unlocking the secrets to a healthy relationship
Published: 15-04-2023 - Last Edited: 16-04-2023
13 key criteria to determine if you’re on the right path
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a communication technique that has recently gained popularity. It aims to improve the quality of communication between people by focusing on expressing needs and feelings in a way that is respectful and non-judgmental.
Although I systematically teach my coaching clients this valuable communication methodology to improve the quality of their communication as a couple, I have observed in my years of coaching that good communication is not necessarily synonymous with a healthy and lasting relationship. It is, however, a non-negotiable building block of dealing positively and constructively with all other possible obstacles to a healthy relationship.
The potential downside of being a great communicator
Setting out to be great communicators can have a potential downside. It may lead us to overlook the effort required to maintain a relationship that may not be the best match. When striving to communicate effectively with our partners, it’s easy to ignore that certain relationships demand more effort than others. This oversight can lead to feelings of exhaustion and ultimately prove to be unsustainable over time.
I’ve learned that many couples mistakenly believe that having clear communication systematically translates to a healthy relationship. However, this is only sometimes the case. Some couples may struggle with communication, while others may overlook underlying issues despite their ability to communicate well.
That’s why I always stress recognizing the qualities that make a relationship healthy. Couples can build meaningful, long-lasting relationships by understanding and addressing these deeper issues.
By recognizing the components of a healthy relationship, my clients can make informed decisions about their relationships and build solid and lasting connections. This approach helps avoid using good communication as a cover-up for underlying issues and ensures they invest their time and energy into valuable relationships.
What makes a relationship a healthy one?
I want to stress the necessity of comprehending what constitutes a healthy relationship to avoid the potential pitfall of relying solely on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as a means of communication. Although expressing one’s feelings and needs (NVC) is essential, it may mask more profound issues in the relationship, such as a lack of shared values and goals.
By recognizing the characteristics of a healthy relationship, we become better equipped to identify relationships worth investing in and those not. Moreover, it gives us the courage to let go of relationships that no longer serve us, freeing up our energy to focus on those that do.
In essence, understanding the essential elements of a healthy relationship empowers us to address the issues that arise while also providing us with the clarity and confidence to make difficult decisions when necessary.
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Here are 13 main criteria to consider to define if you are experiencing a healthy relationship:
It is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Trust is built over time through honesty, reliability, and consistency in words and actions. It requires transparency, integrity, and dependability in all related aspects.
When there is trust between two people, there is a sense of safety and security, and both partners can feel free to be themselves without fear of judgment or rejection. However, when trust is broken, it can be difficult to regain, and it can cause long-lasting damage to the relationship.
Lack of trust in the other person may be based on objective facts or a fragility rooted in childhood. In both cases, it needs to be addressed and discussed within the relationship to overcome it.
An example of what trust could mean in a healthy relationship is the assurance of unwavering support. For some, trust may involve feeling confident that their partner will always be there for them through thick and thin. It may mean offering emotional support during challenging times, being present for important events, or simply showing up consistently in the relationship.
Similarly, a trust could also mean feeling secure in knowing their partner will maintain confidentiality. It can involve sharing personal information and feeling confident that it will remain private and not be shared with others without consent.
Overall, the meaning of trust in a healthy relationship can take on various forms, and it’s crucial to have open communication and mutual understanding to ensure that both partners are on the same page. By prioritizing trust and building it over time, couples can develop a deeper intimacy and connection that enriches their relationship.
Respect is essential in any healthy relationship. It means you and your partner value each other’s feelings, thoughts, and boundaries. You treat each other with kindness, consideration, and empathy, and don’t belittle or criticize each other. Respect also means that you don’t try to control or manipulate each other and support each other’s personal growth and development. Without respect, the relationship can become toxic and harmful to both partners; therefore, both must understand what respect means to each other.
To clarify, the meaning of respect can vary among individuals in a healthy relationship. For some, it could mean fulfilling commitments made to each other and practicing active listening during conversations. However, for others, respect could entail different things altogether.
For example, for some people, respect in a healthy relationship could mean giving each other personal space and privacy. They may value their independence and need time to recharge or pursue individual interests.
For others, respect could mean showing appreciation and gratitude for each other’s contributions to the relationship, whether through acts of service or simply saying “thank you” more often.
Ultimately, the definition of respect in a healthy relationship may differ depending on the individuals involved and the unique dynamics of their relationship. However, what remains constant is the importance of mutual understanding, trust, and communication.
3. Positive Conflict Resolution
It’s common for couples to struggle with conflict resolution, which is often why many seek my coaching services to learn new approaches. I get it – disagreements can be awkward and even downright uncomfortable. But the relationship can improve when both partners know how to resolve conflicts respectfully and healthily.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. It takes both partners being open and honest, actively listening to each other’s perspectives, and working together to find a solution that works for everyone. But it is a crucial skill to develop to build a happy and fulfilling relationship.
Learning effective conflict-resolution techniques and communication skills will allow you to constructively and positively navigate disagreements. And who knows? You’ll learn to have a little fun with it! After all, when couples can communicate openly and respectfully, it builds trust and intimacy, allowing the relationship to flourish and be more playful, even when difficulties arise.
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Empathy in a relationship is like a magical superpower that can transform how we connect with our partners. For example, imagine your partner feeling stressed and overwhelmed with work. Instead of dismissing their feelings or getting frustrated, you take a moment to put yourself in their shoes and understand where they’re coming from. By showing empathy, you create a safe space for them to share their emotions and feel seen, heard, and understood.
At that moment, you’re not only deepening your intimate connection, but you’re also building a foundation of mutual trust and respect. You’re sending a powerful message that you’re there for them, no matter what. Empathy is a strength and critical ingredient to a healthy and loving relationship. The glue that holds two people together through thick and thin to watch the magic unfold in a relationship.
Remember that empathy is not a weakness, despite what some people may believe. On the contrary, it’s a strength that needs to be cultivated and nurtured in any healthy relationship.
Attraction is a powerful force in any romantic relationship, igniting a spark that can set your heart on fire. When you find someone attractive, and they feel the same way about you, it creates a deep and meaningful connection that can stand the test of time.
Attraction is not just about physical appearance; it’s about feeling drawn to your partner on multiple levels, whether it’s their intelligence, humor, or creativity.
Being attracted to your partner creates a sense of excitement and passion that can help sustain your relationship for the long haul. It’s about nurturing that spark and keeping the flame burning bright. It means putting in the effort to please your partner without expecting anything. It’s about doing things that make them happy and fulfilled and, in turn, feeling happy and fulfilled yourself.
So, whether it is to surprise them with a thoughtful gesture, listen to them when they need to talk, or put on something special for a lovely occasion, the effort you put into your relationship can pay off in spades. Attraction can be cultivated and nurtured over time, and by doing so, you can create a deep and lasting connection with the person you love.
I want to talk to you about the importance of equality in a relationship. When we say equality, we mean that both partners have an equal say in the relationship, and it’s not about one person having more power or control over the other.
In an equal relationship, both partners share responsibilities fairly and support each other’s growth and development. It means you feel valued and respected and have a sense of balance and harmony. You both can express yourselves and pursue your interests without fear of judgment or disapproval.
Think of it this way – equality is not about keeping score or measuring how much each person puts into the relationship. It’s about how comfortable each person feels in the relationship. It’s not a transactional approach of “I do this, so you do that, and if you don’t do that anymore, I don’t either” Instead, it’s about working together to create a loving and supportive partnership where both partners can thrive.
7. Shared values
When you and your partner have similar goals, interests, and beliefs and can work towards common objectives, we call shared values. It creates a sense of alignment and purpose, which helps to build a strong connection and commitment between partners.
But here’s the thing – it’s also important to recognize that partners can have different values. And that’s okay! It’s possible to work through these differences and maintain a healthy relationship, and the key is to respect each other’s differences and find common ground where possible.
However, being careful is essential because sometimes one value can hide another. For example, you and your partner may agree on an essential value to both of you, such as complicity, yet one partner refuses to do things with the other.
In this case, the other partner values freedom more than complicity. Have open and honest communication to understand each other’s values and work towards a compromise that respects each other’s needs.
Maintaining shared values in a relationship requires open communication and compromise. Here are some tips to help with this process: communicate honestly and openly about values, show respect for each other’s values even when they differ from your own, seek out common ground and compromise where possible, acknowledge that it’s okay to have different values as long as you respect each other’s differences, and finally, understand how values can influence behavior and decisions, and try to understand each other’s perspectives.
Feeling safe in a relationship is about being open and vulnerable with your partner, which leads you to a deeper connection.
What creates a sense of security can vary from person to person. Often, what we need to feel safe in a relationship reflects the emotional wounds or experiences we may have had during childhood.
It also means trusting the other person to care for themselves and not relying solely on you to fix all their problems. Conversely, it means being able to support each other through difficult times. Therefore, the feeling of security can be found at the balance point between taking care of yourself and being able to rely on the other person in times of difficulty.
If you ever feel like your sense of security is being compromised, communicate with your partner that you are not feeling entirely safe with them, and be precise on what creates that for you. It can be challenging to bring up difficult topics, but it’s necessary for the relationship’s health. When we communicate openly and honestly, we can work together to find a solution that addresses both partners’ needs.
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Feeling a sense of connection toward your partner means feeling understood, accepted, and recognized by your partner, and vice versa. Even though conflicts and obstacles may arise, this strong connection provides a solid foundation for positively working through any issues.
Be mindful that being overly dependent on each other and constantly needing to be together do not necessarily mean a healthy connection. It can sometimes indicate emotional dependence or fear, eventually weakening the relationship.
To maintain a healthy balance between spending time together and pursuing individual interests to foster a strong connection built on mutual respect, trust, and independence, you need to cultivate a healthy sense of self in your relationship and stay curious about what is happening for your partner.
Understanding and appreciating your partner’s unique qualities and strengths and communicating openly and with curiosity about yours will strengthen your connection. Be mindful of any emotional dependence or fear that may be present in the relationship, and work to address it constructively.
Also, after introducing so many people to the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) methodology, there is a strong connection between the ability to use conscious and clear communication and the deeper level of closeness it fosters. The two are closely related because when we learn to communicate without blame or shame, we are more likely to respond in a way that promotes connection and understanding.
Remember, a healthy connection is vital to a solid and fulfilling relationship. By focusing on mutual respect, trust, and emotional independence, you can build a relationship that is built to last.
In relationships, we often prioritize responsibilities over playtime, but remembering fun and playfulness as primary values that freshness in the relationship.
When you have fun together, you enjoy each other’s company and can let go of everyday worries. It doesn’t have to be a considerable, elaborate activity – even something as simple as watching a comedy movie, paddle boarding on the lake, or dancing in the living room can do the trick!
Having fun together allows you to recharge your batteries and avoid bringing the stresses of daily life back into your relationship. Having fun and enjoying each other’s company can help keep your relationship strong and thriving. Remember, the little things count when it comes to having fun. Playfulness is where you get to be kids again and share the enjoyment of life on a light note.
11. Common goals
When you share a common vision with your partner, you are more likely to work towards a shared purpose, which can help you grow together and strengthen your bond.
Whether building a life together, pursuing a common passion, or raising a family, having a clear direction and a sense of purpose can help couples navigate challenges and stay connected. Common goals also provide opportunities for collaboration and compromise, assisting you and your partner in developing more vital communication skills and a deeper understanding of each other’s values and priorities.
Having shared goals in a relationship can create a sense of unity and purpose, leading to a deeper understanding of love, commitment, and fulfillment. Be aware of the potential pitfalls of not working together towards these goals.
Communicate openly and honestly about your goals and aspirations. It means making a compromise and finding common ground when pursuing individual goals, supporting each other in achieving shared goals and celebrating each other’s successes are part of moving in the same direction.
By revisiting and revising your goals periodically, you and your partner ensure that your values and aspirations are aligned. You can then work together to find ways to validate your respective values. In addition, you can avoid potential conflicts or differences arising from not being aware of each other’s essential values.
By working together to maintain a shared sense of purpose and direction, you can create the magical outcome that most couples aspire to experience for their family, businesses, or simply themselves as an individual.
When both partners are committed to personal growth and development, it can bring new life to the relationship. It means being open to new experiences, taking risks, exploring a new way of thinking, and supporting each other’s dreams and goals.
Growth can mean different things for different people – learning a new skill, pursuing a passion project, or working on personal healing. When both partners can support each other’s growth, the relationship creates a sense of excitement and possibility.
It’s inspiring to see couples challenge each other to be their best selves and achieve their full potential. I encourage my clients to embrace growth in all areas of their lives and support each other when they do so. When couples can grow and evolve together, it creates a strong sense of expansion and newness that cultivate the “beginner’s mind,” an essential element of maintaining the excitement of a relationship.
Intimacy is the cornerstone of a healthy and fulfilling relationship. It’s about more than just physical closeness – intimacy means emotional vulnerability, trust, and deep connection. It’s about sharing your deepest fears, hopes, and dreams with your partner and feeling safe and accepted.
Many couples struggle with intimacy, whether it’s due to past traumas, communication barriers, or simply feeling uncomfortable with vulnerability. But I want to reassure you that it is possible to cultivate intimacy in your relationship. I love to see my client break down the barriers to intimacy and build a more solid emotional connection with their partner. It’s a journey, but when couples can deepen their intimacy, it brings a level of closeness and fulfillment that is truly priceless.
If you’re struggling with intimacy in your relationship, know that you’re not alone and that there are tools and techniques you can use to strengthen your emotional connection with your partner. Building intimacy can include sharing your emotions, expressing what is happening with your internal dialogue, quality time together, active listening, expressing gratitude, and showing physical affection.
Find what works best for you and your partner, and be open to trying new things. Building intimacy is an ongoing process that requires effort and attention but can bring a more profound sense of connection and allow the love we feel for our partner to be indeed expressed.
While clear and caring communication is a crucial and powerful tool for improving communication in relationships, it is essential to recognize that it alone cannot solve deeper issues, such as a lack of connection, safety, or attraction. That’s why, for our relationships to be healthy and lasting, we need to go beyond good communication and think about what makes the partners feel good about themselves and their relationship.
The 13 criteria discussed above can guide you in identifying if you are in a healthy relationship. Do note, however, that we cannot decide on the legitimacy of a relationship based solely on the number of criteria it meets; if a relationship doesn’t consistently meet one or more of these criteria, it can be because each partner has something to discover that will allow them to break out of repetitive patterns, endless conflict, to be able to reach a fulfilling love life.
Yet, suppose your relationship consistently fails to meet many of these criteria; it may be a sign that there could be a better match for you and that this relationship may require more energy to maintain than it is worth.
Ultimately, deciding which criteria for a healthy relationship are most important and require attention in your partnership is up to you. It’s essential to have open and honest communication with your partner about your needs and expectations and take the time to work on personal growth and self-improvement. By bringing the best version of yourself to the relationship and addressing any issues or areas of improvement, you can create a more energized and fulfilling partnership.
My last words would be that by using Nonviolent communication to improve your communication and being mindful of what makes a healthy match, you can increase your chances of finding, maintaining, and expanding a relationship that brings you joy and fulfillment.