Healthy Relationships: The Key Ingredients

Shared interests between both partners can help relationships flourish.

Shared interests between both partners can help relationships flourish. Flickr/LordKhan

It feels like love, but is it just a crush? Is he or she “the one” for me? Will our relationship make it until the end of this month? These are all uncertainties that most of us wonder about when romantic relationships start up.

The almighty “they” say men are from Mars and women are from Venus and that no man (or woman) stands alone. According to the American Psychological Association, the reality is that well-maintained relationships are vital to our happiness, which includes our mental health and wellness. Point blank: Our ability to feel love and intimacy is what keeps us going. It’s what keeps us feeling that “breath of fresh air.” Study after study has shown that loneliness increases an individual’s risk factor for disease. Furthermore, relationships have a positive effect on everything from our physical health to mental health.

When we think about relationships, we should view them like cars: In order to stand the tests of time, they require great maintenance. Like cars, all (not just some) relationships need regular maintenance. However, maintaining a healthy relationship can be challenging.

Each individual relationship is unique. But there are some things that good relationships have in common. Experts in the mental-health field say that you have to find a balance that encompasses a mixture of ingredients. Knowing these key ingredients can help relationships stay meaningful, fulfilling and exciting in both good times and the bad.

Being Honest—Truthfulness is the most important, yet the simplest, key ingredient for any relationship. If Jane is honest with Joe up front about past relationships, wants and needs (e.g., children versus not wanting children), finances and so on, then both individuals will have the feeling that they can open up and be who they truly are with one another.

Keeping Communication Open—Communication is one of the most challenging parts of relationships, because people often communicate in differing ways. Couples have to learn how to talk through both easy and difficult issues. To meet these challenges, both partners have to learn to respect each other's views as well as how they communicate—for some people words come more easily than for others. The important thing is listening and communicating your feelings to your partner in a respectful and loving way.

Spending Time Away from Another—In the beginning, people in relationships can become inseparable, which is considered normal. However, spending time away from one another is healthy and will ignite a continued interest in the relationship. Particularly in the long term, developing other hobbies and friendships will give balance to the relationship.

Maintaining Monogamy—Monogamy goes along with honesty as one of the most important ingredients in any relationship. Furthermore, you can't have monogamy if you don't have trust and honesty. Many couples focus solely on physical fidelity. However, emotional cheating can be just as damaging.

Holding Similar Views—What are your views about marriage, finances and children? Although relationships can succeed between people with wildly different personalities or beliefs, when both individuals have similar views, making major decisions is easier and more equal. Some studies show that relationships are most likely to succeed when partners agree on two factors: religion and alcohol use. Of course, depending on what is most important to those involved, the most important topics can vary.

Patience—If both partners have patience, then the relationship develops a bond that can make it through the test of difficult times. Relationships tend to end because couples stop trying to work out the problems that arise, not because problems exist.

Need help with your relationship?

Consider these resources …

“Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples” (20th Anniversary Edition)

by Harville Hendrix (Henry Holt & Co., 2007, $10.98)

“Make Up, Don’t Break Up: Finding and Keeping Love for Singles and Couples”

by Bonnie Eaker Weil (Adams Media, 2010, $11.45)

Couple’s counseling—find a counselor at http://www.jfp.ms/findacounselor



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