Top 10 Characteristics Of Healthy Relationships
By Julia Thomas
Updated December 10, 2018
Reviewer Audrey Kelly, LMFT
Healthy relationships are not always exciting, passionate, and glamorous like they show in movies. There are happy times, but there are hard times too. What sets healthy relationships apart from unhealthy ones is that healthy couples stick with each other through thick and thin. Even if they fight, they can cool down, talk about it, and work things out.
Wondering about the characteristics of healthy relationships vs unhealthy relationships? Healthy couples love and support each other even if they don't always see eye-to-eye about everything. Unhealthy relationships, not so much.
Wondering if your relationship is healthy or unhealthy? Sometimes you can be so trapped in a negative relationship that you don't even know you're in one. You may feel guilty for thinking that your relationship is unhealthy. You tell yourself that your significant other is loving sometimes, but what about the times when they aren't? They might always apologize but are they willing to change?
Talking to a counselor can help you gain clarity about your situation. You can search for a local counselor or sign up for BetterHelp, an affordable online counseling service where you're quickly connected with a qualified counselor matched to your needs. A counselor can help you decide if the best solution is to try and work on things or move on.
Top 10 Characteristics of Healthy Relationships
Healthy couples love and care for each other. If the relationship is still in the early stages, a healthy couple at least likes each other (in a way that's more than just lust). Healthy relationships are built on more than just physical intimacy, popularity, and other trivial things. Solid relationships take work and real connection. Love isn't always easy, but it's worth it.
- Do I love my significant other?
- Would I still want to be with them if they were poor or sick?
- Is there a deep connection between us?
There's a big difference between puppy love (or lust) and true love. Once you experience it it's usually easy to tell if you've fallen for someone or if it's just a crush. If you feel like the love is fading in your relationship, it might be a warning sign. When this happens, it's important to address it to see if these feelings are temporary or not. You may be able to rekindle your love with a little effort.
Most healthy couples are affectionate, in a good way. They kiss, hug, hold hands, and enjoy cuddling on the couch to watch a movie. This may change a little over time but if you can't stand to touch each other, that's usually a sign that something's off in your relationship. In a healthy relationship, you can have days or weeks where you don't feel like being close physically, but those periods usually pass.
- When was the last time you kissed your significant other?
- Does one of you tend to cringe or back away from physical contact?
- If you've been drifting apart from each other, did something happen to bring on this change?
Relationships go through hot and cold periods, but if things have been especially cold between you lately, something might be up. It's possible that one or both of you have lost your attraction to the other or an underlying problem in your relationship is causing you to avoid being affectionate. Either way, it's important to talk about it if you want to get things back to normal.
Trust is a huge part of healthy relationships. In a healthy relationship, you should be able to tell each other everything, since you know that secrets have their way of coming out eventually. Healthy couples spend time together, but they also have parts of their lives that are separate from work, hobbies, and spending time with certain friends. That's where trust is extra important.
- Do you trust your significant other? Do they trust you?
- Are you telling any lies in your relationship? If so, why?
- When your significant other does things without you, do you get jealous or suspicious?
Healthy couples can spend time together and apart without being overcome by jealousy or suspicion. If these feelings do come up, healthy couples are more likely to talk about it and smooth things over before it becomes a bigger issue. Unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, allow these feelings to get worse until an inevitable blow-up occurs.
Part of maintaining trust in a healthy relationship requires putting the focus on communication. You need to be able to communicate with your partner if you want your relationship to be healthy. Remember that your partner can't read your mind, even if you think that your feelings should be obvious to them. You need to tell each other how you're feeling if you ever want to get along.
- Are you comfortable telling your significant other when something good OR bad happens?
- Do you fear judgment or criticism when you open-up about things?
- Do the two of you tend to avoid confrontation?
Healthy couples aren't afraid to tell each other things, good or bad. Even when life gets hard, healthy couples are willing to talk things over and find solutions to problems instead of letting them stew. This is because healthy couples know that avoiding little issues causes bigger problems, whereas in unhealthy relationships avoidance and miscommunication happens often.
If you're in a healthy relationship, you probably consider your partner to be one of your friends, if not your best friend. Maybe you were friends before you got together, or maybe not, but over time the two of you have developed a special connection. You know things about each other that no one else does and sometimes they seem like the person you're most 'yourself' around.
- Do you enjoy spending time with your significant other?
- Are you an important part of each other's lives?
- Have things suddenly become awkward between you or do you find you have nothing in common?
Sometimes when you jump into a relationship without getting to know the person first, you realize after the fact that you don't have much in common. This can put a strain on a relationship because these couples usually struggle to find things to talk about or do together. If you aren't friends, it can be hard to enjoy spending together and prevent you from building a solid relationship.
What do friends and healthy couples do? They bond! If you want a relationship that's strong like glue, you need to spend time together and nurture your connection. Even when things are busy, you should take the time to check in with each other at least once a day. Couples in healthy relationships remember to plan dates and solo time together and make plans 'together' with other people.
- When was the last time you made spending time together a priority?
- What are your favorite things to do together?
- Do you always seem to argue when you try to do things as a couple or with friends?
If bonding time always ends in bickering time, your relationship might not be healthy. A healthy couple makes time for each other, and they're able to enjoy that time without letting little differences of opinion get in the way. Healthy couples know that quality time helps keep their relationship strong, which is why they're always making plans and trying new things together.
Speaking of glue, commitment is one of the things that holds healthy relationships together. For a relationship to feel secure, both partners need to know where they stand. If you feel the need to cheat on your significant other, it probably means something is missing from your relationship. The mature thing to do would be to talk about it, see if you can work things out and end it if you want someone else.
- Have you talked about your relationship status and agreed not to see other people?
- Do you ever notice your significant other flirting with other people?
- Is commitment something that is important to both of you?
When someone has cheated in a lot of relationships in the past, it can be hard for them to stop the pattern. You might think that you can make them change, but these habits may have been learned. This means it will take time for them to unlearn those habits if they're willing. For a relationship to be healthy, both people need to be committed and willing to work on any problems that come to the surface.
Yes, that's right. Disagreement is part of a healthy relationship if it's handled in a certain way. All couples argue or disagree with each other from time to time, that's completely normal. The difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one is that in a healthy relationship couples can talk through their disagreement and come to a compromise.
- When you disagree do you talk about it calmly or do things usually get heated?
- Are you and your significant other able to come to compromises?
- Do either of you hold on to grudges when you don't get your way?
If a small disagreement sends you and your partner into larger arguments where name-calling and other abusive behaviors ensue, your relationship might not be as healthy as you think. Healthy couples can resolve disputes maturely, even if some harsh words are said in the heat of the moment. Unhealthy couples tend to leave things unresolved or always bring up past issues in new arguments.
A couple of other characteristics of healthy relationships are change and flexibility. If you're in a long-term relationship, you need to be aware that the two of you are going to change over time. You can't assume someone is going to stay the same forever, and acting that way can hold a person back. This stops them from growing and becoming their true selves.
- When things change in your relationship, does it cause a lot of tension?
- Does your significant other always bring up things from your past that you're trying to put behind you?
- Do you support each other's dreams and goals, even if they change over time?
Couples need to embrace at least a bit of change and flexibility. When you're in a committed relationship, you're sharing your life with another person. Things aren't always going to be perfect and you're each going to have to 'go with the flow' sometimes. The important thing is that throughout all the changes that life throws at you, you have each other.
The last characteristic of healthy relationships is fun! Yes, there are going to be plenty of times in any healthy relationship that isn't fun, but the balance is important. Making sure you incorporate regular fun and relaxation time into your relationship is a powerful way to keep things interesting and remind you why your significant other is so important to you.
- When was the last time you had a good laugh together?
- Do you ever do anything spontaneous and exciting to change things up?
- Are you stuck in a pattern of going to work and staying at home all the time?
When couples fall into a routine where they are consumed by their work and barely make time for each other, the relationship usually suffers. It's important to make time to reconnect and remember why you're working so hard in the first place. When couples forget how to have fun things get boring. It starts to get difficult being around each other because stress builds up and you don't have an outlet for it.
If you're in a healthy relationship, chances are you're familiar with one or more of these characteristics. Healthy relationships take place between friends who enjoy spending time together and agree to love and support each other through thick and thin. Healthy couples are willing to work through hard times and celebrate good times together.
Think you might be in an unhealthy relationship? Online or in-person counseling can help you start to see things clearer and come up with a way to get out of the relationship if and when you are ready. No one deserves to be in a relationship that is unhappy. You need to decide if it is worth sticking around and working on it or if you're determined to find something better.