By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Is your relationship healthy, or are you headed for trouble?
Every relationship has its ups and downs. Those happy, feel-good movies always seem to end at the wedding. With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce and a lot of people moving in and out of relationships without ever marrying, what will tell if your relationship is headed in the right direction?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the way to tell if your relationship is happy is to take a hard look at your partner. In most failed relationships, both parties believe the problem was the other person. To predict a good relationship, take a hard look at yourself and see how you may have changed as a part of this relationship.
Who you are isn’t a fixed commodity. While some likes and dislikes may be with you for a lifetime, many people find their personality changes gradually across the lifespan. We change because of life experiences, new learning, and we often change in relationships. While primary sexual relationships may change people in easily identifiable ways, your relationship with your children, your boss, and coworkers can also impact how you see yourself.
Liking yourself is a sign of a healthy relationship.
If you found that your self-confidence and self-esteem have declined since you been in this relationship, that’s a bad sign. While every relationship has its challenges and fluctuations, your interactions with your partner should leave you feeling loved and supported, not worthless.
You have done or are doing your own work is a good sign.
When couples come for marriage counseling, they often complain that the problem is their communication. While that’s sometimes true, more often, the problem is neither one of them has worked on themselves. The most troublesome issues in relationships are often the baggage people brought with them when they moved in together.
If you got into the relationship expecting that your partner would fix you and make you happy, you’re headed for disappointment. People with this point of view often get into another relationship as quickly as they can, thinking that changing partners will fix them. Two sick people don’t make for a healthy relationship. Both parties in a relationship should be working on their own issues and improving together, not expecting their partner to make them okay.
If your partner is okay the way they are, that’s a good sign.
If you enter a relationship telling yourself that you will change them or planning that your partner will need to change in some way, even if that partner says they’re willing, you’re headed in the wrong direction. Under stress, people revert to their customary behavior. Life can be stressful especially when you’re in a close intimate relationship. If you’re starting out thinking your partner will need to change for this to work, think again.
You’re not threatened if your partner disagrees with you about something.
Nobody’s perfect, and everybody may disagree. But if you continuously are finding fault with your partner, look at yourself and why you selected a partner like that. If having your partner disagrees threatens your self-esteem, that’s not a good sign for either of you or the relationship. People in healthy relationships can work through issues together. They can agree to disagree, or they can find solutions that will meet both of their needs.
You don’t feel you have to censor what you say.
A healthy relationship is one in which you can express your thoughts and feelings. If there are topics that you can’t talk about and things you’re not allowed to say, in the presence of your partner, you probably are not in a healthy relationship.
While it should be okay for you to say things, that doesn’t excuse blurting out rude or hurtful words. You can’t justify your lack of tact by saying you are just being honest. It’s tough to stay in a relationship when your partner is always running down your family, your friends, or the work you do.
Now that there is an “us,” you can still be you.
In the early stages of most relationships, people want to spend a tremendous amount of time together. As the relationship progresses, one person may start to wonder if now that there is an us, do I still get to be me? You should still be able to engage in hobbies and activities that you use to enjoy before you became a couple. You shouldn’t have to give up your likes and personality and always do with your partner wants. In healthy relationships, there’s a good balance of doing things together and people being able to have their separate activities.
Practicing healthy communication styles indicates a healthy relationship.
Sometimes it’s not so much the disagreement, but the way it’s expressed. When you disagree, can you do it without stonewalling, attacking, criticizing, and blaming? Disagreeing about a topic is something you can work through. Using your communication as a way of crushing your partner to bend them to your will, is a sure sign of an unhealthy relationship. If disagreements turn into personal attacks, pointing out the other’s faults, or looking for blame, you’re communicating in a very unhealthy manner. Relationships that include a lot of refusals to talk about things and the silent treatment are headed for trouble.
In healthy relationships, you’re able to make joint decisions.
Healthy relationships are characterized by people’s ability to make joint decisions that are in the interest of both parties. If your relationship involves one person just going ahead and doing what they want without consulting the other, that’s a very problematic sign. One person in the relationship shouldn’t always have to give in. Joint decisions don’t have to be win-lose. The goal here should be to find solutions to problems that work for both of you.
Healthy relationships include joy and happiness.
To maintain a healthy relationship, positive interactions need to exceed negative interactions significantly. When you think about your relationship, if all you remember the bad times, you’re in an unhealthy relationship. There need to be plenty of times when you feel joyful and happy. If you’re not satisfied and you never experience joy, either your relationship is bad or you came into the relationship already unhappy and made your partner responsible for your happiness. Work on being happy all by yourself and you’ll have a happier relationship.
You shouldn’t have “trust issues when the relationship is healthy.”
If your relationship is characterized by trust issues, you must ask yourself why. Is it because you don’t trust yourself? Have you done things you know violated your partner’s trust? Or has your partner done things repeatedly that violate your trust?
In healthy relationships, you can let things go.
Inability to let things go to be both a personal and a relationship issue. If every time there’s a disagreement, one or both of you bring up stuff from years gone by, your either in an unhealthy relationship or you’re creating it being unhealthy.
You are intimate in multiple ways.
Being intimate or close involves more than just sex. Intimate also includes sharing your feelings and sharing experiences. Do you go to for walks together? Do you talk with each other? Joint activities increase the emotional connection.
Your partner is the one you talked to about the difficult things.
When you have challenges in your life, who do you go to? In healthy relationships, it’s the partner people seek out to talk to. If you find yourself going to family or friends instead of your partner, it’s either a sign you’re in an unhealthy relationship or your lack of willingness to communicate with your partner is taking you in that direction.
You make happiness your responsibility.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that if you were with a particular person that you’ll be happy. Don’t expect to wait until you achieve one specific goal or buy a certain thing, and then you’ll be happy. If you’re not satisfied with the journey, you’re very unlikely to be pleased with the destination. Learn to make yourself as happy as possible each day and you’re making an excellent contribution to a healthy relationship.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.
What if your family secrets put you in danger?
Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
Books are now available on Amazon.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.