We all know that luck alone doesn’t cut it when it comes to building a strong bond with your partner. It takes dedication, effort, and a genuine desire to not just make it work, but make it even better! So, what makes a good relationship, and how can you enhance it?
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘holistic health’ floating around in this self-care era. It refers to taking care of all aspects of your well-being to lead a blissful life. We’re talking physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual health here. And naturally, the health of your relationship plays a crucial role in all these aspects of your life.
To simplify the discussion around relationship health, we’ve compiled a concise list of 10 things that make a good relationship. With the expertise of Shazia Saleem (Master’s in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling, let us help you build that strong and healthy relationship of your dreams. And trust me, it’s not rocket science.
Expert Recommends 10 Things That Make A Healthy Relationship
Shazia says, “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, healthy relationships grow.” She adds, “I think three early signs of a good relationship would be feeling safe and secure in a new relationship, and of course, accepting each other as they are without feeling the need to change them. And the third one is giving space to the other person – not invading each other’s personal space in a relationship is so important.”
So, whether you’re already experiencing these signs in your relationship or you’re looking to work on them, we’ve got you covered. Shazia has provided us with a list of 10 things that make a strong relationship, and we’re about to explore them together. Let’s dive right in.
1. Mutual respect
Mutual respect is the bedrock of healthy relationships, and paves the way for other vital qualities to flourish. Effective communication, for instance, thrives on a foundation of respect between partners. That’s when each partner can trust that their perspective will not only be acknowledged but also genuinely understood.
Now, how can you recognize respect in a relationship? Shazia says, “When you look at how two people treat each other, you would know if they respect each other. For instance, partners who respect each other allow the other person to disagree with them. This makes it equally important to be mindful of signs of disrespect in a relationship. By recognizing them, you can address and work toward fostering a healthier dynamic.” Here are a few signs of disrespect in a relationship:
- Disregarding your partner’s time and personal space
- Making major decisions without consulting or considering one another
- Not valuing or acknowledging your partner’s opinions and perspectives
- Ignoring or dismissing each other’s feelings and emotions
- Speaking disrespectfully, name calling, or using derogatory language toward one another
- Belittling or demeaning your partner in front of others, for example, a housewarming party
- Invalidating or minimizing your partner’s experiences or concerns
2. Trust – An important component in a great relationship
Trust involves feeling secure and confident in relying on your partner, knowing that they have your best interests at heart, and will not intentionally harm you. Trust forms the foundation of reliability and stability within a bond, allowing it to thrive. It is naturally one of the most important things in a relationship.
Maintaining eye contact is an important way to foster trust in healthy couples, even in the era of digital communication. Feeling comfortable enough to hold hands and seeking outside help when needed are crucial aspects of trusting one another. Spending time together, whether it’s just the two of you or with loved ones, strengthens the bond and nurtures trust in healthy relationships.
Romantic relationships are unique because they involve a deep level of intimacy and intertwining of lives. Therefore, building trust is vital for healthy relationships. It is a good sign when both individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves, as it helps foster trust. But when trust is absent, fear and doubt take its place, hindering the overall well-being of the dynamic. Without trust, it becomes challenging to fully experience the joys and ease of being able to rely on and trust your partner.
3. Healthy boundaries
Shazia says, “Imagine creating a personal shield around yourself, a protective bubble that no one can tamper with. Creating boundaries is one of the qualities of a good relationship. It means not compromising on things that are important to you and being able to agree to disagree on some conflicting issues. Finding a middle ground that benefits both partners is a great sign of healthy boundaries.”
Establishing boundaries is about declaring what you will and won’t tolerate in your relationship. Take a moment to identify areas where you feel your choices are being violated. It’s important to clearly communicate each other’s feelings and your limits as an individual, making it clear to your partner that certain lines should not be crossed. These qualities make a good relationship. So here are a few more examples to get started:
- Setting aside personal alone time for self-care and relaxation
- Establishing financial boundaries and mutually agreed-upon spending limits
- Setting boundaries around phones to spend time together (for example, no work calls during a date night), social media usage and sharing passwords
4. A good relationship is defined by personal space
“In healthy relationships, partners must allow each other some alone time without judgment,” says Shazia. She adds, “It’s crucial to have a life of your own and uninterrupted time to yourself. This helps prevent the loss of individuality, which can be detrimental to a relationship. Space also gives you the time to reflect on your own emotions. It can define a good relationship in the long run.”
Related Reading: How To Love Yourself In A Relationship – 21 Practical Tips
5. Open communication
Research states, “Openness in a relationship, understood as the ability to reveal one’s feelings, thoughts, needs and fears, is associated with a higher satisfaction with the relationship, and its lack leads to conflicts and a breakdown of the relationship. Openness is one of the key elements of high-quality communication between partners, which in turn allows them to effectively cope with stress.”
Open communication is truly one of the most important qualities of a good relationship. It allows you to not only share your emotional experiences but also express your own needs in a healthy way. It helps in navigating challenging times in your relationship and is crucial when you want to connect with your partner on a deeper level. Shazia says, “Among the things that make a relationship great, open communication is key. It depends on the ability to talk and discuss anything under the sun with one another, and yes, without the lingering fear of being judged.”
6. A sense of security
Take a moment to reflect on your relationship and ask yourself, “Is my relationship secure? And if not, how can I overcome feeling insecure in relationships?” Insecurity often finds its way when there’s neglect or when we start taking our partner for granted. Sometimes, it may even stem from a partner who carries past traumas and struggles with their own feelings of insecurity.
In such cases, counseling can make a significant difference in breaking free from this pattern. Seeking the guidance of a mental health professional, recognizing and validating your partner’s emotions, and practicing healthy behaviors are essential to creating a safe and nurturing environment, free from frictions and arguments to domestic violence and toxic relationships. If you’re looking for professional help, Bonobology’s panel of licensed therapists is only a click away.
7. Emotional connection
An emotional connection is what makes a good relationship last. It allows you to weather conflicts, crises, and even the monotony of everyday life. Shazia calls this emotional connection “a bond that is very important for great relationships and physical intimacy between two partners”. She adds, “It is important that two partners take care of each other’s emotional needs to keep this bond intact. Do acknowledge and address any life challenges from past relationships and prioritize each other’s mental health.”
However, try to be mindful of the fine line between connection and becoming overly attached. While a strong emotional connection is essential, excessive dependence on your partner to fulfill all your emotional needs can become toxic. It’s wise to be cautious and seek friends or professional support if you find yourself developing unhealthy and insecure attachment patterns.
Related Reading: 11 Warning Signs Of Lack Of Emotional Connection In Relationships
8. Assertiveness can make a relationship better
Shazia explains, “Assertiveness means having the courage to say no when necessary. It’s about refusing to do something that doesn’t align with your values or preferences.” It’s true that being open and direct about your wants, needs, and desires is the cornerstone of effective communication between partners in a good relationship. It’s not fair to expect your partner to magically know what’s on your mind. Instead, it’s much more effective (and simpler!) to just ask for what you need.
However, being assertive with your partner can be challenging. In the early stages of a relationship, we often want to please our partner to solidify the connection. Later on, we may fall into old patterns or avoid assertiveness out of fear of hurting our partner. But fear not, you can create a better relationship by starting with these simple forms of assertiveness:
- Have an open conversation about dividing household chores fairly and finding a system that works for both of you
- Suggest alternative date ideas to spend time together or express your desire to try a new restaurant
- Initiate a dialogue with your partner gently during a relationship conflict
- If you need alone time after a long day, express your need for space without feeling guilty
9. Proactiveness enhances the relationship
Proactiveness in healthy relationships means taking complete responsibility for your actions and needs. Shazia elaborates, “Being proactive means not always depending on one another for every little thing. You need to show effort when it comes to spending quality time together, trying new things as people change over time, and cherishing happy moments with loved ones. It’s essential to take initiative and prioritize what your bond needs. These qualities make a good relationship.”
But here’s the key: proactiveness is not just about actions, it’s an attitude. Proactive partners consciously make efforts and take concrete steps to create a better relationship. They have an everlasting concern for the health of the relationship and are always willing to take steps towards it development. So, let’s embrace our proactive side, and enthusiastically contribute to the growth and happiness of our relationships.
10. Ultimately, love
Shazia’s reason for placing love at the end is clear: “Love alone is not enough to sustain a long-term relationship. Love is an ever-changing emotion that requires the support of all the other qualities mentioned earlier in the list to create a strong relationship.” However, love remains at the heart of what makes a relationship truly remarkable. Without love, our quest to understand what makes a good relationship would be in vain.
So, ask yourself: “Do I genuinely like the person I’m with? Are they one of the best things that have happened to me? Am I willing to give my best to create a happy life with them?” If your answer is yes, then it is this very love, sitting at number 10, that will inspire you to work on everything from number 1 to number 9.
- Feeling a sense of safety and security with your partner, genuinely accepting each other, and allowing each other enough personal space to maintain a healthy sense of self are some early signs of a good relationship
- In a romantic partnership, mutual respect and open and honest communication are important parts that make a relationship healthy
- Some of the most important things in a relationship are to communicate openly about topics such as physical affection, spending time together, and emotional boundaries so that you both are on the same page and can make your relationship strong
- Developing a strong emotional connection, being able to assertively say “no” when something conflicts with your values or personal limits, and proactively trying to improve your romantic bond are some of the things that make a relationship great
So, this is what makes a good relationship last, and there is so much more to explore. However, if we were to distill the essence of all the discussions surrounding love, it would come down to this: Love and relationships require ongoing effort to be truly fulfilling. They demand your commitment and your willingness to put in the necessary work in order to experience the joy and happiness you deserve. So, trust your intuition and let your wisdom guide you in acts of love and for love.
This article was updated in July 2023.