According to The Oxford Dictionary, the word “healthy” means in a good physical or mental condition, or normal, natural, and desirable. You probably know what it feels like when your body and mind are healthy. But what about your dating life? If you've ever found yourself wondering, "is my relationship healthy?" you're not alone. After all, it involves a slew of different factors, all of which can change at any point over the course of your time together. It’s safe to say that a healthy relationship is one in which you feel safe, supported, and generally satisfied. But what, specifically, constitutes a healthy relationship?
Does it have to do with how often you fight? What about your texting habits? And does it matter how often you have sex? The short answer is that all of these things count, but as each relationship is completely unique, it’s better to focus on whether the current conditions are working for you rather than specifics. Still, experts agree that there are a number of signs that can suggest your relationship is healthy — beyond just trusting them or feeling happy to be around them.
According to board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman and EZ Dating Coach founder Mike Goldstein, it’s definitely worth taking a look at how you handle conflict. Dr. Edelman says that if you both seem to learn from arguments and other negative interactions, that’s a great sign. For example, if you both are typically able to own up to what you may have done wrong and can openly discuss how to handle conflict better next time around, that suggests that you’re using these situations as opportunities for growth.
“When you argue, you speak to each other with respect and want to find solutions that work for both of you,” adds Goldstein.
Fighting is inevitable in any relationship — what matters is how you go about it. So, if you’re both making a conscious effort to improve on your behavior during these kinds of interactions, that could definitely be a sign that you’re in a healthy relationship.
Are you and your partner pretty good at problem-solving together? If you live together, do you share housekeeping responsibilities? Dr. Edelman says that if you and your SO are both making an equally active effort to contribute to the relationship, that’s a great sign.
“If you feel a sense of togetherness, like you're part of a team, that’s another sign of a healthy relationship,” she tells Elite Daily.
While your shared life together is obviously important, Goldstein adds that it’s equally important that you both have your own individual lives outside of the relationship, too. If you have been able to maintain your friendships and hobbies as well as pursue your passions and goals while dating your current partner, that suggests that your relationship is healthy.
Both you and bae will have different needs — and that’s totally OK. The important thing is how you communicate and respond to each other’s needs. According to Goldstein, if you can vocalize what you want from your partner (whether it’s more quality time, more frequent texting, or a little more space) and they can do the same with you, that’s a phenomenal sign. It’s just as crucial that you both make attempts to accommodate those needs as well.
It’s impossible to explore the idea of a healthy relationship without talking about your sex life. Before you get caught up obsessing about how often you get frisky with your boo, however, consider this: it’s not about the frequency, it’s about how fulfilled you both feel. For some couples, once every couple weeks will feel like enough to stay connected. Others may feel inclined to get it on every day. The point is, you likely have found a rhythm that works for both of you.
“Sex is a reflection of how you feel emotionally about each other,” explains Goldstein.
Of course, every relationship goes through ebbs and flows in terms of intimacy. There are all kinds of factors, from prescription medication and personal tragedies to body image, that can impact your sex drive at any given point. What matters is that you’re openly communicating about your needs, and actively working to compromise with your SO to ensure that both of your needs are met.
According to Goldstein, one of the most significant signs of a healthy relationship is that you feel safe — safe to be yourself, and safe both physically and emotionally. Emotional safety means you feel comfortable expressing your wants, needs, concerns, and anything else that’s on your mind. If you feel emotionally safe with your boo, you won’t be afraid to disagree with them or tell them about something that’s upsetting you, because you know that they’ll be able to hear you out without getting overly defensive or accusatory. You can be vulnerable with each other, and you have the ability to listen to each other with compassion and an open mind.
So, what if some of these signs don’t seem to describe your current relationship? If you suspect that your relationship is not healthy, Goldstein recommends talking to your partner about the specific aspects that are concerning you. Once you’ve identified what isn’t working — whether it’s your sex life, your way of managing conflict, or something else entirely — you can hopefully work together toward a solution.
“Ideally, you’ll be able to move the relationship in a more positive direction,” says Goldstein. “And the direction should be documented with tangible weekly goals.”
Goldstein recommends devising some benchmarks by which to measure your improvements. It can help if you have regular check-ins with each other to see if you’ve made any strides.
Dr. Edelman adds that if there are specific issues that you’re struggling to work through, it can also help to get couples’ counseling. An unbiased third party may be able to point out things about your and your partner’s behavior that may be problematic, as well as offer helpful guidance on how you can both play a role in improving whatever area feels unhealthy.
Keep in mind that if your relationship doesn’t feel healthy, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s doomed — that is, as long as you don't feel any threats to your personal safety. If you do, you could be in a toxic relationship, at which point experts agree that it's critical to prioritize your own physical and mental well-being. Provided you and your boo are both willing to put in the effort to make any necessary changes in your attitudes and behaviors, however, there’s definitely hope for you to get to a healthy place as a couple.
Clearly, there are a number of different elements at play that make a relationship healthy. But at the end of the day, what's most important is that you both feel safe, heard, and loved. How do you know if you're in a healthy relationship? It will grow and change with you, revealing new things about yourself all the time.