Last week we finished looking at the unhealthy relationship behaviors, this week we begin exploring how to cultivate healthy relationships.
How to cultivate healthy relationships
Cultivating a healthy relationship is not complex but it does take effort and ideally commitment from both partners to want to actively work on the relationship. This isn’t to say that by adopting these behaviors yourself you can’t improve things, but rather that for the best results both partners should be willing to work together – with shared responsibility – for making the relationship the healthiest it can be.
Unsurprisingly the healthy relationship model is very balanced, with equal times spend both together and apart. This works to promote a sense of identity and independence outside of the relationship whilst the shared contact encourages inter-connectedness and provides sufficient emotional and mental support to the other.
Healthy relationship behaviors
The good news is that there are also many relationship behaviors that we can adopt to foster a more healthy, happy and balanced relationship.
Respecting your partner
Respecting your partner is essential for any healthy relationship. To cultivate respect examine what qualities you admire in your partner. Are they disciplined, honest, kind or thoughtful? This will then give you a good foundation to foster greater levels of respect for one another.
Trusting your partner and being honest
It is somewhat true that trust is earned however when you enter into a relationship with someone it is important to trust them to be honest with you rather than you expecting them to lie or cheat. Give them the benefit of the doubt and if they do something that causes you to mistrust them, discuss it openly and then leave it in the past, where it belongs.
Should your partner continuously repeat the same dishonest behavior it is then time for you to honestly evaluate whether the relationship is serving you well.
It’s also true that if you are dishonest it will be harder to trust your partner, so endeavor to be honest whilst also being sensitive in your delivery (diplomatically honest), even when it is difficult to do so.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable
This goes hand in hand with honesty. Part of what couples in healthy relationships do well is honestly share their insecurities, hurt, fears and true self.
Being vulnerable, as scary as it is, is the only way to true intimacy – one of the most amazing things that romantic relationships have to offer.
So the next time you have a disagreement or difference in opinion vulnerably share why you are so hurt / insecure / scared. Often taking that brave first step will diffuse any potential conflict and lead to increased trust and intimacy.
Being assertive and creating healthy boundaries
Being assertive is often confused for being tactless or aggressive whereas in fact it is the complete opposite. Essentially all assertiveness is, is protecting your rights whilst also protecting the rights of your partner. It involves creating healthy boundaries which protect you from mistreatment.
If you struggle, as I did, to be assertive, please read my article on assertiveness titled ‘Assertiveness; A Journey Worth Taking’. It takes an in-depth look into how to be truly assertive, communicating and protecting your inherent worth.
Retaining your identity and beliefs
A healthy relationship dynamic is one where each partner has equal amounts of time both inside and outside of the relationship. This serves to protect your identity outside of the relationship and to foster a healthy amount of intimacy inside the relationship.
Remain quintessentially yourself, it will inspire your partner to respect you more and it will mean you have so much more to add to the relationship.
Likewise, if you hold beliefs that are important to you which your partner doesn’t share don’t automatically ditch them when you enter into a relationship. They are what make you, you, and a loving partner would not try to encourage or convince you to sacrifice your beliefs for them, nor should you think you need to. Remember, when you entered into the relationship, your partner knew your beliefs, and so, if they truly accept you unconditionally, they will accept your beliefs too.
Spending quality time together
This is often confused for how much time you spend together but quality time is more than just being in each other’s company. It is hard to define as what you do is not necessarily important (it could be reading the papers on a Sunday morning over coffee in bed) but the impact of what you do and how it makes you feel is.
For example, is being with your partner enhancing your time? Do you feel connected to your partner when you engage in the activity? Do you consider the time you are spending with them fun? Does the activity increase the bond you share? These are all questions to ask yourself when considering how much quality time you really spend together.
Exploring interests with your partner without automatically adopting them
It is healthy to have shared interests with your partner, for instance, my boyfriend and I have a real passion for movies. Although it is by no means necessary it is quite bonding to gain satisfaction from an activity or pastime you can do together.
Try out different activities and find out whether you enjoy anything they do and vice versa. If nothing else it will be a source of comedy if you don’t.
Have you ever displayed one of the healthy relationship behaviors in this week’s article? Has your past or current partner? What of the behaviors would you most like to work on adopting? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
‘The relationship skills workbook: A do-it-yourself guide to a thriving relationship’ by Julia B Colwell, Ph. D. An ideal book for you or – even better – both of you!
‘Safe People: How to find relationships that are good for you and avoid those that aren’t’ by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend
Stay tuned – next week we explore more healthy relationship behaviors!