What Makes a Healthy Relationship?

What Makes a Healthy Relationship?


Healthy Relationships Take Time to Build.

By Lauren McKeithen

Every couple should strive to have a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships involve honesty, trust, respect, open communication between partners, and making an effort to compromise between both people with no imbalance of power. Partners respect each other’s independence, make their own decisions without fear of revenge or retaliation, and share decisions. Strong relationships don’t look the same for every couple since different people have different needs.

Your specific needs around communication, affection, shared hobbies, and love may change throughout life. So a relationship in your 20’s may look different from a relationship in your 30’s. Relationships that don’t align with more conventional definitions of a relationship can still be considered healthy. Essentially, a healthy relationship is a broad term because what makes a relationship thrive depends on the people involved. Still, here are a few concepts that make a healthy relationship.

Trust in Healthy Relationships

Trust in your partner is a critical element of any healthy relationship. Research indicates that your attachment style influences your ability to trust others. Relationships experienced early in life help shape the expectations that you have for future relationships. If your past connections have been secure, trusting, and stable, you’re more likely to trust prospective partners as well. However, if your past relationships were unstable and undependable, you may need to work through some trust issues in the future. Trust is also established by how partners trust one another. When you see that your partner treats you well, and is dependable, you’re more likely to develop this trust. Building trust requires mutual self-disclosure by sharing things about yourself. As time passes, opportunities to test and evaluate that trust emerge. If you feel like you have to hide things from your partner, it may be because you lack essential trust.


While all couples have differing levels of openness, you should never feel like you have to hide parts of yourself or change who you are to be with your partner. Being open and honest with each other not only helps you feel more connected as a couple but also helps build trust. Self-disclosure means that you’re willing to share things about yourself with another person. At the beginning of a relationship, you may hold back and exercise more caution about what you’re eager to share. As time goes on and the intimacy of the relationship grows, partners start to share more about their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions with each other. Still, this doesn’t mean that you need to share everything with your partner. What matters most is whether each partner feels comfortable sharing their hopes and feelings if they choose to do so. Healthy couples don’t need to be together all the time or share everything. While your partner may have different needs than you, it’s important to remember to find ways to compromise while maintaining your boundaries. Boundaries aren’t about secrecy; they establish that each person has their own needs and expectations.

Mutual Respect

In healthy relationships, people have a shared respect for one another. They don’t humiliate or belittle one another. Instead, they offer support and security. There are several different ways that couples can show respect for one another, like listening to one another, building each other up, understanding, and empathizing with each other. Having regard in a relationship also means respecting your partner’s feelings. You may not participate in certain activities because you know it will make your partner upset. Having mutual respect in a relationship may also mean not engaging with certain people because it will make your partner feel offended. By respecting your partner’s feelings, you’re showing the love and appreciation that you have for them.

Affection in Good Relationships

Fondness and affectation characterize healthy relationships. The preliminary passion that marks the beginning of a relationship tends to decrease over time. Still, this doesn’t mean that the need for love lessens. Passionate love usually happens during the start of a relationship, characterized by intense longing, strong emotions, and a need to be physically close. This passionate love usually turns to compassionate love, marked by feelings of trust, commitment, and intimacy. While those intense early feelings eventually return to normal at some point, couples in healthy relationships can build deeper intimacy as the relationship progresses. It’s also important to remember that everyone’s physical needs are different. The key to a healthy relationship is that both partners are content with the amount of affection they share. A nurturing partnership is described by genuine fondness and love for each other expressed in several different ways.

Good Communication

Healthy, long-lasting relationships, whether romantic or platonic, require communication ability. It may seem like the best relationships don’t argue, but knowing how to argue and resolve conflict effectively is more important than avoiding arguments to keep the peace. Sometimes, conflict can be an opportunity to strengthen a connection with your significant other. When conflicts do arise, those in healthy relationships can avoid personal attacks. Instead, they stay respectful and empathetic of their partner as they discuss their thoughts and feelings and work toward a resolution.


Strong relationships have natural reciprocity. It’s not about keeping score or feeling like you owe the other person. You do things for one another because you genuinely want to do them. Reciprocity doesn’t mean that the give and take in a relationship is always 100 percent equal. At times, one partner may need more help and support. In other cases, one partner may prefer to take more of a caregiver role. These imbalances are typical, as long as each person is okay with the dynamic and both partners get the support they need.

Signs of Problems

Relationships can change over time, and not every relationship is 100 percent healthy all the time. In particular, times of stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors and coping mechanisms that can create issues. A relationship is unhealthy when the bad outweighs the good or when certain behaviors are harmful to one or both people in the relationship. These behaviors can include feeling pressured to change who you are, poor communication, and lack of privacy.

It’s Time to Seek Help

All relationships are going to have bumps in the road. Conflicts over finances, parenting, and other differences can create ups and downs in a long-term relationship. Even if you and your partner have a stable relationship most of the time, problems might arise that may benefit from professional help. If you feel like the relationship can benefit from outside assistance, consider talking to a counselor or therapist.


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