Dr Jozelle Miller
June 14, 2022
Building healthy relationships

Humans are social creatures. Throughout our entire lives, we depend on each other to survive. Being self-aware allows us to see this need, which drives us to seek out caring relationships in our efforts to connect with others. Keep in mind that relationships extend beyond romantic and include family, friends, and colleagues. Researchers believe that people spend 80% of their time in the presence of others, making it important to maintain positive and healthy relationships. According to the Mental Health Foundation, a relationship is “the way in which two or more people are connected, or the state of being connected.” Our need to feel that we belong is a major driving force behind our desire to seek out these connections. Not only does building positive relationships make us happier, improve our feelings of security, and provide meaning to our lives, but it also affects both mental and physical health.

Healthy relationships involve honesty, trust, respect, and open communication between partners, and they take effort and compromise from both people. There is no imbalance of power. Persons respect each other’s independence, can make their own decisions without fear of retribution or retaliation, and share decisions. If or when a relationship ends, there is no ill will against each other.

Healthy relationships with your partner and family members can enhance your life and make everyone feel good about themselves. They don’t just happen though; healthy relationships take time to build and need work to keep them healthy. The more positive effort you put into a relationship, the healthier it should be. In a healthy relationship both partners feel valued and respected, and have their boundaries respected. Boundaries can be physical, emotional, and sexual. In a healthy relationship, each partner respects the other’s goals, whether they are personal, professional, or educational. It is also critical to respect each other’s need to spend time with other people or alone. The dynamics of healthy relationships can apply to intimate partners, friends, family, and co-workers.

Communication is a key element of a healthy relationship.

Using demeaning or passive-aggressive language and not expressing one’s needs can be damaging to a relationship.

Each partner should feel comfortable expressing their emotions, frustrations, and concerns without fear. In any relationship, there are times where there are disagreements, but in a healthy relationship it is possible to disagree in a mutually respectful way.

When having a disagreement, there should not be guilt tripping, manipulation, intimidation, violence, or threats of violence. This includes symbolic violence such as throwing or breaking objects or damaging property during an argument.

Trust is another key component in a healthy relationship.

When trust has been earned in a relationship, jealousy should not be a factor.

When there is a lack of trust in a relationship it can manifest in ways such as resentment of time spent with others, monitoring communication in ways such as demanding to read text messages and emails, wanting passwords to social media accounts, and wanting phone calls to be taken on speaker phone. These types of behaviours show that one partner does not fully trust the other and could also be potential red flags for controlling and abusive behaviour.

When there is trust in a relationship one partner does not feel threatened by the other having other relationships with family and friends.

Respecting boundaries is another key factor in a healthy relationship. Not respecting someone’s boundaries can manifest in many ways.

Not respecting someone’s emotional boundaries can include bringing up painful emotional wounds during arguments or using past traumas to hurt someone.

Sexual boundaries can be violated by refusing to practice safe sex, coercing someone into sexual activity that they are not comfortable with and even sabotaging birth control.

Physical boundaries can be violated if someone is uncomfortable with public displays of affection, but their partner continues to show that behaviour, not respecting personal space (particularly during arguments), and using physical touch in a way that one partner is not comfortable with.

It is important to know what your personal boundaries are and to be able to clearly communicate them so they can be respected.

Benefits of Healthy Relationships

Building and maintaining healthy relationships provide the following beneficial outcomes:

Improved Happiness

There are studies showing a strong link between relationships and overall happiness levels. Romantic relationships increase oxytocin – a chemical that promotes bonding. Oxytocin increases happiness, and therefore partners in healthy relationships want to be around each other.

Promotes Healthy Behaviour

A spouse, friend, or loved one can encourage you to engage in healthy behaviours like exercising, eating healthy, or avoiding drugs through their lifestyle. It’s easy to pick a healthy habit when you’re surrounded by people who practice the same.

Longevity

Healthy relationships can help people live longer, according to some research. Emotional support is an effective aid to recovery. Having meaningful social connections helps promote healing after an accident or surgery. A partner reminds you to take your medications and distracts you from the pain.

Reduced Stress

The emotional support from healthy relationships reduces the production of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. This University of Chicago study shows that married people or individuals in committed relationships have lower cortisol levels. People find it easier to go through stressful situations when they know someone profoundly cares for them.

Fun and Fulfilment

Everyone wants to share their good times, and having healthy relationships makes it easier to enjoy those great moments. Being in a healthy relationship also makes you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself, leaving you with a sense of fulfilment and well-being.

Having healthy relationships is essential for well-being, so it’s an aspect of our lives that demands attention. A healthy relationship isn’t formed in a day, so individuals must be willing to put in the necessary work. Chances are, we may be in and out of different types of relationships throughout our lives. Thus, we must learn from previous experiences to make better decisions in the future.