What is a healthy relationship anyway?
How do you know if your partner is good for you?
While every couple can define a “good relationship” differently, there’s some standard principles that all should share.
Read on to discover the 10 rules for a healthy relationship.
Relationship Rules: How to Keep Relationship Strong
Whether you’ve just started dating someone or have been together for years, these are the signs you should look out for to know you’re in a healthy relationship.
The #1 relationship rule is that there must be respect between you and your partner. That doesn’t mean you always agree or don’t argue. But it means that you can do so in a way that doesn’t make the person feel worse about themselves or in general.
Having respect goes beyond that too. For example, you should respect their time and trust. When things get heated, you take a break or step out. You don’t resort to name-calling or threatening the relationship.
#2 Talking About Issues
Otherwise known as “communication”—something often brought up in relationship 101. And for a good reason. When we spend time with someone, they affect our mental health. You should be able to talk about your personal problems and about your problems with each other. If we can’t talk about issues with them, that could eventually lead to bottled up feelings and resentment. Skip that by keeping an open line of communication.
Even if your partner isn’t a talker or doesn’t consider themselves to be emotional, it still matters that they try. If it’s uncomfortable at first, that’s normal. You don’t need to be a therapist to communicate well in a relationship. It’s a skill you build over time and adapt the style to your partner.
#3 Spend Time Together
It can’t be just me who’s ended up with someone who had “no time.” Meanwhile, they get off work at 3 pm and spend the rest of the day in front of the TV. Or, maybe they’re genuinely so busy with work that they “don’t have time for you.”
It’s in people’s right to live their life how they want. But the reality is that for a relationship to work, you need to spend time together. How you do that is up to you. Movie nights? Dates? Playing games? It doesn’t really matter as long as you’re making time for each other.
If you asked couples for their top healthy relationship characteristics, one of their answers would be honesty. It’s important to not lie, even about small things, like where you are. That’s because small lies can hint at bigger lies. Even if not, it will rob your partner of the trust they once had.
There’s a big caveat here: Don’t use honestly to be an asshole. Saying “I’m just honest” or “the truth hurts” when someone is hurt is not a badge of honor. Learn how to be truthful without coming off rude or insensitive. It’s possible to be nice AND honest. The combination of both is important for healthy relationships.
#5 Be Yourself
Sometimes, we try to change so our partner will like us more. Or we adapt to their personalities or styles. Or we hold back the weird, goofy parts that make us, us.
Being you in all your strange glory is something your partner should want and admire. If they don’t, they’re not the one for you. You should be able to be playful, nicely tease and relax with them. Relationships are serious work, but you don’t need to be uptight, take a breath.
#6 Keep Your Personal Self
Although you may want to spend as much time as possible with your partner, you should still keep your own identity. Even if you’re “twin flames,” you are a single human being first.
It’s normal for people to adapt to their partner, like the saying, “you are who you hang out with.” However, it’s also important to keep your own goals, hobbies and personality. Losing yourself in someone else may feel good right now, but it could lead to a lot of heartache—or loss of self—down the road.
Healthy relationship boundaries include the ability to do your own thing sometimes so you can take care of yourself.
#7 Appreciate Them
If you’re in a relationship with someone, you should appreciate them. Otherwise, why are you even in it?
Although that’s obvious, in a long-term relationship, appreciation can go from a lot to little. But it’s important to remember that day to day love is one of the most important healthy relationship characteristics.
Not every day will be roses, but small gestures, little gifts, words of kindness or actions to show you care can go a long way.
#8 Maintain Healthy Relationship Boundaries
The word “boundaries” is tossed around a lot lately, but what does it actually mean in terms of a relationship? The boundaries you set for yourself are individual to you and your needs. They’re rules that shouldn’t be crossed.
Some healthy relationship boundaries revolve around privacy. For example, your partner shouldn’t check your phone or email. If they have suspicions, they should come to you before snooping around. Another boundary could be your time. For example, maybe you agree to go to one work-related event with them per month. But turning down the 10 others is a boundary you set for your time and mental health.
Boundaries can also be in terms of respect. A boundary everyone should have is no name-calling.
#9 Make Effort
This is one of the unhealthy relationship signs I see in most of my ex-partners. While I’d put a lot of effort into doing things for them, planning dates, picking gifts, responding to their concerns or life events—they wouldn’t give it back.
It’s frustrating when you give 100% to someone you love and they can barely break 25%. A healthy relationship is one where both people’s efforts are on par with one another. While it’s not a tit for tat game, it shows the other person you care and are thinking of them. Remember, words and actions should align.
Making effort might come naturally in the beginning of a relationship while you and your partner are trying to woo each other. Long-term though, that can fade. You can always amp up the spark by surprising them with a little effort in an area they’ll appreciate. Then, see if the trend continues and they start putting in more too.
#10 Good Sex
If you and your partner are asexual or have decided sex isn’t right for you, this won’t be a rule for you.
But for most couples, sex is one of the healthy relationship characteristics. How frequent you do it is up to you but remember that sex is more than just a physical action. It releases oxytocin, known as a “bonding” hormone.
Another rule within this one is to make sure the sex is good. If one partner is happy and satisfied every time, while the other just gets used to be unsatisfied, that’s not good sex. This happens commonly in heterosexual relationships with selfish men. Don’t be one.
Summary of Healthy Relationship Rules
You and your partner will decide what rules you should have in a relationship. This post contains the 10 common rules couples have and should maintain to keep their bond strong. Some, like honestly and trust, are unnegotiable though. Others, like sex, depend on your personal relationship.