February is Relationship Wellness Month. While working on a healthy relationship should be a year round effort, this time of year is a great opportunity to assess your relationship, nurture it and improve areas in your relationship like connection and communication.
When talking about relationship wellness, it is important to understand and recognize what a healthy relationship looks like. If your relationship misses the mark on these, it may be time to get help to work toward improving things, or to let go of an unhealthy relationship.
Elements of a healthy relationship
Trust: Trust is a critical component of any healthy relationship. Having trust in the other person allows you to feel safe and secure, letting you be your true self. In a healthy relationship, trust comes easily and you don’t have to question the other person’s intentions or whether they have your back.
Independence: You know the saying “other half”? That is not actually what makes a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship is between two whole people who come together. Do you have interests and hobbies that you do not share with your partner? That is great and your partner should give you space to be yourself outside of the relationship. Having independence means being free to do your own things AND giving your partner that same freedom.
Feeling equal: Does your relationship feel balanced? Are you both putting in the same effort toward the success of the relationship? Are you compromising equally and both being heard and having your needs met? It doesn’t have to be perfectly equal all the time—sometimes you might put in more (money, time, emotional support) than your partner, and vice versa—but it should balance out overall.
Healthy conflict: Conflict is a normal and expected part of any relationship. In a healthy relationship, you should be able to openly and respectfully discuss issues and confront disagreements in a non-judgemental way. If you are looking for tools and skills to approach conflict in a healthy way, couples counseling may be able to help.
You have fun together: Do you and your partner have fun? Life can get overwhelming and couples can forget what brought them together in the first place. Making time to have fun together is an important part of a healthy relationship.
Honesty: Can you be truthful without fearing how the other person will respond? In a healthy relationship, you should feel like you can share the full truth about your life and feelings with each other.
Kindness: In a healthy relationship, the other person will do things that they know will make you happy. Kindness should be given and returned in your relationship. You should be caring and empathetic to one another, and provide comfort and support.
Accountability: Instead of being defensive or placing blame and deflecting, it is important in a healthy relationship that both parties take accountability for their actions. When a mistake is made, you should genuinely apologize and take ownership for the impact your words or behavior had, even if it wasn’t your intention.
Is your relationship hitting the mark or falling short? Sometimes life gets in the way and we can get out of synch in our relationships. If you want help getting back on track, seeking help from a professional can help. Counseling isn’t just for couples in conflict. The goals of couples counseling include improved communication, better problem solving skills, enhanced intimacy, and overall satisfaction in the relationship for both partners involved as you should enjoy the relationship you are in. That is something any relationship can benefit from.
Maaliea Wilbur is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Executive Director of TherapyWorks. With 10-plus years of experience, Wilbur’s broad-level expertise allows her to successfully support kids, teens, adults, couples and families. For information, visit mytherapyworks.com.