It seems like healthy relationships are in short supply. Many of our parents are divorced or in unhealthy marriages. Nearly every on-screen relationship is codependent or wildly dysfunctional. So, what does a healthy relationship look like?
Odds are there is a healthy relationship you can look to for guidance somewhere in your life. Maybe your best friend and her husband or your brother and his boyfriend. And if nothing else, look at Barack and Michelle Obama.
Aside from looking to successful and happy couples for a good example of what a healthy relationship looks like, knowing what to look for can guide you in the right direction.
[Read: 25 must-follow relationship rules for successful love]
What is a healthy relationship?
First of all, before figuring out what does a healthy relationship look like, it might be good to know what a healthy relationship really is.
Well, there isn’t a picture-perfect relationship. You have to remember that a healthy relationship does not mean a perfect relationship. It does not mean you are happy all the time. It does not mean you don’t fight or disagree.
There is no mathematical formula for a healthy relationship. You can do these things and expect your relationship to be healthy. [Read: 25 things couples in happy relationships always talk about]
A healthy relationship requires two healthy and emotionally stable people. A healthy relationship is like a healthy body. Your body needs water, nutrients, and exercise to function at its highest capacity. All the organs, muscles, and bones need to work together in harmony.
Your romantic relationship is the same. For it to be healthy, all the parts need to work together. You can’t carry your relationship alone and expect it to be balanced.
You could eat kale every day but if you don’t exercise or drink enough water it wouldn’t do much for you. The same goes for a relationship. You could put a lot of work in, but if your partner isn’t willing to do the same and communicate, listen, and compromise, the relationship, like your body will fail. [Read: The 10 most important needs to help a relationship flourish]
What does a healthy relationship look like?
A healthy relationship can be hard to spot from the outside, again like the human body. You could see someone you think looks unhealthy but in reality, they are fit, getting proper nutrition, and are healthier than someone that looks in perfect shape.
When a relationship looks cheery and perfect from the outside, it doesn’t mean it is actually a healthy relationship.
Healthy relationships come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and formats. A healthy relationship could be a throuple. It could be long distance. It could be mixed race, same-sex, 15 years apart, and more. [Read: 23 types of romantic relationships to define your love life]
A healthy relationship often doesn’t look like any other relationship from the outside. It is mostly what you experience within the relationship that often shows you what a healthy relationship looks like.
If you’re in a relationship that feels healthy but aren’t sure or want to know if you’ve ever had a healthy relationship or how to know when you’re in one, these are some signs of a healthy relationship.
#1 Respect. Every type of relationship requires respect to be healthy; whether it is a working relationship, a friendship, or of course, a romantic relationship. This sort of relationship is so often driven by gender stereotypes, but respect is required to create balance and fairness.
If you cannot respect the basics of each other’s lives meaning their religion, lifestyle, friends, and more then things start off without respect and will only grow worse. [Read: How to show respect and better love in your relationship]
#2 Understanding. Of course, communication is key to a healthy relationship, but you can communicate until you’re blue in the face if there is no understanding. A couple can share their feelings openly and honestly, but if they are not listening and really comprehending what they are hearing, it won’t do any good.
#3 Equality. Respect and equality do go hand in hand, but equality is different. Respect means that you accept each other’s differences and don’t judge them for their choice. Equality means that you share the same opportunities, rights, and status.
You should both be able to share responsibilities whether they be with work or around the house. You should be able to split tasks whether they carry an outdated gender role or not. A healthy couple involves people who are two equal individuals.
#4 Connection. I wanted to write chemistry for this but that is not always necessary. Not all healthy relationships have chemistry, a spark, or a fire. A connection matters though. You must have a fondness for each other. You should actually enjoy each other’s company.
The relationships that are full of chemistry but lack an actual connection are in trouble. A connection can be intellectual, physical, emotional, or more than one. Without that bond, it is hard to want to have a healthy relationship. [Read: The 15 reasons why an emotional connection is so important in a relationship]
#5 Support. Although the healthiest of relationships are helped by both parties having outside support, supporting your significant other is vital to a healthy relationship.
Support can be anything from paying for your partner’s higher education to listening to them vent about their job. It can be taking care of the house while you are swamped with a busy season at work or stepping up when you are going through a rough patch.
#6 Individuality. What does a healthy relationship look like? Well, it is not a couple that is like one person. A couple that spends so much time together and is never apart or entertaining their own hobbies and interests can seem amazing when in fact it is almost always codependent.
A relationship without individuality is not passionate or beautiful, it is full of control, loss of self, and can lead to the relationship defining your life and happiness. [Read: 14 signs you’re way too codependent and overstepping boundaries]
#7 Trust and honesty. Trust and honesty go hand in hand when it comes to a healthy relationship, because you cannot have one without the other. You cannot trust each other unless you are honest, and you can’t be honest unless you trust each other.
Some people still believe that secrets are the key to a happy relationship. But secrets are the key to a relationship that is happy on the surface, not healthy deep down. [Read: 20 things happy couples don’t do in a happy relationship]
#8 Lack of ego. We all have an ego. We all have moments of pride, vanity, and arrogance. But letting those characteristics take over in a relationship leads to belittling, manipulation, and control.
When your ego or your partner’s gets out of hand, that becomes the vital part of the relationship. Instead of caring, support, or love, it becomes about power, strength, and the ability to control. To maintain a healthy relationship, both partners need to be able to let go of their ego.
#9 Compromise. Letting go of your ego is what lets you compromise. Compromise is essentially a way of having healthy arguments. And these are so important. No couple will always agree. And bottling up those disagreements leads to resentment and anger.
Compromising is how you share your lives with differences. [Read:What you shouldn’t compromise on in a relationship]
#10 Laughter. Without humor and light-heartedness, a relationship can turn sour so quickly. If things are too serious all the time you lose the playfulness that makes being in a relationship so fun.
I know it seems odd, but humor and intimacy often go hand in hand. It can be difficult to be close and intimate if you take yourselves too seriously. You should be able to laugh until you cry and make fun of yourself together. That is what gives you the freedom and comfort of intimacy.
[Read: What does true love feel like? Here’s the feelings that best describe it]
If you still find yourself asking the questioning, “what does a healthy relationship look like?” you may just have to wait until it finds you to know for sure.
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