RELATIONSHIPS
12/15/2017 04:23 pm ET

What Does A Healthy Relationship Look Like? Experts Weigh In

The strongest couples give each other the benefit of the doubt, for one.
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A healthy relationship doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes two people, however imperfect, who are committed to putting in the work to better themselves and improve their partnership in the process. 

We asked therapists, psychologists and other experts for signs that a relationship is healthy. See what they had to say below:

1. You have realistic expectations about love.

“Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is another matter. Long-term relationships are hard! There are many, many hills and valleys. Anticipating inevitable relationship challenges and having a plan to overcome them together (without overreacting) is the sign of a solid relationship.” ―Michele Weiner-Davis, therapist and author of Divorce Busting

2. You don’t take the little things personally.

“Rather than assume the worst, healthy couples will ascribe the best possible motive in the face of mistakes. Forgot to pick up the dry cleaning? Left the car with almost no gas? Rather than think, ‘She doesn’t care about me’ or, ‘He’s just out for himself,’ they think, ‘Even the most loving partners sometimes screw up.’” ―Winifred M. Reilly, marriage and family therapist and author of It Takes One to Tango 

3. You act as teammates, not competitors.

“While it may be good to compete in the workforce or in some athletic competition, it is not healthy for couples to compete against each other. Enjoy each other and keep the competition outside of the relationship.” ―Douglas C. Brooks, sex therapist 

4. You take responsibility instead of always shifting blame.

“Each partner will recognize a problem and look first to how they may have contributed to it. There’s a financial problem? Where did I overspend? The chores aren’t getting done? What did I miss? It’s not that the blame always resides in one person. In fact it rarely does, but healthy couples look to their contribution first before asking where their partner fell short. Unhealthy couples are quick to point the finger at the other and absolve themselves from blame.” ―Ryan Howes, psychologist

5. You feel secure in the relationship because you trust each other.

“Both partners have a deep trust and belief in the other person’s loyalty and veracity and are not jealous or suspicious. Healthy couples feel loved and they are not paranoid. They know their partner is trying to protect the relationship.” ―Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology and certified sexologist

6. You go out of your way for each other.

“We live in a culture that emphasizes personal satisfaction and the importance of ‘following your bliss.’ Putting your own needs first or being bitter about prioritizing your partner’s needs is a formula for disaster. When you truly give your partner an emotional gift ― such as being willing to have regular dinner dates with your in-laws who you don’t really adore (but your husband does),  know that reciprocity is the usual response. Loving people do mutual caretaking.” ―Weiner-Davis

7. You can talk openly about anything — even tricky topics.

“Sex, money, frustrations, desires. Healthy couples want to know what the other thinks and feels even though the truth might be upsetting.” ―Reilly

8. You grow individually over time, and allow the other to do the same.

“As much as you loved and appreciated your partner when you met him or her, after years or decades, they are bound to change. You can rail against this inevitability or embrace it. Healthy couples recognize that change is good and developing identity is a lifelong process. They encourage new hobbies, career paths, friendships, and interests their partners embark upon. Of course, it is natural to feel fear if the change threatens your livelihood or sense of safety, but hopefully you can communicate this and navigate the changes together. You signed on to grow and change together, and this requires a true partnership.” ―Howes

9. When you fight, you fight fair.

“They can argue about something important without showing disrespect to the other person. If either of you resorts to name-calling, it means there can be no true communication. A healthy couple can debate issues ― even raise their voices ― but never hurls insults.” ―Schwartz

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