Relationships can be difficult to navigate, whether it’s just with your friends or someone you’re dating. We could probably all use some tips when it comes to maintaining solid, long-term relationships, but we can also look at the habits of people with healthy relationships to help figure out how to get there on our own. Every dynamic is different, but people who have good relationships tend to have a number of qualities in common. We all know that one person with tons of friends and a healthy romance, and it’s helpful to look at what they’re doing so we can start emulating these positive traits ourselves.
“[Unhealthy relationships are often] the result of lack of self-awareness of one’s self and or a lack of awareness of one’s own worth,” says Cheryl M. Bradshaw, RP, B.Ed., MA over email. “Has it been bad luck? Have you invited people into your life that maybe were not the best choices, because you are generous of heart and spirit and then get hurt? We all hold some responsibility even in the most obviously one-sided situations, so we need to check in with ourselves and reflect and learn and try to find our patterns. You might find that you have things that you are doing that are causing problems, friction, or challenges in the relationships as well.”
If you want to strengthen your relationships — whether it be with your friends, your family, your coworkers, or your significant other — pay attention to these 11 habits of people who maintain healthy relationships.
“Don’t hold a grudge,” says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, PhD over email. “Talk about what’s bothering you in a rational way. Ask clearly for what you want, and let your partner know why it’s important to you.”
“Today’s popular culture is cynical and ‘cool,’” says Tessina. “Expressions of love are often looked on as embarrassing and awkward. But keeping love alive and flowing in your relationship is essential to being happy. Set aside your reluctance, and let [someone] know when you feel loved and appreciated.”
“Discontent and frustration are destructive, because they give rise to hopelessness and despair,” says Tessina. “If you and your partner can’t solve problems, communicate or get along, both of you will lose hope that you will ever be able to enjoy each other or life together. When you’re frustrated and hopeless, you lack patience and the ability to think clearly and creatively.”
“People do stuff that gets on our nerves at times,” says relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish over email. “That’s true of all of us — even with the people we love the most. Great couples have learned not to let those little things distract from the major things.”
It can seem like we are always busy, and managing different relationships can feel impossible, but it’s all about making time for the people you care about to do things you love. “Schedule time together,” says Walfish. “Find things to do that each of [you] enjoy. Say no to other things that would keep you from having adequate time together.”
No one likes a liar, and nothing is ever solved through passive aggressiveness. “People in healthy relationships put communication first,” says Bradshaw. “They are open, honest, and can express what they actually mean to their partner or friend.”
“People in healthy relationships are clear and confident in how they should be treated and how they want to treat others — with intentional respect, joy, gratitude, and love,” says Bradshaw. “They do the best they each can even if they aren’t perfect, and they forgive each other for each other’s imperfections.”
We’ve all heard the saying “There’s a difference between listening and hearing,” and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to good relationships. “People in healthy relationships make a point of listening to their partners and friends, asking questions, and making sure they actually have understood what the other person meant, not just what they heard,” says Bradshaw.
“People in healthy relationships have equal attention on each person — these relationships are not one-sided,” says Bradshaw. “Each person has a chance to listen, to be heard, to ask questions, and to support and be supported. While this may ebb and flow at different points in a relationship or friendship, there is always give and take.”
“You must give in order to receive,” says psychologist Dr. Susan Bartell over email. “Try to understand what your partner needs and wants before immediately shutting down a request. Work together to find a shared resolution.”
“Accept others without trying to change them,” says Bartell. “…Everyone comes with baggage.” Work together with the person you love to help bring them up, but don’t make them feel like you don’t like them for who they are.
Every relationship is different and unique, so it’s important you communicate with the people you care about to make sure things run smoothly with the important people in your life