Everyone who enters a relationship wants it to be healthy, fulfilling one. And yet, relationships frequently end or, even if a couple stays together long-term, are far from healthy. There is a gap between what we want and what we are able to achieve. What are the habits of healthy couples?
1. Having a shared vision for the future
While opposites may attract, it is important to have a shared vision for the future of your relationship. Some of the aspects that should be agreed upon can be anticipated at the onset of a relationship, for instance, if you both desire to have children or not. Others may not be anticipated and need to be negotiated, perhaps years into the relationship. An example may be that one person is offered an amazing job across the country when moving was never something the couple planned. It’s important both at the beginning of the relationship and throughout to be forming a shared vision and expectations. It requires knowing what aspects of the future are very important to you (your values) and what aspects are flexible.
2. Check in with each other when you part for the day and when you come back together
Many couples lead fairly hectic lives due to their work hours, which are often different from one another, and the kids’ schedules. Making a point to even briefly acknowledge the moment when you part ways at the beginning of the day and when you come back together at the end of the day can make the difference between feeling connected as a couple and feeling like roommates. This doesn’t need to be elaborate or overly time-consuming. Just a kiss and a “have a good day” or “good to see you again” can set the tone for the day and therefore your relationship.
3. Practice Transparency
It’s often been said that trust is the building block or foundation of a healthy relationship and it’s very true that when trust is betrayed or broken, the path to healing can be long and challenging. Establishing a mutually trusting atmosphere avoids much pain and a key way to do this is by practicing transparency with one another. Inform your partner if your plans for the day are out of the ordinary, like if you’ll be home later than usual for any reason. Having a shared calendar (and using it) also accomplishes this. Knowing one another’s passwords on devices and sharing your location with your partner boosts confidence in the relationship and, in time, makes doubts obsolete. Similarly, having equal access to bank accounts (even separate accounts) eases communication and eliminates some conflicts before they start. Naturally, this should be voluntary and mutual. If one partner demands access to the other without giving it, it is a red flag for controlling, or even abusive, behavior. Done with the shared understanding, however, that you are living your lives together and have nothing to hide, it goes far in establishing trust. A practical byproduct is that should there be a medical emergency, or the like, one partner is able to act as needed to maintain stability in other areas of life (pay bills, inform the affected partner’s place of employment, etc).
4. Make a point to actually resolve conflict
Conflict is a normal and, in many ways, healthy part of a relationship. In fact, when couples report they don’t experience conflict with one another, it typically means one or both parties are not being authentic about their feelings or desires (or don’t even know them for themselves). If two people are being authentic, it’s inevitable that there will be differences. When in a conflict with another person, it’s human nature to want to “win” or be right. Approaching conflict with that goal, however, undercuts any ability to actually resolve the conflict, and prolongs the pain for both parties. On the othe end of the spectrum are couples who ignore conflict and allow issues to fester, prolonging the pain indefinitely. If instead the goal is to actually resolve the conflict, coming to a deeper understanding of one another and what exactly triggered the distress or disagreement, and then acheiving actual resolution, the relationship can actually be enriched and strengthened by the conflict.
Many aspects of being a healthy couple are easier in theory than in practice, for a multiple of reasons. Couples therapy can be a practical way to develop healthy habits and work through negative habits that hold a couple back from achieving the potential and joy together that they could. If you find yourself needing help with developing a more healthy relationship, consider contacting the Adne Institute to schedule an appointment with a couples therapist!