Having a successful and healthy relationship takes work, but not the stressful and tedious work you might be thinking. You can have a healthy relationship by following just a handful of simple tips. We asked five relationship experts what their number one tip is when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship.
Here are the top 5 tips for healthy relationships that anyone can follow:
1. Avoid making assumptions about each other’s feelings, wants, and reactions.
When people know each other for a while, they can sometimes predict how their partner is going to react. However, when couples fall into a pattern of making assumptions about each other too readily, some significant problems may follow, explains licenses psychologist, Dr. Nicoletta C. Skoufalos. “Communication between partners can shut down over time. Partners may stop being curious about each other, and in fact may be making incorrect assumptions about each other that can lead to miscommunications. Additionally, people’s thoughts and experiences or even who they are can change over time. When partners make assumptions about each other they may fail to acknowledge how each has grown over time and this can create distance between them.” Continue to communicate about feelings, don’t hide your reactions, and always express what it is you need from your partner.
2. Focus on the positive traits of your partner.
Instead of focusing on flaws in your partner, which perpetuates negative feelings about the relationship, focus on the positive aspects of your partner. “It’s important to look for any positive qualities that you admire in your partner,” suggests Afton Strate, a licensed clinical marriage and family therapist. “If you have experienced a lot of conflict in your relationship this may pose more of a challenge initially, but I encourage couples to find even small things that they can appreciate about their partner. When you have identified something that you like about your partner (e.g., their patience) it can be helpful to connect the quality with an experience that you’ve had with them. You can also reference qualities that initially attracted you to your partner or an aspect of their character that may have been demonstrated more recently.”
3. Couples who play together stay together, so have regular dates and take an annual vacation together.
Take turns planning weekly romantic date nights or date days. “Hiking, biking, skating or long walks are great things to do. Learn something new together as a couple such as wine making, snow shoeing, a cooking or dance class,” says Susan McCord (aka Dear Sybersue), a relationship coach and advice columnist. Then, every couple months, even if it’s just a weekend, get away together. “Getting away from everything once a year is also a great way to stay close to each other. You can remove yourself from the everyday distractions at home and enjoy a fun new environment together. Diversity is the key to a strong relationship because things never get stale. You always have something to look forward to,” she adds.
4. Maintain your individuality.
Each person in a healthy relationship needs to know who they are and what makes them happy. “Many times when people begin a relationship, they try to please the other person and neglect themselves in order to begin the relationship,” explains Dr. Cherry D. Weber, a licensed clinical psychologist. “People ideally begin to develop who they are in childhood and build off this as they mature throughout their life. If both people have a healthy sense of self they can develop a good relationship by bringing their similar qualities as well as their differences to the relationship, and they won’t have one person dominate or overshadow the other.”
5. Choose the right person.
If you really want to know the key to having a healthy relationship, it comes down to who you select to be your partner. “Selecting the right person with whom to build a relationship and share your life is half the battle,” says Elly Klein, a relationship expert and writer. “Yes, you must find them attractive and enjoy their company, but they must also have a good heart, treat you well, and want to be with you. So don’t place all the emphasis on attraction and connection.” The bottom line is that if you’re only just physically attracted to someone and don’t really enjoy spending time with them outside of the bedroom—or if you don’t fully trust, accept, or respect them—the relationship will struggle to be healthy. Find someone else.
Some people will tell you relationships are work, and there’s some truth to that, but it’s also trivializing the matter. Relationships, and fostering healthy relationships, are about more than simply working at it. Your relationships are your life, they are living, evolving things just as you are. And as a result they should grow and change just as you do. As you grow in your relationship, keep in mind these five simple tips. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride.