in healthy relationships are willing to accept that their significant other will not always be exactly the same as they were when they got together. Instead, they encourage the person they love to continue growing and embracing their true self as time goes on.

Ask yourself:

  • Does change lead to feelings of tension in your relationship?

  • Are you and your partner willing to accept each other as you are?

  • Do you support each other's dreams and goals, even if they change over time?

Embracing change and flexibility in relationships can improve your relationship health. Part of being in a long-term relationship is understanding that regardless of the small things that may change, you and your partner have committed to living life together.

Enjoyment

The last characteristic of healthy relationships is joy. While life contains challenges, tempering them with a balance of joyful moments can help maintain your relationship health. Finding time to laugh and enjoy the little moments together, and ensuring those fun experiences accompany the negative ones, can contribute to a healthy relationship.

Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you had fun together?

  • How can you increase your positive interactions?

  • Do you bring each other moments of joy?

A positive interaction doesn’t have to be an expensive vacation or fancy date night. Instead, it may be a hug and kiss before going to work, a sincere compliment, or a joke. The small, joyful moments add up and may make a difference in long-term relationship satisfaction.

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Online therapy can improve your relationship health

Online couples therapy can offer support to those in both healthy and unhealthy relationships, as it creates a safe environment for dating partners to explore the other’s interests and needs, set emotional boundaries, and express one’s own needs. You and your significant other may be able to discuss tough topics and develop healthy ways to overcome poor communication with the help of an objective third person. 

Based on this 2020 study, research suggests that, despite their initial doubts regarding online therapy, couples were able to create a strong therapeutic alliance and found the experience to be positive and beneficial for their relationships.

Takeaway

All relationships are different, but most healthy ones have the following characteristics:
  1. Respect
  2. Intimacy
  3. Trust
  4. Effective Communication
  5. Friendship
  6. Connection
  7. Commitment
  8. Healthy Conflict
  9. Flexibility
  10.  Enjoyment

If you feel that your relationship is lacking in one or more of these areas, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship is unhealthy. Instead, it indicates that you and your significant other may have an opportunity to grow and improve together. Online couples therapy is one way to cultivate your relationship health.

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