Having a romantic relationship has been associated with improved longevity and better health. However, unhealthy relationships can be detrimental to mental health. Here are seven tips for fostering healthy romantic partnerships that best support your physical and emotional well-being.
1. Be happy with yourself first
In a healthy relationship a partner should complement you, not complete you. During any relationship there may be times when you’re not your best self and your partner is there to support you. But your partner cannot be solely responsible for your happiness and vice versa. When each individual prioritizes their own mental health, the relationship will be healthier.
Communication may be the most obvious component of a healthy relationship, but it’s often overlooked. Communicating with your partner includes talking, listening, body language, and tone of voice.
Verbalize what you need or want from your partner (don’t expect them to read your mind) and listen to your partner’s needs.
Keep your body language open and attentive and use active listening skills, like follow up questions and head nodding, to help your partner feel heard and cared about. Be cautious of your tone and continue to use courteous language throughout your relationship. Phrases like “please” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” can go a long way toward fostering closeness and respect.
3. Have empathy
In addition to being a good listener, it’s important to be empathetic towards your partner. Your partner may simply need you to listen and not offer a solution to their problem. Frequent check-ins can help you tune into your partner’s emotional needs. Empathy can also help you give and receive constructive criticism in a more positive way.
4. Embrace imperfection
No relationship is perfect, and disagreements can actually help couples learn how to better communicate and work together. Research suggests that communication between healthy partners may involve one negative to every five positive comments. The idea is to have more positive than negative, not to avoid negative interactions altogether.
When arguing, aim to solve the problem and not the person. In other words, don’t make the argument personal and work to compromise with empathy and respect.
5. Respect one another
Mutual respect between partners is a must. Your partner should admire you and you should admire your partner. Although your partner may have different goals, passions, or a different role in your relationship, you should view each other as equals and maintain respect and admiration for the other’s purpose. This will allow you to appreciate your partner’s traits and talents and recognize what they bring to your partnership.
You shouldn’t feel the need to be anyone but yourself when you’re with your partner and your partner should respect and support you without trying to change you. Be each other’s cheerleaders, not bullies.
Respecting each other and yourself can mean setting boundaries and giving space when needed. While some people may take this personally, boundary setting within a relationship is healthy when approached with empathy and respect.
6. Be like-minded but not necessarily alike.
It’s easy to equate compatibility with sameness, but being the same or having the same interests doesn’t necessarily lead to a healthy relationship. Finding a partner who is exactly like you is rare, and while it may work for some relationships, it shouldn’t be the focus. If your partner is very into a hobby that you are not, this is not a bad thing. Finding a partner with the same values is the goal, not the same pastimes.
7. Celebrate and have fun
Sternberg’s triangle theory of love breaks down aspects of a relationship with the idea of “consummate love” at the center. The three corners of the relationship triangle are passion, intimacy, and commitment. With all three corners you achieve the goal of consummate love, or the ideal relationship. With commitment only you may find an “empty marriage” and with intimacy alone you may have more of a friendship bond. Scoring all three can lead to a happy and healthy relationship.
Studies show that to engaging in stimulating and thrilling activities (such as an exciting trip or new joint hobby) can keep passion from fading in a relationship. Try to find someone who is easy to have fun with so you can grow together and lead a passionate, engaging life.
If you feel you are in a relationship that is abusive and need support or guidance there are many resources who can help.
Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800)799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788 for assistance and support. You can also contact the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1(866)331-9474 or text “LOVEIS” to 22522 for support. All hotlines are free, confidential, and available 24/7.