Healthy relationships contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of our outlook on life, our happiness and our ability to contend with stressors. Healthy relationships allow for individuality, bring out the best in both people, and invite personal growth. Developing meaningful relationships with family, friends and colleagues is a concern for all of us. Getting close to others, sharing our joys, sorrows, needs, wants, affections, and excitements is risky business. Each relationship we have with individuals at home, work, or play is most likely a combination of both healthy and unhealthy characteristics. All healthy relationships need to be maintained and take work. What supports our ability to get close to others in all types of relationships? The 10 characteristics of health relationships listed below are not an exhaustive list. These are at the heart of healthy relationships and are expressed by both parties.
My Great Aunt Peg and Uncle John lived out these characteristics beautifully in their 62+ years of marriage. A marriage that I don’t believe really ended at death do us part but some how transcended the physical boundaries and separation imposed by the death of a beloved. They were both characters. With John as the sly humorist and Peg as the straight woman. Some of the times I laughed the hardest was riding with them in the car on the way to lunch. Here are Peg and John before our last lunch together.
- Mutual Respect: You have admiration and esteem for each other as individuals. Each bringing perspectives, experience and skills to the world. There is a genuine interest in each other, which is explored and enriches you both. Inherent in this is taking care of yourself and have good self-esteem independent of your relationship.
- Trust and Honesty: You trust in each other and are honest with each other in all things. Other relationships are encouraged. You have the option of privacy with, for and from each other. You feel secure and happy when you’re together and alone—not sad, suspicious, angry, or deprived.
- Loyalty and Support: You are there for each other, unconditionally. Trust is not betrayed. You are authentic and open with each other, creating a positive, meaningful environment, where even the difficult is addressed with kindness.
- Dependability: You are able to count on each other and you follow through with what you say you will do. When you can’t follow through there is a good reason for this. Forgiveness and understanding are present in the relationship. You each take responsibility for your actions.
- Fairness and Equality: Relationships are built on give and take; allowing your husband, friend, colleague, child . . . to influence you is important. Relationships are two-way streets; sometimes the traffic flows more heavily in a given direction, but over time the volume balances out. Being kind rather than controlling with each other is essential for a healthy relationship.
- Separate Identities: You maintain and respect each other’s individuality and what you share in common. You have activities apart from one another. You encourage each other’s growth.
- Good Communication: You are able to express yourself without fear or consequences and feel heard, understood and accepted. You respect each other’s ways of communicating and learn how to communicate so the other person hears what you are saying. You listen with an open heart and a desire to understand more important than judging each other or defending yourself.
- Resolve Conflicts Fairly: Conflict is a part of all relationships. Understanding each other’s motivators and stressors is important to managing conflicts. Fighting fairly and having a way to resolve conflicts is paramount.
- Playfulness and Fondness: You laugh and play together. In the midst of difficulties, you help each other to lighten up with humor. Laughter and fun play a huge role in a healthy relationship.
- Similar Values. When you make major decisions you fall close in line. Disagreement about some issues is normal but agreeing about the big subjects like how to spend money is important.