So, What Do Healthy Relationships Actually Look Like?

By: Nour Jumma

We always talk about draining, toxic, and downright terrible relationships (and how you need to get out of them or work to make them better ASAP). But maybe it would be more constructive if we pointed out what healthy relationships are actually like, because I’m sure only a handful of us actually know what qualifies as healthy instead of just slowly/silently destructive. As individuals, we sometimes tend to fixate on ‘the negative shit’, and what isn’t working out. But something must be working, no? 

It’s definitely not as simple as 1-2-3, relationships are hard. But to what extent are they supposed to be difficult? To what extent should we compromise for our partner? The lines can be blurry and just straight up confusing. But there are a few values (ehem, basic necessities but the bar is in hell so, you know)  you should keep an eye on. 

Number one – respect. If you don’t respect your partner, you should not be in a relationship with them. Respecting their boundaries, needs, desires, time, opinions, values, plans, etc etc etc. Whatever your partner holds important, you should respect. This is what you agree to when you commit to a person. Obviously, this only works if it goes both ways. If your partner wants to abstain from sexual activity, you are required to respect that. If you feel that this isn’t what you’re looking for, you ask to have an important discussion about your relationship. Likewise, if it’s something like yelling, if your partner flinches when you yell or quietly asks you not to, it’s not an ‘expression of your anger/opinion’, you have to respect their wishes and proceed to have a lengthy discussion. Which brings me to my next point.

The biggest sign of a healthy relationship is communication. If you have the ability to take the time and energy and hold an honest, vulnerable, and constructive conversation with your partner, it could feel like the weight of the world got lifted off your shoulders. It seems like such a simple concept, doesn’t it? But countless major fights can stem from something that’s bothered you months ago, things fester and slowly build up, and now you’re screaming at him because he liked another girl’s picture (???). Are you really mad about the picture? Not necessarily. Maybe you’ve been feeling a bit neglected the past few weeks. Let him know! “Hey habibi, I feel a bit disconnected from you, is everything okay with us?” Then that will start a “I feel this and I feel like that” and so on and so forth. But what’s also important with expressing your concerns, thoughts, and feelings is being open to listen to what your partner has to say in turn. 

I genuinely believe that a good few conversations could save a relationship, or save you time and energy that you would have otherwise invested in something that was doomed from the start. Sometimes it’s too nerve-wracking, maybe you’re too scared to find out somethings, or trying to avoid a potentially hard conversation. But at the end of the day, the more shit that gets built up over what you really want to say, then maybe you start to grow resentful, weary, and eventually bitter. Great!

Reciprocation. I hate the concept of “at the end of the day, no one owes anyone shit.” If you commit enough to someone to be in a relationship, you do owe them things. You should be able to respect your partner enough to understand this. Committing to them means you owe them fundamental basics of a relationship. This also means tying your words with viable actions. Saying “I love you” and showcasing it are two completely different things. You don’t just hear the love, you see it, feel it, and breathe it, too. And this is not to say that it should always be 50-50. The relationship weight tends to dance between partners, it’ll even topple completely off balance sometimes, one day it’s 30-70 the next it’s 90-10. It’s the ability to carry the extra weight back that matters.

Independence within togetherness. You are still your own individuals. The ability to exist outside of your partner shouldn’t scare you or strain your relationship. You don’t really have to share everything if you don’t want to. You can both have your respective hobbies/interests without feeling like the other person is neglecting you/leaving you behind. You can both have your own friend group, and you get together once a week for dinner or a movie night, and at the end of the day you go home and you can call them up and say “Hey, today was fun! We tried this new restaurant you told me about.” You and your partner are your own separate people. If you can’t exist as two separate people, your co-dependance on each other could quickly turn toxic and suffocate any love you had in your relationship. 

Like anything in life, consent is crucial. Not only in sexual interaction, but in the simplest communication. Can we call later today? Do you wanna go on a date this weekend? Are you okay with the pace we’re going at? Do you mind if my friend stops by later? I’d like for you to meet him. You need to make your partner feel as involved in the “us decisions” as much as you are. Sure, maybe she doesn’t mind meeting your friend, and she’ll probably find him very pleasant, but it would probably make all the difference if you asked her first, instead of springing it on her 3 seconds before he shows up. Bonus tip: if you ask “can I kiss you?” before you kiss your partner, not only do you make them feel respected, but also probably really turn them on. Also, maybe you want to have a difficult conversation you guys agreed to have but your partner has had a long day, they are allowed to say no to that, they are allowed to ask if it can be had another day. The ongoing conversation of consent between you and your partner is extremely significant in feeling like you are being heard in your relationship, not just dragged around behind someone that isn’t listening or asking (or rather, caring). 

A disagreement should not mean the end of the world. Constructive debate is a must. You should be able to hold each other’s opinions at a high standard, and consciously avoid saying anything that could come off as disrespectful of them or belittling their opinion. Healthy conflict is a vital part of a strong relationship. You should be able to disagree on topics, but you should also be open to actually listen to what the other person has to say. When disagreeing about an emotional/personal issue, we tend to forget or disregard the fact that at this very moment, your partner doesn’t love you any less. Therefore you can’t treat emotional arguments as chances to fire insults or shoot at them from outside the realm of the discussion. “It’s us vs. the problem, not me vs. you” 

And last but not least, safety. Your partner is your chosen home. You should feel content around them. You should feel secure, cared for, under a blanket of reassurance and support. In turn, you also provide this for them. You must become a sanctuary for one another. You must feel safe enough to talk about the things that scare you but also talk about ‘silly’ things you’re insecure about. This is who you’re choosing to be in your life, if you can’t feel safe with them when they’re angry or sad or horny or conflicted (or any headspace when they’re not entirely in ‘control’ so to speak), then you’re better off without them. 

At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to narrow down what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes love is a socially acceptable form of insanity, but we make do for some reason. Check in with your partner. You are in this together for each other, and no one else. Where there is potential, there is room for trying again and again until you get it right. 

Stay safe,

  • NKJ

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