How To Be in a Healthy Relationship

How To Be in a Healthy Relationship

There’s an old adage that says ‘people are complicated, relationships are not’. Which is true, by and large, although of course there are exceptions to pretty much any rule. Humans are designed to be together, starved of company makes people miserable and in extreme circumstances (like as a prison punishment) it can send you quite literally insane. What further evidence could we need to show us that being in a relationship is a Good Thing? But it rarely comes easily. Relationships can be tough things to manage, so it’s important that couples have the right resources they can call on when they need some help being the other person. Reading around the subject can always be recommended, but sometimes things go beyond learning what the top five things are to satisfy your partner in bed, sometimes these things are far more complex. And that’s why relationship blogs exist, somewhere where people can go, a repository for advice when you need it.

Do you find romantic relationships a struggle? Would you categorise your relationship as ‘complicated’? If so, there are some strings to be untangled here, because it doesn’t need to be. Our brains and bodies work best when we share a deep connection with someone, and/or feel safe and bonded. That’s when we are ‘optimised’, one might say. A successful relationship gives us a sense of purpose and belonging, our overall wellbeing depends on forming intimate relationships, humans aren’t meant to exist alone, and in fact, loneliness is one of the greatest causes of death in elderly people. So bear that in mind, from when you meet, to choosing contraception and contemplating a long term future together.

When do relationships become categorised as ‘complicated’?

When they become complex, basically! The problem is that we have become conditioned to think that ‘love conquers all’ so we minimise any dissatisfaction in the relationship – but this does us no good. We shouldn’t be thinking that we need to love absolutely everything about our partners, that we should love them despite arguments and harmful words and situations. Er – no. You can love without accepting horrible behaviour; love is very rarely unconditional and as far as relationships go, it’s vanishingly rare. Relationships need time and attention to flourish – or to be ended if it isn’t right for one or both. They can often fail if we have unrealistic expectations, outdated beliefs or we simply don’t have a picture of what a healthy relationship looks like. It’s an inescapable fact that the more aligned we are with our partner, the more likely we are to go on to have a successful, fulfilling connection. Forcing a square peg into a round hole is definitely not a good recipe to follow here.


This is often the greatest predictor of a relationship’s success and it’s a simple guide. It’s not just about both liking to spend Saturday afternoons at football, or travel the world extensively, it’s more about whether you both have the skills and abilities with regard to ‘relationshipping’, i.e. do you have the ability to sort out the problems that arise? Do you both agree on how to raise a sticky subject with each other? This sort of thing is often referred to as ‘intelligent love’, it’s definitely not the heady feeling that we get at the start of a relationship where you would forgive your new partner anything. This is several months or years beyond that.

So, how do we form the strongest relationship, with the most chance of it turning into a long term thing?

Number 1: make sure that YOU are the best person that you can be, take responsibility for yourself and your mental and emotional wellbeing. If you don’t do this, the danger is that you make it your partner’s responsibility (even if subconsciously) and that’s not a healthy place to be. If we have a strong sense of self, we can manage and mitigate any weaknesses or faults in ourselves and keep the relationship balanced, e.g. get rid of emotional baggage that could impact negatively on you both.

Look for complementary character traits, not whether you both like chocolate milkshakes, look for deeper traits than that. When combined with you, who makes a good match? Consider how you use your energy, money, time and resources – some people will be better for you than others. It’s essential that you retain your personal identity when you’re working out whether someone could be a good partner for you.

Have shared goals and beliefs so that you’re prepared to make personal sacrifices and compromises in the shared pursuit of being together. For example, both wanting marriage and children is a shared goal, but look beyond that, what happens when the children have grown up and don’t need you both on a daily basis? What do you have then that will keep your relationship a happy and fulfilling one?

Lastly – remember to collaborate, don’t dictate. Be a partnership. Learn any requisite relationship skills and apply them. Good relationships don’t just exist, they are created.

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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