Relationships are the basis for some of the most important moments in our lives. Humans are wired to form intimate bonds and have deep relationships with one another. In fact, we need to feel seen and understood so badly that not having emotional closeness in our lives can cause health problems. Furthermore, if we are in a toxic relationship, it can cause physical, emotional and mental distress. So how do you know if your relationships are healthy?
Relationships can be messy and hard and can cause us to change and grow in ways we never thought possible. However, when the difficulty outweighs the benefits, you might want to consider parting ways. Here are a few essentials of healthy relationships.
The foundation of every relationship, especially romantic ones, is communication. Without an open line of communication, partners often swing back and forth in a maddening dance of passive aggression. We all go through different stages in our lives, which means our communication styles and needs change over time. But you should always feel free and safe to voice your concerns and opinions. On the opposite side of the coin, your partner should be responsible for sharing verbal and nonverbal expressions.
In a toxic relationship, you might feel afraid to talk to your partner. And, remember, verbal abuse is still abuse. Just because someone doesn’t act out physically toward you, doesn’t mean you’re not being harmed. If your partner causes you to feel unworthy or afraid by his or her communications, it may be time to cut ties.
Trust is incredibly important element in any relationship. Secret-keeping and dishonesty can result in a lack of trust, so telling your partner the truth about your feelings is vital. And each partner should strive to be as compassionate as possible when the other person expresses feelings of vulnerability. There also are physical sides to trust: safety and comfort. Humans must feel comfortable and safe in order to grow to their highest potential in their relationships. If you’re afraid your partner will harm you physically, emotionally, or mentally, then that’s a breach of your trust. If you feel unsafe in your current situation, you may want to get help. LoveIsRespect.org is a great place to start and offers thoughtful articles, quizzes, and resources.
Independence and respect
In an ideal relationship, you and your partner will offer each other mutual respect and support while also understanding that you are individuals. Maintaining that individuality is incredibly important to the health of your relationship. Remember, your partner fell in love with you because you are unique. So if you’re in a relationship that’s causing you to feel isolated from friends or emotionally dependent, you may want to seek the help of a therapist. And if you feel like you have to ask permission to do things you want to do, your partner may be exercising too much control over you. This power struggle is a form of abuse. Remember, you deserve to be in a healthy and loving relationship.
Playfulness and physical intimacy
The form physical intimacy takes in a relationship is always unique and individual. But, regardless of circumstances, the thread that should always be present is respect for sexual boundaries. You should be okay with your partner saying no, and vice versa. Feeling pressured to have sex or be intimate creates a lack of trust in the relationship and defies open and honest communication. A physical connection and bond in a romantic relationship are incredibly important. Whether that means cuddling, sex, or neither cuddling nor sex, depends on the decisions of each partner. So if you feel controlled or abused in your relationship, seek help. Feeling fearful or controlled isn’t healthy.
Healthy relationships can take on a lot of forms. Heterosexual, homosexual, nonmonogamy, and other forms of intimate relationships, can all be loving, safe, and healthy for those consensually involved. By keeping in mind the principles of healthy relationships and being honest with yourself if you see a toxic pattern, you’ll be able to navigate this complex world of human bonds. And if you’re ever in danger of being harmed by a partner, seek help. Domestic Violence Support is a great place to start and there is a plethora of resources listed by state through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.