Relationships that last long are not merely a result of good luck. It takes much more to have a healthy lasting relationship with your partner. A willingness and an effort to not only make it work but make it better. But it still leaves us to wonder, after all, what makes a good relationship? What are those qualities and variables?
The term ‘holistic health’, we are sure, must not have escaped your attention in the current self-care era— holistic in reference to all parts of an individual’s health that allow them to live a blissful life. A multidimensional aspect of wellness that comprises the physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual health. The health of one’s relationship plays an extremely important role in directly determining one’s mental and emotional health while also affecting their physical, social, spiritual and intellectual health.
We wanted to make the discussion around the health of a relationship simple and keep it to the point — 10 things that make a good relationship. It couldn’t get any more straightforward than that. We talked to Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling, for her insights into the most important things in a relationship.
Expert Recommends 10 Things That Make A Good Relationship
When we asked Shazia how she would define a good relationship, she said, “When love is accompanied by mutual trust, respect and healthy boundaries, when neither partner feels burdened or overwhelmed by anything and when both feel content and happy together, that is a healthy relationship, a good relationship.”
Like good skin could be a sign of good physical health, we are left wondering if there are in fact signs that we can look for to recognize good relationship health or what makes a good relationship. Shazia gives us some early signs of a good relationship. She points out “feeling safe and secure in a relationship, accepting each other as they are without feeling the need to change them” as two important signs one can look for and feel satisfied knowing that their relationship is on the right track.
Shazia also talks about the space each partner gives to the other to allow their individuality to grow as one of the early signs of a good relationship. She says “Giving space to the other person and trying not to enter into each other’s personal space is another straightforward sign.” We asked Shazia to help us look into what makes a good relationship. And these are the 10 things she wanted to talk about.
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1. Respect is foremost in what makes a good relationship
Mutual respect in a relationship is the foundation of its well-being. It helps establish all the other essential qualities in a healthy relationship. For example, to be able to communicate effectively, there should first be respect between the two partners. So that each partner can rest assured that their point of view will not only be taken otherwise but instead given due credit and sincerely understood.
How do you recognize respect? “If you look at how two people treat each other, you would know if they respect each other or not. Partners who respect each other allow the other person to disagree with them. That is essential. That is what makes a good relationship.” says Shazia.
It is important to note that allowing the other person to disagree doesn’t mean blindly agreeing with them. It means to be okay with being on two opposite ends of an argument and be willing to come to a middle point of compromise with the trust that the other person’s opinion holds as much value as yours. Respect is undoubtedly the connecting hub or node of all the things that make a relationship great.
Watch out for signs of disrespect in your relationship. They are usually very easy to spot but only if you look at your relationship objectively. Your partner not valuing your time and your personal space, not consulting you before making major decisions, or not giving you any room to disagree with them are only a few of such signs of disrespect.
2. Trust is the foundation of a good relationship
Often used to define a good relationship, trust is the ability to feel safe in relying on someone. When you trust someone, you feel confident in the knowledge that they will always have your best interest in mind. That they have your back and will not hurt you. This reliability is what makes a good relationship.
Romantic relationships are special in the sense that the level of intimacy between the two people involved is unlike any other relationship in your lifetime. Every aspect of the lives of two people gets intertwined with each other, exposing all the vulnerabilities of one partner to the other. In such a relationship, it would be impossible to function without trust. Which makes building trust in a relationship an extremely vital exercise for its health.
Fear and doubt are nothing but an absence of trust. And we know how that affects the health of a relationship. In the absence of trust, you never let go. It becomes impossible to feel the joys of a relationship if you can’t feel the ease that comes with being able to trust someone.
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3. Healthy boundaries are one of the early signs of a good relationship
Have you wondered what makes a good relationship last a long time without eating away at your personal identity? It is quite simply having boundaries. Boundaries are not only for the health of the relationships but also for the mental health of each individual in the relationship. Respecting boundaries is one of the most obvious ways of showing trust in your partner.
We just talked about the intimacy that is inevitably shared between two people in a romantic relationship. We know how we are conditioned to the notions of the “merging of souls” in a relationship. You would agree with us when we say that it is extremely crucial that some boundaries are laid down to help each partner maintain their individuality as well as have some breathing space. Togetherness should not be misunderstood as a loss of identity.
Shazia says, “Examples of healthy boundaries are setting up a certain personal shield around you, not allowing anyone to tamper with it. It entails not compromising on certain things. Things that you feel strongly about. If you both can agree to disagree on issues of conflict, coming to a mutually beneficial agreement, a middle point, that is also a sign of a healthy boundary.”
Establishing boundaries could also be about declaring what you will and will not tolerate. Identify areas in your relationship where you feel your choices are violated. Explicitly communicate your limits as an individual that your partner should not trespass.
4. Space gives relationships room to breath
A conversation on boundaries most naturally leads to a conversation about space. Boundaries define space. Every healthy relationship allows its participants space to be themselves. This space could be physical space, quite literally in having a room of one’s own, or maybe something as seemingly insignificant as a personal closet, or a personal working desk in the house.
But space could also mean the space to be, to exist. To have the liberty to have your hobbies, your own friends, your own belief system or values, or even a political ideology or religious belief. This space could also be the space of time. Do you take time to be by yourself? This little thing could very well be what makes a good relationship.
“Partners must allow each other to be themselves without judgment,” says Shazia, “Everyone should also have a life of their own, and uninterrupted time to themselves as well. It allows people to stop losing their individuality, which is unhealthy for a relationship.” Space also gives you time to reflect on your own emotions.
5. Open communication is one of the most important qualities of a good relationship
“Communication is key.” We have all heard this one many times over, in contexts far wider than the realm of romantic relationships. And rightly so, nothing would ever function without effective communication, and yet we often fail to give it as much emphasis as it needs in the most important of all our relationships, the romantic ones.
According to Shazia, the basis of open communication with your partner is decided by something very simple. “The ability to talk and discuss anything under the sun with your partner without the fear of being judged.” That is it! No “how-tos” of effective communication will work if there is fear of judgment.
This sort of takes us back to the point about respect. Judgment comes from a lack of respect. See how it is all related? Communication allows you to explain your experience of emotion as well as what your needs are. It not only helps in navigating tough times in your relationship but it also is essential if you are looking for something more from your relationship. For example, expressing your desires. There is no way around this essential quality that makes a good relationship.
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6. Security is crucial for a relationship to survive
Security in a relationship is the anchor that holds the relationship steady in rough waters. Security is what makes a good relationship last. In fact, it is the certainty of not losing your partner or the relationship that allows you to practice most of the advice in this article, such as honest communication, or asking for space.
Ask yourself, “Is my relationship secure? How can I overcome feeling insecure?” Are you and your partner consistent with showing love to each other? Do you reassure each other, both through your actions as well as your words, that you are there for them no matter what?
Insecurity often creeps into a relationship due to neglect or taking the relationship for granted. It may also at times enter through a partner who has been struggling with feelings of insecurity because of past trauma. In which case, sometimes no matter how hard the other partner tries to make the insecure partner feel their support, their own limitations in regards to their mental health make it difficult to overcome this relationship challenge.
Professional support can be extremely helpful in dealing with such cases. If you feel you or your partner feel insecure in your relationship no matter how much effort you put in, seeking counseling can be immensely helpful in breaking this pattern. If you’re looking for professional help, Bonobology’s panel of experts is here for you.
7. Emotional connection makes a good relationship last
A connection has a significant role in all human relationships. We tend to connect to people who provide us with feelings of safety, comfort and validation. An emotional connection in a romantic relationship is the feeling of love and attachment that two people feel for each other.
Emotions of love and anger, or even nothingness, fluctuate within us all the time. Emotional connection is the constant that tethers you to another person and brings you back to them. It also allows you to not stray too far. Shazia calls emotional connection “a bond that is very important for good relationships and physical intimacy between two partners”. She adds, “It is important that two partners take care of each other’s emotional needs as well to keep this bond intact.”
Connection is what makes a good relationship survive not just conflicts and crises but mundane things like boredom or simply the passage of time. But there is a thin line between having a connection and getting too attached. While the former is essential, the latter can get toxic when you start depending too much on your partner to fulfill your emotional needs. It is always advisable to be careful and to seek professional support if you find yourself developing unhealthy and insecure attachment patterns.
8. Assertiveness is what all strong relationships need
When Shazia talked about assertiveness, we too felt that this was not your usual one on a list like this. When asked what she meant by assertiveness, Shazia said “Assertiveness is saying no when it needs to be said. Assertiveness is not agreeing to do something which you believe is not your cup of tea.”
We appreciate Shazia’s forthrightness and the importance she puts on this quality for what makes a good relationship. Being open and direct with your wants, wishes and needs is the keystone to good communication between two partners. It doesn’t help anyone when one partner expects the other to already know what they need. When their partner fails at this unnecessary test, it only creates issues that cause resentment.
It is, in fact, unfair to expect your partner to just know what’s on your mind. It is infinitely more effective and simple to just ask for it. Being assertive in a relationship is often challenging because early in a relationship we want to please our partner in the hopes to cement our relationship. And later, either old habits set into permanent patterns or we avoid them for fear of hurting our partner.
No matter where you stand, you can start with simpler ways of showing assertion, such as expressing gratitude, making requests or gently inviting a dialogue with your partner.
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9. Proactiveness makes a good relationship last
We must all have heard of the importance of being proactive, but at the workplace. Considered one of the most important qualities for a diligent employee, we tend to ignore it at home. Proactiveness in a relationship can simply stand in for taking complete responsibility, often called radical responsibility, for your own actions and your needs— both for your own emotional needs as well as the needs of your relationship.
Shazia adds, “Being proactive is to not depend on the other person always for every little thing. It is an important aspect of a healthy relationship to take initiative in what you think your relationship needs. Prioritize the most important things in a relationship and work on them.”
Responsibility in a relationship would not only concern itself with the small everyday things that you can take charge of in the relationship. It means to find a fix when something goes wrong, to take steps for the well-being of the relationship.
Most importantly, proactiveness is an attitude. Proactive partners make a conscious effort and take concrete steps to help the relationship grow. The health of the relationship is their everlasting concern and they are always willing to take steps toward its development.
10. Love – The be-all and end-all
The psychology of love is a strange thing. It could both be a state of being or a shifting feeling. But mostly it is a practice. The practice of love. Everything we do to achieve this feeling is the practice of love. This practice of love, last on this list but the first on our lips, is one of the most important things that make a relationship great.
But there is a reason Shazia put this one last on this list. She says, “Love alone doesn’t last long. It is an emotion that keeps changing according to the situation at hand. It always needs to be accompanied by all of the above in this list to stand strong and make a good relationship.”
First or last, love is in fact at the center of the qualities that make our relationship good. It is at the very center of our romantic relationships, without which the entire exercise of figuring out what makes a good relationship absolutely amazing, becomes futile.
Ask yourself, “Do I genuinely like this person I am with? Are they one of the nicest things to have happened to me? Am I willing to give my best to live a happy life with this person?” If your answer is yes, then it is this very love that sits on number 10 that will motivate you to work on everything from number 1 to number 9.
These are a few things that make a good relationship. And there are also many more. But if we had to draw the essence of all discussions surrounding love, we would tell you that love and relationships take constant effort for them to be rewarding. They take your commitment and your will to make all that effort to give you the joy that you deserve. Let your intuition and wisdom guide you to do things in love and for love.