We all strive toward living happily ever after with healthy relationships, whether romantic or platonic, but it’s true that relationships are hard! I’ve been with my fiance for two years now, but I still remember a very raw conversation we had at the beginning of our relationship that I initiated. You see, I’m loud, bold, talkative, and basically all the things that he isn’t—and that worried me. I really liked this guy and there was so much we did have in common, but I didn’t want to intimidate him, and I definitely didn’t want to scare him off.
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So we had to have that conversation—that talk where I poured my heart out to him about all my insecurities surrounding my personality, and basically just let him know what he was getting himself into. I remember thinking I needed to be really conscious in how I established this relationship and applied the lessons I’d learned. So, when the time felt right, I spoke my truth and was honest and vulnerable. I remember his response so clearly.
“You don’t intimidate me,” he said with a gentle kindness and beautiful bearded smile that I’ll never forget. And with that, my worries washed away. I trusted him, he saw me, and I knew right then he could handle me—all of me!
There are tons of ways you and your partner can make sure your relationship is happy and healthy, and I implore you to make them a priority in your life! I want to offer up nine key healthy relationship characteristics to check off the list with your partner. So, if you and your partner are willing, you both can create a loving, fulfilling, fun life together that only gets better with time when these nine healthy relationship characteristics are layered on top of the loving foundation you’ve already created together.
1. Healthy relationships anticipate their own success.
Assume that things will work until proven otherwise. Every day, every moment together—consciously choose to make it work. A big challenge with the majority of relationships is we’re so afraid that it won’t work out that we end up spending a lot of time second-guessing ourselves and looking for the details in our relationships that aren’t a hundred percent up to par. But what if? Naturally we are afraid and don’t want to make a mistake in a relationship. And yet, you always get to decide to see what is working or not!
Do you want your relationship to work? Spend time focusing on this key healthy relationship characteristic. Give your energy to the things that are going well. What if it all works out swimmingly? What if you live happily ever after? The story you tell and the energy you exude attracts more of the same. The couples who spend time focusing on this healthy practice are most likely going to make it work.
2. Healthy relationships lean in when they want to lean out.
After the honeymoon period of lovey-dovey feelings and dreamy perfect-mate projections, well, you’re going to eventually argue over stuff. You’re going to become annoyed over things they do. You’ll probably settle into a routine that works, but over time if you aren’t taking enough care of yourself personally, you’ll react over the small stuff. You’ll find things to react over. And in those moments, when you and your partner are arguing over whatever it is and your fight-or-flight kicks in, it’s time to lean in with compassion, not clam up and run away.
Breathe. Take a moment. Step way back. Ask yourself what matters most to you. Being right? Proving a point? Does leaning into your anger and frustration seem like a healthy relationship characteristic? Maybe, maybe not. Usually not.
It’s okay to allow yourself to be upset, and simultaneously allow your partner to feel whatever it is that they are feeling. But don’t lean out—don’t run away or blow up on them. Lean into your intention—the intention around the healthy relationship characteristics that you know exist between you two.
3. Healthy relationships allow you and your partner to both be yourselves.
What attracted you to your partner? What do you think attracted your partner to you? If you’re beginning to feel like you and your partner have lost that initial spark, it’s time to look in the mirror. Have you changed your way of being in order to accommodate your partner? Are you showing up the way you did when you were on your own? Have you or your partner become co-dependent or even obsessive over the time you spend together, or possessive over any time spent apart? Remaining true to yourself in a relationship is a major healthy relationship characteristic.
This is when you need to remember what and who really got you here, because that initial attraction and those individual people you both were before you became a couple are too important to leave behind. Remembering your wholeness, and your partner’s, and stepping into the you now in this relationship is the challenge.
I remember asking myself, “Who am I now with him?” I sort of lost myself in the beginning, and it caused me to get frustrated and afraid. Had I lost me? Was this a mistake? We talked about the individuality within the “we” we were choosing to create now. And we reassured each other that being ourselves was the beauty of a deeper love—a love where two individuals choose to share their lives without compromising their own needs and identities.
Don’t hide who you are. Don’t shrink when you want to be big and bold. And don’t smother when your partner wants those things, too! Give yourself permission to exude your personality, your opinions, and your insecurities alongside your partner’s to form this key healthy relationship characteristic.
4. Healthy relationships take inventory of each person’s needs and desires, often.
My momma always told me, “Darlin’, you know if you’re expecting something from someone, then you probably should let them know, so they don’t let you down.”
My previous wedding anniversary was December 18th, and we of course celebrated Christmas just one week later on December 25th, and finally my birthday fell another week later on January 3rd! I always made it very clear to my husband that those were three distinct events and should be treated as such when it came to gift giving.
Was I being selfish? No, absolutely not. I was letting my partner know what mattered to me. How is your partner supposed to know what you’re thinking if you’re not opening up to them regularly about your needs and desires? Active and honest communication is extremely important when it comes to healthy relationship characteristics. Take inventory with your partner regularly, and pay attention when they tell you they want or need something from you.
5. Healthy relationships find the good in everything.
A few days ago, I saw a meme with a rabbit looking around his world and cussing every time he noticed something. Sometimes a strategically placed cuss word just brings the point home, don’t you think?
“Look at those f***ing flowers!” he exclaimed. “Did you see how f***ing beautiful those clouds look today?”
If you aren’t looking at your world and everything in it as if it were a f***ing miracle, you’re missing the point of living. And you’re missing out on a key healthy relationship characteristic. Not only finding the good, but giving yourselves permission to also be present enough to experience the good! This applies to your partner as well!
When you choose to share your life with someone in an intimate relationship, you better take notice! That other human is agreeing to love you, spend most of their time with you, and learn how to support you. Look for the good in them—and in everything else around you!
6. Healthy relationships create and conquer the future together.
This healthy relationship characteristic is all about being intentional. When I wake up feeling full and well rested, I pause to visualize the day ahead. I review my calendar. I imagine who I will be encountering. I see myself in the conversations. I see my children and my fiance interacting with me. I ask myself what I want from the day ahead. And with that intentional creation of my day, my relationship thrives, and I am not stuck on the outcomes or on how the other people in my life show up. I am intentionally creating my day.
I also have days where I consciously choose not to choose, and those days are lovely as well. They usually start with whatever or whoever needs me, and I allow the day to pull me if I don’t have predetermined commitments. You know, go with the flow and see what organically unfolds! Sometimes these days turn out to be the best of all! As a couple we have found intentionally baking in days without obligations, meetings or commitments can create some of the best experiences and creative opportunities to dream with each other about our future.
But in either case, you are making a decision each morning and then letting it go, getting up, and getting on with it. You are being intentional about your time, and you are creating within yourself a healthy relationship characteristic that keeps you whole and full.
7. Healthy relationships value time spent apart.
I will admit, I love my partner so much that I honestly want to spend all of my time with him. He is awesome, and we are awesome together. But I learned something early on in our relationship: the old adage absence makes the heart grow fonder is actually true.
We moved in together about 14 months after we started dating, and about two months later the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, and it hit us hard. And then some of our many children unexpectedly showed up at the house—we went from 1-2 to 2-4 at any point in time. There was the cooking and the cleaning and the new personalities…and nowhere to hide.
We had to figure it out, but unfortunately we didn’t find all the answers before we were driving each other up the wall. We had to take the time to realize that one of the most necessary healthy relationship characteristics is time apart. How did we do it? Well, guess what, you can create space outside, you can intentionally find spaces to set up an office on the bed or the dining room table. I even spent time holding coaching calls from the comfort of my car! Do you intentionally set aside time for your friends and the things that interest you outside of your relationship?
8. Healthy relationships are full of uncomfortable conversations.
Make a plan with your partner to write down the things you don’t like talking about—money, sex, marriage, parenting styles, all of it. Things that cause you both stress and you clearly have different opinions and approaches about. Now, talk about them vulnerably and honestly.
Share your dreams of what you want your relationship to look like, what you want life to be like together, and ask each other for help on how to establish some common ground around these uncomfortable subjects. This healthy relationship characteristic goes back to good old communication based in a foundation of love and respect
My psychiatrist—yes, I have one, and you probably should, too—helped me break it down. Ask yourself these questions, and share your answers with your partner. The following ultimately tie back to the set of standards you wish to live by as a couple and as an individual in a relationship.
What is acceptable?
What is not acceptable?
What are my expectations? Of myself? Of you?
What are my needs? For myself? From you?
I like to recommend this type of dialogue on a regular basis—checking in with each other each week, once a month, maybe. Asking each other, how am I doing? What do you need more of from me? What do you need less of from me?
9. Healthy relationships are celebrated.
Here’s where you probably assume date night comes in. And it does and makes life together super fun! But I want you to take this healthy relationship characteristic a step further. When was the last time you actually bragged about being in partnership? You know, told someone how pleased you were to be in this relationship. Find times to share what you love and like and appreciate about your relationship and your significant other, and tell someone! Brag on your partner a little bit—there’s nothing wrong with it. Tell your family member, your best friend. Celebrate your relationship every day! Think about it—you are so lucky they chose you!
So, let’s get down to the bottom line here on relationships. Are my partner and I perfect? No. No one’s relationship is perfect. That’s not the goal. But most relationships are real, and in our case, we try to keep these nine healthy relationship characteristics in mind as much as possible. We work together instead of against each other—we take care of ourselves as individuals so that as a couple we have the capacity to give what our partner needs and wants. And for us, that has made all the difference.
We wish you the same!
Interested in learning more about conscious coupling and a #LoveByDesign approach to relationships? Follow me and stay tuned for a future e-course on this very topic! Conscious coupling at its best!
Got questions about healthy relationships or other love-related topics? Chat with Nicoa Dunne today!