If you’re one of those people who never in a healthy, fulfilling relationship, it’s possible you may not even know what having one looks like.
Perhaps your parent’s marriage wasn’t good, and you have no positive relationship role model to draw from. Maybe your relationship with both of them wasn’t the best either, causing you to form some insecure attachment patterns that keep playing out over and over.
Regardless of the reason, it is possible for you to break the mold and stop repeating these unhealthy relationship experiences.
To do so, you must be armed with knowledge, insight, and a personal goal to recognize the differences between toxic or unhealthy relationships and a healthy, functional relationship with a positive romantic partner.
If you’ve never had a healthy relationship, per se, this task might be a bit tricky.
There’s a good chance you can look back on your past relationships and recognize that you’ve made some inappropriate or poor choices.
But, knowing what “healthy” means, in theory, is different than knowing what a healthy relationship feels like from the inside.
Healthy relationships are balanced and reciprocal. There should be a feeling of equality regarding the effort you each make to create a successful union.
For instance, you should both take an interest in each other, show gratitude for each other, and hold each other in high regard.
If your partner isn’t bringing out the best in you or you can’t count them, alarms bells should go off.
Healthy, functional, and thriving relationships have these qualities:
1. Trust and honesty.
Trust is vital and foundational to your relationship. You should feel confident your partner has your best interest at heart and will not do anything to harm you. You should feel they are trustworthy and honest based on their behavior and what they say.
You should always give the benefit of the doubt until you see, hear, or know otherwise. You should not be worried that if you are honest and forthcoming too that there will be a negative consequence.
2. Communication and commitment to resolving conflict.
There should be open, productive, and respectful communication, even during conflict. There should be no insults, intimidation, or abuse of any sort. It should always feel safe for you to bring your issues and concerns to your partner, and they should feel the same way toward you.
3. Shared and/or similar values.
Values are more important than (and not the same thing as) similar interests. You should both see eye to eye on core beliefs about things such as monogamy, commitment, children, careers, religion, substance usage, asking for help, how time is spent, where to live, life goals, and so on.
You should also be in agreement on the boundaries between you and others in your circle (such as friends and family). You should enjoy spending time together, but there’s also room to be yourself outside of the relationship. If either of you feels you are doing something that goes against your core values, you will have intense friction and unhappiness.
4. Mutual sharing of your inner worlds.
You both should be sharing your history — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Share events that have happened to you both past and present. Communicate your fears and troubles, your family history, and so on.
Sharing should happen in a gradual and measured way. Get a sense of the reaction. Are your disclosures met with empathy and compassion each time? If the response doesn’t feel right, are you able to give feedback, and does this person course correct?
When your trust was shattered by those who were supposed to take care of you in the past, talking about these details can be difficult. But if you choose to shut down and not share, it will result in distance and disconnect between you.