Healthy Relationships

Characteristics of a Healthy Intimate Relationship

A healthy intimate relationship is based one quality and respect, not power and control. Think about how you treat (and want to be treated by) someone you care about. Below are the characteristics of a healthy functional romantic relationship.

Honesty & Accountability: Accepting responsibility for self, acknowledging past use of violence, admitting when you are wrong, communicating openly and honestly, keeping your word, not making excuses for your partner’s or for your own actions. Relationship is built on truth rather than game playing.

Open Communication: Being able to express your feelings or opinions, knowing it is okay to disagree, saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Communication is based on clarifying issues, specifying feelings, and working together for mutually satisfying solutions. If one partner does something that hurts the other in any way they take responsibility, and make needed changes in their demonstration of love for the other partner.

Negotiation & Fairness: Seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict, being willing to find solutions that are agreeable to both people. Acknowledging your wants & needs are just as valid as your partner’s (you don’t have to agree in order to respect your partner and to understand differences in opinion). When differences come up, try to see the situation from your partner’s point of view and try to work through them together (agreeing to disagree sometimes, willing to compromise). No issue or problem is more important than the relationship – “winning the argument” is seen as harming the relationship.

Economic Partnership: Making money decisions together, making sure both partners benefit from financial arrangements, sharing dating expenses, accepting both partners need to hold a job.

Shared Responsibility: Making decisions together, splitting or alternating costs on dates. Being mindful of the other person’s needs as well as your own – doing things for each other, going places you both enjoy, giving as much as you receive.

Shared Power: In general, each person has an equal say in the relationship, although at times, one person may have greater say because of more information or experience in an area. Each is mindful of the other’s needs and wants (as well as your own). The individuals view themselves as part of a couple that brings each person more happiness & allows each to be stronger.

Respect: Each person is valued for who they are and what they bring to the relationship. Treat the other person as if they are of value. Find ways to appreciate them for who they are. Differences in thoughts, feelings, values, etc. are accepted and respected. Accept your partner for who they are. Do not demand that the other person change to meet all your expectations. Paying attention to your partner, valuing your partner’s opinion even if it differs from yours, listening to what your partner has to say, listening to her non- judgmentally, being emotionally affirming & understanding. Violence is not used by either partner.

Trust & Support: Being supportive, wanting the best for your partner, knowing your partner likes you, being able to rely on your partner, offering encouragement when necessary, and being okay with your partner having different friends. The couple feels secure sharing private aspects of each other’s thoughts & feelings – since couple feels secure there is no jealousy or possessiveness. Individuals can let their barriers down and allow the other person to see their perceived weaknesses, without fear of negative reactions from them. Individuals are able to be open to what the other person is feeling.

Non-Threatening Behavior: Talking and acting so that each person feels safe & comfortable expressing themselves and doing things.

Intimacy: The shared experience of closeness between romantic partners. Here are four different forms of intimacy:

  • Physical – Hugging, kissing, caressing, cuddling, holding, and other forms of physical affection. Physical intimacy certainly includes sex, but doesn’t have to.
  • Emotional – The ability to effectively express and validate tender, loving emotions, in a manner that’s nourishing and constructive, and being able to respond affirmatively when the other person does the same.
  • Intellectual – Can brains be attractive and sexy? Absolutely! Especially for those who feel a sense of kinship when they engage in discussion or endeavor with a partner whom they feel is an intellectual equal.
  • Shared Activities – Interactions that build a positive memory bank of shared experiences. Examples include playing, cooking, dancing, exercising, art making, traveling, worshipping, and problem solving together. In this dimension, it’s not just the activity that matters, but whether two people are able to bond while interacting with one another. 

Personal Integrity: Partners are able to maintain beliefs and sense of self as well as offer time & attention to the relationship. Partners have some independence & privacy and care about each other’s quality of life. Working on a relationship always begins with working on ourselves; take responsibility for our behavior (be accountable).