By: Allyson Ende, PsyD
With divorce rates at 40-50% according to apa.org, it is clear many people know what an unhealthy relationship looks and feels like. Chances are that you know someone who is divorced. So, what is a healthy relationship? A healthy relationship involves two people who are independent and capable on their own choosing to be together. It is not finding someone who completes you or being with someone because there is no one else you want to date right now. Healthy relationships involve a conscious choice to be with the other person. It is knowing that the other person is not perfect and still wanting to be with them. It is liking and respecting the other person enough to stick by them when things go wrong or they make a bad decision.
There are many characteristics of a healthy relationship. One that is often talked about is communication. Are you respectful of your partner? Do you fight fair or do you bring up unrelated things from the past while fighting? To read more about how having a positive communication style within your relationship can help, check out the article at https://apa.org/helpcenter/healthy-relationships.aspx. In this article you will find constructive ways to communicate such as listening to your partner, attempting to understand how the other is feeling, and using humor.
Besides communication, nine psychological tasks for having a healthy relationship have been identified. The full article can be found at https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/marriage.aspx. Some of the tasks highlighted in this article include the need to separate emotionally from your family of origin, making your relationship a safe place where both partners have the ability to express negative feelings, keeping things in perspective, and making sure that you “nurture and comfort each other”.
Another great resource if you are interested in further reading is the book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D., and Nan Silver. In the book, the authors say that the heart of a happy marriage is friendship. They describe friendship as a “mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company”. While friendship is the foundation for a healthy marriage, the authors go on to present seven things that you can do to strengthen your marriage and make it the healthiest you can. A detailed summary of the book can be found at https://psychcentral.com/blog/7-research-based-principles-for-making-marriage-work/.