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July 10, 2020 • read
Tips and guidelines for building a healthy relationship
Healthy romantic relationships create some of the most important bonds in our lives. Like anything else worthwhile, building strong relationships requires lots of continuous work. And, no matter what you do, every relationship still has good days and bad days.
Since every bond is unique, there’s no single formula for how to build healthy relationships. But, there are relationship guidelines that you and your partner can adapt and make your own. Here are a few strategies to maintain healthy relationships that you can use as a starting point.
Communication and relationship building are one in the same. Especially during the early phase of developing a relationship, sometimes called the honeymoon phase, it’s important to develop a practice of open communication about:
- Likes and dislikes
- Future goals
- Emotions, thoughts, and feelings
Communication can be verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication means talking about your thoughts and feelings out loud. During nonverbal communication, you use cues to show that you’re listening and engaged. This includes body language cues like nodding or eye contact. It’s important to pay attention to both to communicate effectively.
Naturally, both you and your partner will change and grow during your time together. That’s where communication comes in as one of the keys to maintaining a healthy relationship. Communication helps you stay engaged with your partner, and better understand their evolution as a person from the day you met until now.
When most of us think about intimacy, sex is the first thing that comes to mind. But intimacy comes in many different forms, and exploring them is a great way to improve your relationship. The most common types of intimacy are:
- Emotional intimacy — this occurs when you and your partner are comfortable sharing personal inner feelings. It’s when you can both be vulnerable with one another without fearing judgment. Couples with strong emotional intimacy feel secure in each other’s presence, and that leads to open conversations.
- Intellectual intimacy — this is when you and your partner form a connection over exchanging ideas. A couple achieves intellectual intimacy through finding something that both partners are passionate about, like music or food. When this type of intimacy is nourished, the exchanges and conversation it creates enhances a couple’s quality time.
- Physical intimacy — this can include sexual contact, though it doesn’t automatically include sex. There are lots of ways to be physically intimate, like holding hands, hugging, or cuddling.
- Spiritual intimacy — this happens in a relationship when partners share awe-inspiring moments together. It’s possible to have moments of spiritual intimacy even if you and your partner aren’t religious. Sharing moments of beauty, like watching a sunrise or getting into nature, can build a bond that makes you feel uniquely connected to your partner. That’s because you’ve experienced something beautiful together that speaks to a deeper, non-logical part of you both.
Learn to disagree in a healthy way
Disagreements aren’t necessarily a sign of relationship problems. In fact, learning to have constructive disagreements should be on your healthy relationships checklist. Either partner should feel comfortable expressing when they’re upset.
Studies show that short-term disagreements can help longer term relationships. Small conflicts stop grievances with a partner from building up into something bigger over time.
In a partnership, conflict is inevitable. Learning to express disagreement respectfully is a crucial relationship building skill. Aim to create a space where you and your partner feel safe expressing your feelings — even the unpopular ones.
Have your own hobbies
Believe it or not, having solo interests can actually strengthen your relationship. You don’t have to do everything together to have a healthy bond.
Codependency is a type of unhealthy relationship where one partner relies on the other for emotional fulfillment. This can create a power imbalance, where one person has too much control over the other person’s happiness.
That’s why one of the things that makes a good relationship is having personal interests that you and your partner enjoy separately. It’s a way for you both to have sources of personal validation outside of the relationship.
Invest in self care
Romantic or otherwise, it’s hard to build personal relationships that are healthy if you’re having trouble with your self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are more likely to be confident in themselves, and build strong relationships with others. The good thing is that self-esteem is something you can strengthen. With the right support, you can build it over time like a muscle. The key to understanding relationships begins with understanding and loving ourselves.
The right steps to building a healthy relationship look different for everyone, but these fundamentals are a great place to start. As you grow, you’ll pick up relationship tips and advice along the way. Some will work for you, and some won’t. And that’s okay! With honest effort, you and your partner will find new ways to support one another and strengthen your bond as days go by.
To get relationship advice for couples that’s specific to you and your partner, you can connect with one of our therapists online. They’ll give you professional advice on how you and your partner can resolve disputes and grow closer. Stronger and happier relationships lead to a more fulfilling life.