How to cultivate healthy relationships boosting your wellness

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Why Healthy Relationships Matter

Love is the most profound emotion. Love knows no boundary but everyone seeks its expression in a romantic relationship with a chosen partner. For these individuals, romantic relationships are the most meaningful aspects of life, and are a source of deep fulfillment.

While the need for human connection appears to be innate, the ability to form healthy, loving relationships is often learned behaviour. Some evidence suggests that the ability to form a stable relationship starts to form in childhood, in a child’s earliest experiences with a mother who reliably meets the infant’s needs for food, care, warmth, protection, stimulation, and social contact. Such relationships are not destiny and are deeply ingrained patterns of relating to others. The end of a relationship, however, is often a source of great psychological anguish.

Building Healthy Relationship

Finding the right partner with whom to share a life is not only a wonderful but challenging process. Whether it’s conducted online or in-person, the search will likely push you into unfamiliar settings. To be successful, it is often necessary to go outside of one’s comfort zone and be generous.

Knowing whether a particular person is suitable as a potential mate, and whether a connection reflects temporary infatuation or true love, can be difficult, research suggests that there are several patterns which can give clues.

How Relationships Fail

Every relationship represents a leap of faith for at least one partner, and even in the happiest couples, the very traits that once attracted you to each other can drive you apart. Acquiring the skills to make a connection last is difficult. In short-term, casual relationships, neither partner may see a truly viable long-term future together, but often only one takes action.

For most couples, infidelity is both the first and last straw, but a surprising number of relationships survive betrayal.  Loss of interest in physical intimacy, constant criticism, contempt, or defensiveness are often resulting in loss of quality of life. Even staying together for decades doesn’t help couples to remain connected: The divorce rate for couples over 50 has doubled since 1990. 

Building a healthy relationship

Every romantic relationship goes through ups and downs and they all take commitment, and a willingness to adapt and to be kind towards your partner. Your relationship may just be starting out or you’ve been together for decades, there are steps you can take to build a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Even if you’ve experienced a lot of failed relationships in the past or have struggled to rekindle the fires of romance in your current relationship, you can always stay connected, find fulfillment, and enjoy lasting happiness.

What is a healthy relationship?

Every relationship is unique, and people make relationships for many different reasons. Part of what defines a healthy relationship is sharing what you want the relationship to be and where you want it to go. And that’s something you’ll only know by talking deeply and honestly with your partner.

However, there are also some characteristics that most healthy relationships have in common. Knowing these basic principles can help keep your relationship meaningful, fulfilling and exciting:

You strive for connection. You make the other feel loved and emotionally fulfilled. When you feel loved, it makes you feel accepted and valued by your partner.  Some relationships are in peaceful coexistence, but without the partners truly relating to each other emotionally. While this may seem stable on the surface, a lack of emotional connection can be detrimental in the long run.

You respectfully disagree. Some couples talk quietly, while others may raise their voices and disagree. The key in a good relationship is not to be fearful of conflict. You need to feel safe to express things and  resolve conflicts that bother you without fear of retaliation.

You keep other interests alive.No one person can meet all needs. In fact, expecting too much can put unhealthy pressure on a relationship. To enrich your relationship, it’s important to sustain your own identity outside of the relationship, preserve connections with family and friends, and maintain your hobbies and interests.

You communicate honestly. Good communication key to all relationships. When both partners know what they want from the relationship and communicate honestly their needs, fears, and desires, it can increase trust and strengthen the relationship.

Staying in love

For most people, falling in love usually seems to just happen. It’s staying in love that needs commitment and work. Given its rewards, though, it’s well worth the effort. A healthy, secure romantic relationship can serve as an ongoing source of support and happiness in your life, through good times and bad, strengthening all aspects of your wellbeing. 

Many couples focus on their relationship only when they face unavoidable problems. However, romantic relationships require ongoing attention for love to flourish. And identifying and fixing small problems early in your relationship can often help prevent it from growing into a much larger one down road.

The following tips can help you keep your romantic relationship healthy.

Strive to spend quality time often

You fall in love looking at and listening to each other. If you continue to take time and spend quality time with each other you can sustain the falling in love experience over the long term. However as time goes by, the demands of work, family, and other obligations can make it harder to find time together.

Many couples find that the face-to-face contact of their early dating days is gradually replaced by instant messages. Sending a text or a voice message to your partner saying “I love you” is great, but if you rarely look at them, they’ll feel you don’t understand or appreciate them. And you’ll become more distanced or disconnected as a couple. So no matter how busy life gets, it’s important to carve out time to spend together.

Find something that you enjoy doing together, whether it is a shared hobby like going shopping, or sitting over a cup of coffee in the morning.

Try something new together. Doing new things together can be a fun way to connect and keep things interesting. It can be as simple as going on a day trip to a place you’ve never been before.

Focus on having fun together. Couples are often more fun and playful in the early stages of a relationship which gradually reduces as time passes. Keeping a sense of humor can actually help you get through tough times, reduce stress and work through issues more easily. 

Effective Communication

If you’ve known each other for a while, your partner may have some idea about you, however it is much healthier to express your needs directly to avoid any confusion.

Your partner may sense something, but it might not be what you need. What’s more, people change with time, and what you needed and wanted five years ago may be very different than now. So instead of letting misunderstanding  grow when your partner continually gets it wrong, get in the habit of telling them exactly what you need.

 Nonverbal Communication

So much of our communication is transmitted by what we don’t say. Nonverbal communication, which includes eye contact, tone of voice, posture, and gestures communicates much more than words.

When you can pick up on your partner’s nonverbal communication or body language, you’ll be able to tell effectively how he/she really feels and be able to respond accordingly. For a relationship to work well, each person has to understand their own and their partner’s nonverbal cues. 

When you experience positive emotional cues from your partner, you feel loved and happy, and when you send positive emotional cues, your partner feels the same. When you stop taking an interest in your own or your partner’s emotions, it can damage the connection and your ability to communicate will suffer.

Be a good listener

While a great deal of emphasis for effective communication is making yourself clear by talking. However, learning to listen in a way that makes another person feel valued and understood can build a deeper, stronger connection.

There’s a big difference between listening in this way and simply hearing. When you really listen you’ll hear the subtle intonations in your partner’s voice that tells you how they’re really feeling and the emotions they’re trying to communicate. Being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to agree with your partner. But it will help you find common points of view that can help in resolving conflict.

Keep physical intimacy alive

Touch is an important part of human existence. Affectionate touch boosts the body’s levels of good hormones that influences bonding and attachment.

While sex neded in committed relationship, it shouldn’t be the only method of  intimacy. Frequent touch like holding hands, hugging, kissing makes important contributions to intimacy. Even if you are busy or have other things to worry about, you can keep physical intimacy alive. 

Learn to be considerate in relationship

If you expect to get 100% what you need from a relationship, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Healthy relationships have a healthy dose of reasonable compromise. 

Knowing what is important to your partner can build goodwill and an atmosphere of love. It’s also important for your partner to recognize your wants by communicating clearly. Constantly giving priority to others and neglecting your own needs can build resentment and anger which is bad in the long term.

Be prepared for bad time

It’s important to recognize that there will always be ups and downs in every relationship. You won’t always have a good time. Sometimes your partner can be struggling from stress, such as the death of a close family member. Other events, health problems or job stress can affect you making it difficult to relate to each other. You might have differences in managing finances or raising children. These differences can negatively impact you and misunderstandings can rapidly turn to frustration and anger.

Changes are an inevitable part of life, flexibility is needed to adapt to the change that is always taking place in your relationship, and it allows you to successfully work together to live a fulfilling life.

How do you know you have a healthy relationship?

While all relationships are different, there are some key characteristics that help differentiate if you have a healthy relationship. 

You Trust  Each Other

Trust is a key component of any healthy relationship. If your early experience of relationships has been healthy, secure, stable you are more likely to trust future partners as well. If, however, your past relationships were bad, you may have to work through some trust issues going forward.

Trust is also established by how you treat one another. When you experience that your partner is treating you well, and will be there when you need them, you are more likely to develop trust. 

As time passes and trust grows, the relationship becomes a great source of comfort and security. If you feel that you have to hide things from your partner, you need to work on this factor.

You Are  Honest  to Each Other

You should be honest with yourself in a healthy relationship. You should never feel like you have to hide some aspects of yourself or change. Being honest with your partner can make you feel more connected as a couple and build trust. 

At the beginning of a relationship, you may exercise more caution about what you are willing to reveal. Over time, as the relationship grows, partners begin to reveal more of their thoughts, interests to one another. 

You don’t need to share every single thing with your partner. Since each individual needs their own privacy and space. However each partner should feel comfortable sharing their feelings if they so choose without hesitation. A partner who has unhealthy expectations might expect to know every detail of you and can demand access to your personal social media accounts.

You Respect Each Other

In healthy relationships partners have respect for one another. There are a number of ways that partners can have mutual respect for one another:

  1. Listening to understand one another
  2. Forgiving each others mistake
  3. Building each other personally and professionally
  4. Giving space for your partner
  5. Taking an interest your partner need
  6. Allowing your partner to grow as individual
  7. Supporting your partner’s pursuits and passions
  8. Showing gratitude for one another
  9. Having empathy for one another
  10. Taking care of each other in the time of need.

You Have Mutual Affection

In healthy relationships couples have fondness and affection for each other. Passionate love usually starts during the beginning of a relationship and there are intense emotions, and a need to be in physical closeness. This passionate love eventually changes to feelings of affection, trust, intimacy, and commitment.

Couples in healthy relationships are able to build progressively mutual affection as the relationship grows.  The key to a healthy relationship is that both partners are nurturing genuine fondness and affection for one another that is expressed in a variety of ways.

What steps to take in order to build a healthier relationship?

Toxic behaviors are often a sign that you need to fix an unhealthy relationship. There are many ways to fix and build a healthier relationship. 

Some steps you can take to build relationship stronger:

Do you show appreciation in a relationship?

Couples who feel and show gratitude for one another feel closer to one another and tend to have healthier relationships. Showing gratitude for a partner can be an essential way to boost satisfaction in every relationship.

You need to keep things interesting

Keeping up with the daily grind of work and kids can sometimes cause couples to fall into routine. Boredom can lead to greater dissatisfaction as a relationship goes on. So you need to keep the spark alive by making things interesting in your life. 

Is your health closely related to relationships?

Throughout your life your relationships affect your mental and physical wellbeing.

The link between a healthy relationship and good mental health are numerous. Proven results include lower rates of anxiety and depression. Healthy relationships can also help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from disease, and improve longevity. 

If you don’t have a good relationship which can lead to loneliness. Loneliness can have huge consequences for your health. Loneliness can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased stress. It can negatively affect your immune system and decrease your physical health and well being. Loneliness is also a reason for antisocial behaviour, depression and suicide.

Older people who are not in deep relationships are particularly vulnerable. If your mobility decreases, it can be harder to get together with other people so you need your partner more. However, older people who have strong relationships are likely to:

  • Have a better quality of life 
  • Be more satisfied with their life
  • Have a lower risk of dementia and mental decline
  • Need less domestic support.

What’s more, the benefits of a healthy relationship are significant, even if your other mortality risk factors are low. In other words, in order to live a healthy life, you need to make healthy connections. It’s important to recognise that without a healthy relationship you may feel lonely that can deteriorate your physical and mental health.

Seek Help of Professional or friends

All relationships are going to have their bumps in the road. Conflicts over finances, parenting, and other differences can add up which can create problems to your long-term relationship. 

If you think your relationship might benefit from outside help, seek a counselor for advice. A mental health professional skilled in addressing interpersonal and relationship issues can help in coping with some of the issues that might be important for your relationship.

It is important to know that you cannot force someone to change unless they actually want to. Work on building your support system outside of the relationship and consider ending a relationship if it’s too toxic to handle. 

By John Gurung

A former software developer who is now a blogging enthusiast. A true digital nomad.

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