Whether you’re partnered up and blissful, partnered up and unsure, or navigating the turbulent waters of singledom right now, it’s possible you’ve found yourself wondering about healthy relationships.
What do they look like? Are you in one? Where does one find such an elusive thing? And if you do, how do you maintain it? All good questions. All with kind of complicated answers. We’ll try and run through some of them for you today.
Seeing as I am by no means a relationship expert, I enlisted the help of Lorna Andriamora, Counselling Lecturer at the Australian College of Applied Professions, who shared her thoughts on the area over email.
Here’s what she had to say about healthy relationships and managing them.
To start, what does a healthy relationship look like?
It may sound like a simple question, but the truth here is that broadly held ideas about what ‘real’ love looks like are often wrong.
People talk about intense, all-encompassing love – which can be incredible – but then don’t discuss the warning signs of toxic relationships. We’re also often served the idea that relationships should be challenge-free.
Andriamora shared that “In the fairy tale world, love is easy and has no flaws”.
“However, a healthy relationship is constantly evolving, growing, and developing through obstacles and conflict,” she said.
In fact, learning to disagree constructively is quite an asset.
Ultimately though, Andriamora said there are three things that every healthy relationship will have.
Respect: Love and respect go hand in hand. Are you and your partner/s in a place where you respect each other, regardless of conflict? Do you treat one another with kindness and try to understand the other person and their point of view even when it doesn’t align with your own?
Comfortability: You trust and can be yourself in the relationship.
Communication: Communication in a relationship builds trust and helps alleviate any underlying insecurities within the relationship. Communicating with your partner ensures that all parties involved have the chance to express their current state of being.
Beyond these three elements, she simply shared that “a healthy relationship can be defined as one that is always evolving. Each partner is constantly engaged and actively trying to understand and love their significant other”.
In essence, you’re both putting time and effort into caring for and really seeing the other.
If your romance is feeling strained, what can you do?
This is a bit of a tricky one as all relationships are different, but Andriamora did have some general advice for people wanting to work on their romance a little.
Her first tip? Listen.
“Everyday skills such as listening are essential to having difficult conversations,” she shared.
If something in your relationship is feeling out of place, a conversation (or a few conversations) will need to be had.
Going into that, Andriamora suggests making sure “you and your partner are in a suitable headspace” to have an open and respectful discussion.
“Understand that this is not a courtroom and that a conversation is about coming to an understanding and not about always being right,” she added.
You’re here to work on your relationship and give one another the space to speak to any issues that may be grating at you. Being right really isn’t important at all; being heard is.
If you’re finding your discussions aren’t getting anywhere, you can always seek out the support of a couple’s counsellor for a more guided approach.
Who knows? Maybe a helping hand is exactly what you need to get to a healthy relationship.
In any case, the nature of relationships is that over time, they will shift and grow as you do. And that’s kind of beautiful. Just keep in mind the things that matter most to you and your partner, make an effort to support one another, and chances are you’ll have a healthy relationship for a while yet.