To be human is to have relationships. We’re born into relationships with our family and caretakers. As we grow up, our relationships extend to friends. And by adulthood, work relationships and a relationship with an intimate partner will become integrated into our lives.
But it’s not very often we take a step back and think about the qualities of a healthy relationship and how to create personal connections that maximize our health and satisfaction.
What Is a Relationship?
A relationship is simply the bond that we share with another person that we interact with on a regular basis. The purpose of this bond may vary (familial ties, social enjoyment, intimacy, generating income, or accomplishing other common goals), but a relationship requires more commitment and personal investment than more casual, brief interactions with others.
Healthy Relationship Qualities
Regardless of the type of relationship, relationships that maintain or improve our health consist of four key elements:
Respect: To respect someone is to show care, concern, or consideration for their needs or feelings. Your life choices and opinions are accepted by the other person in a healthy relationship, even though they may not necessarily agree with them.
Trust: Opening up and showing others who we truly are—with all of our issues, problems, and failings—isn’t easy. People may take advantage of what we reveal, hurting us in the process. Therefore, being able to trust and share your true self with others without fear of judgment or exploitation is vital in a healthy relationship.
Communication: In a healthy relationship, we freely express our feelings with the other person on all topics related to the relationship, whatever they may be. In return, we listen and are receptive to the other person’s thoughts and feelings. When issues in the relationship arise, they are promptly confronted and addressed rather than lingering for a long period of time.
Boundaries: We all have habits or ways of interacting to maintain our personal inner peace. In a healthy relationship, the other person will respect and adhere to these boundaries without trying to cross or undermine them.
Ultimately, the stronger your relationships are in all of these qualities, the more likely it will be that you’ll be satisfied and happy with them. And because you’re satisfied and happy, your physical, mental, and social health will be better because you’re not stressed about your relationships and/or losing sleep over them.
Are Your Relationships Healthy?
Reflecting on the family, work, partner, and other relationships in your life, do they meet all of these criteria? Which relationships could be improved? How could they be improved?
In addition, reflect on whether you are providing these essential qualities in your relationships. Do you respect others for who they are? Offer a trusting space where people can rely on you? Communicate your feelings with others? Do you honor their boundaries?
For those relationships that don’t have all the qualities of a healthy relationship, you may need to decide whether you’re willing to put in the to work try to make it healthier or whether to leave the relationship entirely.
Relationships are a two-way street that require effort and dedication from both parties. Make the effort if these relationships truly matter to you and make your life healthier!