It is not difficult to have a good relationship when the times are easy and carefree when you and your partner are all in at the same time. But times like these are not permanent nor do they come around by chance. When times are a bit rougher around the edges, the strength of a relationship is tested. It is in those times that you discover whether or not your relationship will flourish. There are several qualities that can indicate the vitality of a relationship, and if both partners are invested and intentional about maintaining a healthy one, those qualities are a beacon of light leading the way.
1. Common interests and characteristics
One of the first elements of a relationship is usually common interests. You met at a sporting event for your favorite team, a movie theater with mutual acquaintances, or a birthday dinner for a friend. You share commonalities in the ways you think about things and the ways you express yourself outwardly. While one of you may be quieter than the other, you are not total opposites. You seek entertainment from similar places. You enjoy watching television or sharing a newspaper.
While sometimes individuals find new interests when engaging in a relationship with someone, it is the ones that are common from the beginning that help provide a foundation to the relationship. Do you share the same political or religious beliefs? Do you communicate in similar ways? Do you embrace similar values? If you do, then you are likely in a relationship with a solid and positive foundation.
2. Apologize and forgive
Apologizing is hard. Forgiving is harder. But without these, a relationship is a ticking time bomb. Not everyone desires an apology in the same ways. Some like to hear the words “I’m sorry,” while others prefer an individual to act in order to prove they want to change what has happened. Some simply want a genuine hug and to move forward, not dwelling on the action itself but on repairing whatever damage that action might have done. Pay attention to how your partner apologizes; the ways in which a person says sorry are likely the ways in which they would prefer to receive an apology. Be willing to actively forgive and be fair – if it is forgiven, it cannot be used against the person during a later argument!
3. Willingness to learn
You and your partner are two different people. You share similar interests and characteristics, but you were raised in different homes and in different environments. While your beliefs and values are likely similar, you came to have those in different ways. Willingness to learn about your partner is essential to a relationship; you cannot expect the person you love to conform to your system or way of doing things. Learning and compromising are key to keeping a relationship healthy.
4. It’s good to be different
Just as it is good to have similarities, it is also good to have some differences! Not many relationships can survive if the individuals in that relationship are essentially the same person. There will be times when the two of you will need time apart – do you have differences in interests that would provide this opportunity? Characteristically, it is good to be different. Your partner is your first line of defense; if you do or say something not quite right, it is good to have that trusted someone holding you accountable.
5. The language of love
Just like with apologies, the ways in which we love can vary from person to person. There are five primary love languages; while each person receives and gives love in all these ways, most people have a primary language in which they communicate affection. Physical touch, both sexual and non-sexual, can provide a deep connection for some. Doing something helpful or useful (acts of service) show some that their partner values their time and effort. Words of affirmation or praise are what some prefer to hear from their partner as a sign of affection and gratitude. Giving and receiving gifts, though fun and enjoyable for most couples, can be a primary love language for some individuals. Lastly, some value quality time; this is time spent together without interruption or distraction. Take the time to learn about your partner’s language and be willing to change how you show them you love them.
6. Assertive communication
Being assertive does not come naturally. It is developed through practice and use in social situations when there is a need or desire present. Assertiveness removes the “what if” and the “I assume” from the equation. If both partners are able to communicate assertively with one another, needs, wants, and concerns are never kept secret but are shared in a healthy, positive way. It fosters trust within the relationship and creates openness. Keep it simple; “I want…”, “I need…”, “I felt…” are all phrases giving your partner clear and concise information. No guesswork needed!
7. Mutual independence (1+1=Whole)
And last, but certainly not least, is the understanding that you are not half a person. We have all heard the phrase “my better half” – this is not the case. In order to build and maintain a healthy relationship, it is essential to understand that you and your partner are two separate individuals leading independent lives but together you create a whole relationship. This is a relationship allowing for freedom of expression and fostering growth and change together.