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How to Build a Healthy Relationship

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

Key Points:

  1. A healthy relationship is the foundation of a happy family. The most important thing is to communicate well with love. All small issues need to be solved to prevent big conflicts.

  2. WikiHow has many articles talking about relationship, but each standalone article can't form a solid and comprehensive solution. Therefore, we have rewritten and integrated several articles together to create a better version.

Keeping a good relationship is of vital importance to a family. Here we quote the best way to build a healthy relationship provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Build a Healthy Relationship, How to Make a Relationship Work, How to Bring Love Into a Relationship, How to Have a Long and Happy Relationship. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Healthy relationships allow you to express your individuality (both with and without your partner), bring out the best in both of you, and encourage growth. Especially if you are in a new relationship, it’s best to set a foundation for a positive and healthy relationship from the start. By setting your focus on respect and helpful communication, you can enjoy a healthy and satisfying relationship.

Part 1: Communicating Effectively

1. Speak up. Don't expect your partner to be able to read your mind or "figure it out." If you have a need or want to express something, you need to communicate it yourself. It’s not fair to you or your partner when you don’t communicate your needs. Likewise, don’t hold in the things that bother you. If something is bothering you, say something to your partner.

  • If you don’t know how to start a conversation, say, "There’s something on my mind and I’d like it if you listened." You can also say, "Something is bothering me and I feel like we should talk about it."

2. Listen intently. Part of a healthy relationship is knowing when to talk and when to listen. Develop your listening skills by not interrupting and letting your partner finish their thoughts and feelings. Truly listen, and don’t try to come up with a response while your partner is talking.

  • Use active listening skills by reflecting the content and emotions of what your partner is saying. Say, "Let me make sure I understand. I hear you saying that you’re upset that I didn’t tell you what time I would be home, and you wish I would have said something earlier because you were concerned."

3. Create healthy boundaries. Boundaries are not meant to make you feel trapped; they are created to maintain respect and understand expectations in the relationship. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, bring it up and discuss how things need to change and how each of you will make changes. If one person wants to spend lots of time together and the other does not, it’s important to set a boundary of how much time is appropriate together and apart.

  • For example, you may want to create sexual boundaries (being sexually exclusive) and social boundaries (having one night a week designated for friends or activities).

  • Don’t let your partner control you and don’t set out to control your partner. Setting boundaries means respecting each other and finding compromises to make the relationship work well.

4. Communicate clearly. Without clear communication, a relationship can quickly bring out the worst in people. When you have a want or a need, express it to your partner clearly. Don’t beat around the bush or say something you think will please your partner when it makes you unhappy. Try using "I statements" to express your feelings, make an observation, or share your opinion. I statements allow you to express yourself clearly and directly and take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings while avoiding blame and accusations toward others.

  • To properly communicate, say, " I think/feel/want…. when….. because…." For example, "I feel upset when you leave the door open because the room gets cold and drafty."

5. Express emotions. Share your thoughts and feelings with your partner and stay open to the feelings that arise. Show interest in your partner’s feelings and support them during stressful situations. Connecting emotionally with your partner allows you to empathize with their experience.

  • If you’re feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner, start asking questions about feelings (and don’t blame or make assumptions). By discovering your partner’s feelings, you may begin to feel more compassion toward them.

6. Check in with each other. Make time periodically to discuss the relationship. Sometimes changes occur or schedules become busy and you may miss time to connect or talk about things. You may want to bring up relationship goals and expectations, as these can sometimes change. Ignoring difficult topics or hoping they will go away is one way for a relationship to crumble.

  • An example of checking in could be, "Hey, are you ok after our disagreement yesterday? I just wanted to make sure there weren't any leftover feelings or things we didn't resolve."

  • Ask your partner if you are on the same page in terms of relationship expectations. You may discuss moving in together, sexual satisfaction, marriage, children, or plans to move. Be clear on what you want and how your partner fits in with that.

7. Demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness. Although the truth is sometimes painful to hear, the only way to preserve trust and integrity in your relationship is by being honest. Admit it when you're wrong. Apologize when you make a mistake. Your partner will appreciate your truthfulness and see you as more trustworthy.

Part 2: Treating Each Other Well

1. Create a foundation of respect. Relationships can be fun and exciting early on, yet it important to make sure that you and your partner are rooted in respect. Act in ways that demand respect from your partner. Strive to treat each other with respect at all times, even when you are mad at each other.

  • Your partner’s wishes, thoughts, and feelings have value. Communicate to your partner that you consider the way they feel. Mutual respect is an important part of making a healthy relationship work.

  • Talk to your partner about creating respect in your relationship. Decide "do’s" and "don’ts," such as name calling or sexual touch.

  • You may wish to implement "fair fighting" rules. They are as follows:

    • No degrading language

    • No blaming

    • No yelling

    • No use of force

    • No talk of divorce/breaking up

    • Don't try to tell your partner what they are thinking/experiencing/feeling

    • Stay in the present

    • Take turns speaking

    • Use time outs when necessary

    • Make them happy

2. Appreciate each other. A healthy relationship should be one in which you and your partner feel appreciated. Often, relationships are built from many small things added one on top of the other. Find the things your partner does for you and say "thank you." Instead of focusing on mistakes your partner makes, focus on the ways your partner adds to your life. When you notice something, speak out and show your appreciation.

  • Ask your partner how they like to feel appreciated. Write a note or a card, or make an effort to say "thank you" often.

  • Let your partner know how you like to be appreciated. Say, "It means a lot to me when you notice the things I do for you."

3. Spend quality time together. It’s easy to transition from face-to-face time together to digital communication. Yet, sometimes meanings can get lost in translation or non-verbal communication becomes non-existent. Spending quality time together can help strengthen your relationship and increase the bond you and your partner feel together.

  • Find activities that you can do together regularly. It can be as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee together each morning or reading together at night.

  • Trying something new together can be a fun and exciting way to spend time together. You don’t have to do anything crazy — even going out to dinner at a new restaurant or trying a new cuisine can be a fun experience.

4. Give each other space. No one person can fulfill everything and every role for another person. Let your partner have time with friends and family and engage in hobbies. It’s important for each person to have their own friends and activities that are enjoyed on their own. While you may want to spend every moment together during the beginning of the relationship, respect each other enough to spend time apart and know that time spent apart doesn’t mean anything negative for the relationship. Support your partner in maintaining friendships.

  • Avoid giving up your friends or pressuring your partner to give up friends. It’s important to have friends and the emotional support they provide. Likewise, don’t allow your partner to dictate whether or not you can see your family.

5. Expect changes. Know that your relationship will likely change. Allow growth for yourself, your partner, and for the relationship itself. Recognize that changes in your relationship are opportunities for new growth. Change is inevitable, so welcome changes and accept that the relationship will adapt.

6. Agree to invest time, energy, and effort into your relationship. Cultivating a long and happy relationship requires both individuals to invest time, energy, and effort.

7. Realize that you and your partner might express love differently. People demonstrate affection and love differently, and realizing this can help you establish a happier and healthier relationship. Be sensitive to each other’s needs by asking what you both can do to demonstrate love and support. Once you both know what the other person needs, you can make a conscious effort to express your feelings for each other.

8. Don’t allow others to interfere in your relationship. Unhappy in-laws, overbearing parents, and bossy friends can all wreak havoc on the relationship you and your significant other are building. Work with your significant other to keep negative interference to a minimum.

Part 3: Bring Love Into a Relationship

1. Express your love beyond physical intimacy. Love is not all about attraction, kissing, and sex. Love is both a physical and emotional connection with your partner. Depending on your partner, there are many ways to show that you care deeply about someone. Ask your partner what makes him or her feel loved and cared for. What activities, actions, words, or gifts make him or her feel warm and fuzzy? The way you show love and the way your partner receives love may be different, so asking what makes him or her feel loved is the best way to know ensure you're expressing your love in a way he understands.

  • Give a compliment, or words of encouragement. Express with words what you like, and love, about your partner.

  • Give a gift, or make a symbolic gesture of love. Give flowers or chocolates. Make a favorite meal. Write a love letter. Play or send a song. Draw a picture that shows you care.

  • Give an act of service. You’d be surprised how the little things — like fixing something that’s broken, or completing a task your partner doesn't want to do — can make your partner feel cared for. Give your time and skills to your partner.

2. Cultivate memories. If you're trying to reconnect with your partner, consider doing things that you both enjoyed when you were first dating. Talk about the good times that you've shared. This may help to show the strength and importance of the relationship over time.

  • Use history as a way to connect (or reconnect), by remembering important milestones in the relationship.

  • By honoring those milestones, you are showing your partner that you think of him or her outside of the normal routine.

3. Practice "love" every day. There are lots of things that can prevent us making love a priority. Make a conscious effort to make the actions and emotions of "love" a part of your daily routine:

  • Hold hands. Give a hug. Snuggle up to each other on the couch. This isn't just about sex, but the importance of being close in the simplest of ways.

  • Be positive in the ways you interact. Make sure that you give more than one compliment throughout the day (or however often you see your partner). It can be even as simple as saying, "Thank you for all you do," or, "You're amazing for doing that."

Part 4: Resolving Conflicts

1. Be okay with conflict, but choose your battles carefully. Many couples have a tendency to sweep problems under the rug because they fear conflict. In truth, conflict is a normal and necessary aspect that allows a relationship to grow. You and your partner are going to have disagreements. That's fine. However, your entire relationship shouldn't be marked by arguments.

2. Pause before saying something you'll regret. Follow the 48-hour rule when resolving conflict. Anger can corrode communication and lead to words being exchanged that you later wish you had kept to yourself. Take time apart to cool off before rehashing an argument.

3. Be willing to compromise. You shouldn't be keeping score of wins and losses because if your partner loses, so does the relationship. Don't develop a need to be right or always get your way. Learn the art of compromise. Stand up for what you believe in, but within reason.

4. Check-in regularly to catch small issues before they blow up. If you want to avoid having big serious talks all the time, remember that if something small ticks you off, you can tell your significant other without making a big deal about it. That way, you can avoid being passive-aggressive or having built up tension.

5. Accept your partner's differences. The worst thing you can do is view your partner through a distorted lens. Acknowledge and accept who they really are rather than your idea of them. Respect their unique background and experiences as different than your own. Keeping in mind that you have different histories and therefore different perspective can go a long way towards resolving conflict.

6. Look forward. In order to make your relationship work, you have to drop old hurts and let the past stay in the past. Whether you are hung up on your partner's past relationships or dwelling on old arguments, this type of behavior can lead to a split. Once an issue has been resolved, take down the rearview mirror and don't bring it up again.

7. Focus on one problem at a time and be specific. It’s often tempting in an argument to throw other issues into the mix, and pile on complaints. This approach, however, will make your problems seem overwhelming and limit your ability to resolve any of them.

8. Accept that you may not resolve every relationship issue. Although you might feel like you and your partner need to resolve every issue that arises in your relationship, this isn’t necessarily realistic in the long term. People can have a long and happy relationship while still disagreeing with each other.

Part 5: Improving an Unhealthy Relationship

1. See a therapist. If you’re caught in unhealthy patterns and want to improve them, ask your partner to see a therapist together. A therapist can help you break unhealthy patterns you may feel trapped in, such as yelling, blaming, isolating, making assumptions, and not communicating effectively. It can also help with emotional avoidance, modifying behavior, and changing the views you have of your relationship. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed — it means you’re willing to work together to improve it.

2. Let go of codependency. Dysfunctional behavior in a codependent relationship can look like one person supporting or enabling the other person’s irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, or poor health. If you are the enabler, you may feel guilty if you don’t help, even if you know it hurts your partner in the long run. Codependency is often rooted in childhood and may involve repressed feelings (not speaking up when you have a need, keeping quiet to avoid a fight) and an inability to say "no."

  • You and your partner may isolate from other people and not have friends outside of your relationship.

  • Educate yourself about codependency and spend some time identifying your (or your partner’s) self-defeating behaviors. You may want to work with an individual or couple’s therapist.

3. Respect your partner’s privacy. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment together or share everything. Respect your partner’s need for privacy and space. If jealousy comes up, remind yourself that jealousy is something you feel that may not be directly related to your partner’s actions.

  • Don’t demand your partner’s passwords to social media accounts or email. Respect your partner’s privacy and be willing to trust your partner.

  • It’s not healthy for you or your partner to constantly monitor each other’s behaviors. This can be rooted in jealousy or control, which are not healthy components to bring into a relationship.

4. Note warning signs of abuse. Relationships should be built on respect and equality, not power and control. While you may not think much of some behaviors at first, disrespectful behaviors set a tone in a relationship. If your partner is possessive, insulting, yelling, humiliating, or disrespectful in any way, take note. There is no excuse for abuse. Abuse is a choice that an individual makes and you do not have to be the victim. Sometimes, a partner could be emotionally unstable. The best way to do is to understand his or her perspective, stay calm and demand respect. A trained therapist could also be needed.

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