Am I in a healthy relationship?

Am I in a healthy relationship?

Relationships can be complicated at the best of times. With two people trying to intertwine their lives together in the most intimate way is never going to be a smooth, easy path to follow. That being said, it doesn’t automatically follow that if you’re having problems in the relationship then you need to break things off immediately and never look back. One of the major keys to successful relationships is one, simple word – compromise. If you’re only looking out for what’s best with you and you don’t see a need to have a discussion about the important things, you’re just going to bulldoze your way through, then that builds resentment in your partner. Likewise, if you’re constantly bowing to what your partner demands, that isn’t a sign of a healthy relationship. There needs to be a balance. But what is that balance? There’s no, one-size-fits-all answer to this, it’s about looking at your relationship in depth and assessing what’s going on there. So, here are some pointers which should give you clarity on a few things, especially if you’re struggling to see the wood from the trees.

  • Mutual respect is essential. Both parties need to have respect for themselves and each other, and respect the other person’s boundaries. Without this, a steaming resentment can build which often sounds the death knell for the relationship. This can be as simple as agreeing which protection to use during sex, or as complex as discussing the relationship because you feel that there’s a lack of sex.
  • Trust. Again, this is a huge part of a healthy relationship. Put simply – there needs to be trust and sometimes that means giving your partner the benefit of the doubt.
  • Honesty. Another crucial element. You should always feel that you can be honest with your partner, no matter how difficult it might be. It’s always better to tell the truth, even if it’s painful, than lie and cover up – because this edges into the trust element of the relationship and once that starts to go, then you could be in trouble. Honesty builds trust and strengthens a relationship.
  • Compromise. Each partner doesn’t automatically get their way in every situation. You need to be acknowledging the different points of view and be willing to make sacrifices, even if that’s a difficult thing to do. Likewise, your partner needs to be extending the same thing to you.
  • Be yourself. When people start a relationship they should be comfortable in themselves. They should be happy with their physical appearance, happy with their friendships and their family and generally happy with their lives. If that’s not the case, then lots of people attach their happiness to the new relationship and that’s definitely not a healthy thing to do. So, don’t change yourself to be who you think you should be and especially do not change yourself for your partner and what you think they want – or even what they’ve said they want. Keep doing your hobbies, keep seeing friends and family as you usually would and your partner should be supportive of all of these things.
  • Good communication. You wouldn’t blur the lines in a normal, healthy relationship (family and friends for example), so don’t do it in your relationship. Speak openly and honestly to avoid any miscommunications or misunderstandings and if one partner needs time to sort their feelings out then the other one should respect their wishes and wait until they’re ready to talk.
  • Anger control. Arguments are part and parcel of every relationship and there are certainly emotions that will build up into anger. Prevention is better than cure, so if things are escalating then take yourself away from the situation until it’s calmed down a bit. If you do find yourself in an angry confrontation then sit back, take stock and ask yourself if this is really so important that you need to be fighting so viciously about it. This stance really isn’t meant to say that you should never stand up for yourself in a disagreement, it says that you should try and stop things spiralling if you can. And if you can’t, then walk away from the argument to allow both of you to cool down. And you also fight fair, stick to the subject and don’t start throwing insults around because that won’t get you anywhere. If it’s case of sorting out a specific problem, then break it down into small chunks or talk through the situation.
  • Self-confidence. No-one likes having a needy, clinging partner, you have to have the confidence to be yourself without being in a relationship before you get into one.
  • Having a healthy sexual relationship. You both need to be comfortable together and there shouldn’t be any added pressure. This is often one of the hardest parts of a relationship because sex drive can vary dramatically from person to person. Some people like having sex every day of the week and for others one a month is fine. The way forward is compromise and honesty so you can each understand and respect the other’s needs.

Taking into account all of these points can seem overwhelming, but the truth is that in a healthy relationship you shouldn’t need to be thinking about these things all the time, they should be there naturally. But issues will pop up from time and time and the trick is knowing how to handle them when they do.

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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