Chances are you already know that a healthy relationship takes a lot of work. It can be an all consuming effort. From the original attraction to everything that follows, cultivating a healthy relationship takes time and attention. While defining a universal “healthy relationship” is downright impossible, there are similarities that can be drawn. Read on to learn some of the more surprising facts about what contributes to healthy relationships.
1) They Talk About Sex, Baby
It should come as no surprise that sex is an important part of healthy relationships. And while you don’t need to be spending every night getting busy, you and your partner do need to foster feelings of intimacy and affection in a mutually beneficial way. Start a conversation with your partner to find out how often you might like to have sex and make sure you feel comfortable expressing your wants and needs – you can revisit this conversation on a regular basis. Did you know that sex actually lowers your blood pressure and improves your immune system? Sex is good for you! Almost everybody goes through a lull in their sex life at some point, don’t worry, we also provide counselling for sexual health.
2) They Don’t Rush The Move In
It can be tempting to move in with your partner early on in the game. Paying two rents, even two mortgages when you’re really only making use of one can feel fairly futile. A new study from the Council on Contemporary Families has proven that the older you are when you start living together, the more likely it is your relationship will not end in divorce or separation. According to the study, 60% of relationships that made the move to either get married or begin living together at the age of 18 ended in divorce. Meanwhile, those who waited until the age of 23 saw a 30% chance of divorce. Read the full article here.
3) They Fight
Contrary to what you might think, there is nothing wrong with fighting. It’s how you fight that really matters. In fact, marriage counsellors see heated arguments as a good sign in your marriage – you’re willing to fight for your relationship! Engaging in an argument insists that you address the weaker aspects of your relationship. Arguments are a highly complex battle ground, and the best thing you can do is abandon a win or lose mentality. Instead, focus on the reasons your relationship is worth fighting for.
4) They Understand the Power of Scent
When it comes to the senses, scent might just be the most subconsciously powerful one of them all. Scent has an effect on our memories, our moods, and our behaviours. It’s not a far stretch to say it also has an effect on our relationships. But not in the way you might think. Due to the different ways that men and women typically perceive scents, there is more evidence to suggest that the power of scent is experienced more by the wearer than the bystander.
When middle aged men wear cologne they experience less tension, fatigue, and depression. Meanwhile, postmenopausal women who wear perfume experience less extreme mood changes. Furthermore, the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago has discovered that the scents of lavender, pumpkin pie, black liquorice, and oriental spices increase penile blood flow.
5) They Do Chores Together
In any healthy relationships, staying on top of domestic duties can require some planning, not to mention time! Instead of relying on unspoken rules about who does what chores and when, talk about it and make a plan!
The studies show that while a balanced domestic workload doesn’t affect the male partner significantly, it does make a huge impact on the female partner. Women typically feel more satisfaction in a relationship where the man demonstrates value in an equal division of domestic duties. Keeping the house clean is an everyday endeavour; marriage counselling can help you begin this conversation.
6) Why Making $40,000 Improves Your Relationship
Finances can have a serious strain on your relationship; that is until your household income reaches the $40,000 mark. Once you’re at this income bracket, your fixed monthly expenses and the odd unexpected expense no longer cause you stress or anxiety. This is why this Psychology Today article argues that “the value of money depends on how much is at your disposal.” The article goes on to say that instead of using your disposable income on material possessions to boost your self-esteem, invest in experiences that contribute to “sustainable happiness.” If that doesn’t sound like a vacation, I don’t know what does.
7) They Have Joint Bank Accounts
While we’re on the topic of finances, we might as well address the joint bank account. The saying “put your money where your mouth is” comes to mind when discussing the relationship between your partnership and your money.
By entering into a joint bank account with your partner you are acting on your decision to make your relationship work. You are physically and metaphorically combining your livelihood with your partner’s. For this reason alone, you should never enter into a joint bank account without plenty of thought!
8) They Have Pets – Sometimes
Pets are a man’s best friend – but are they a relationship’s? There’s no doubt about the fact that pets have the potential to dramatically improve an individual’s emotional and physical well-being, but how does this translate into a partnership? As it turns out, sharing the responsibility of a pet can improve your relationship. With a pet, you learn the value of realistic expectations, as well as forgiveness and acceptance. Caring for a pet also has the potential of improving the bond you share as a unit. (Refer to Tip #5 when deciding who does the inevitable daily vacuuming and clean up!)
9) They Spend Money Equally
There is a common misconception that there is an imbalance of power caused by who makes more money in a relationship. However, it seems that it doesn’t matter (as much) who makes the money as who spends it. And while it won’t matter who spends more on groceries or on dry cleaning, you will foster a healthier relationship if you make big ticket purchases together. So instead of delegating all the purchasing decisions to one partner, make a habit of tackling larger purchases together.
10) They Have Similar or Flexible Work Schedules
Around the clock work schedules can take a toll on any relationship, whether it’s with your partner, your parents, or your children. Which is why having a similar work schedule, or better yet a flexible one allows for a healthier relationship. The ability to spend more time together directly translates into a more fulfilling relationship!
11) They Have a Similar Social Class
Over the past few decades, social class has become a variable when studying relationships of all sorts. The term “social class” is used to refer to occupation, income, or education, and is across the board, fairly difficult to define. When asked, most people will classify themselves as “middle class.” That said, in a study by psychotherapist Teresa McDowell, she discovered that preconceptions about “lower class” individuals acted as either potential or actual obstacles in mixed class relationships. As a result, mixed class relationships often include separate friend circles, differences in the way money is viewed and spent, and trouble integrating both partners into each other’s families.
12) They Were Friends First
You already know that friendship is an important part of your relationship. But did you know that couples who treat their friendship that occurred before they started dating as a priority actually report higher levels of sexual and romantic satisfaction? For many couples, a source of discontent can be lack of support. Friendship and support go hand in hand. While romantic relationships can sometimes include an element of support, friendship is based on the support you both give and receive.
13) They Read Between The Lines
Your partner isn’t always going to spell it out for you. They are going to imply, insinuate, or at times even evade. As a willing participant in your relationship, it is important that you learn how to read between the lines. The ability to interpret your partner’s behaviour is a valuable skill in strengthening your relationship. Reading between the lines means that you are paying attention to differences in your partner’s behaviour or emotions. Regardless of whether they indicate issues in your relationship or their personal life, your partner requires your support and it’s your job to offer it.
14) They Make Small, Meaningful Gestures
Oh, the small gesture; an unexpected bouquet of flowers, a quickly scribbled love letter, or an impromptu date. Small gestures have a huge impact on the health and longevity of your relationship. These unscheduled actions act as a reminder to both yourself and your partner of why your relationship is worth it. Here are 10 small, yet meaningful gestures that you can treat your partner to. Making these small gestures reminds both of you to enjoy the little things, and to seek out pleasure and enjoyment in your daily life.
15) They Share Similarities
While opposites certainly do attract in science, nature, and definitely from time to time in successful relationships, the studies show that it’s actually “similars” that stay together. When it comes to long term relationships, those who share a religion, political belief, hobby, age, or interest are more likely to stay together. And yet…. not all the time!
In one study by researchers Nathan Hudson and Chris Fraley, it was discovered that partners who considered themselves to be agreeable and moderately emotionally stable were the happiest in their relationships. Meanwhile, those couples who both considered themselves to be extraverted, conscientious, and open were less likely to be happy in their relationship. Learn more here.
16) They Are Healthy!
Your relationship affects your physical health as well as your emotional health. When everything is going well, healthy relationships will help you personally adopt healthy habits. Yet, if your relationship is on the rocks, your health will suffer. Instead of waiting for your relationship to dictate your health, embrace healthy habits that are independent of your relationship.
Depending on your work schedule, family commitments, or fitness goals you and your partner might consider engaging in healthy habits together. Start by going for a long, scenic walk together once a week, or planning a hike for an upcoming long weekend. You might even consider joining a gym together! Stress, anxiety, and trouble sleeping are common health related issues that can arise early in an unhealthy relationship. Keep an eye on changes in your overall well being.
17) They Understand Their Partner’s Nonverbal Communication
Much like reading between the lines, nonverbal communication requires that your partner is actively involved and attentive. Did you know that nonverbal communication accounts for 55% of what is said every single day? Nonverbal communication can be as subtle as a turned back, or the roll of the eyes.
Yet, acknowledging this alternative form of communication isn’t enough. You and your partner need to know how and when to react to its use. Couples in healthy relationships have learned when to address their partner’s nonverbal communication in a supportive and productive way.
18) They Use Pet Names
Pet names, also known as terms of endearment are a casual way of expressing affection. Pet names, much like “inside jokes” between friends further solidify the bond that you and your partner feel. By using them, you are nonverbally referencing your relationship, and by extension that you value your relationship. Carol J. Bruess, a professor at the University of St. Thomas believes that relationships are “mini culture” unto themselves, and that pet names act as an unofficial private language that further solidifies a relationship. So don’t be afraid to use pet names with abandon.
19) They Forgive and Forget
In any relationship, there are going to be wrongdoings and offences that need to be moved past in order to move forward. In a healthy relationship, partners voluntarily forgive and forget the offending events. They acknowledge that something that happened three, four, even six months ago has no bearing on the present day. For many couples, marriage therapy can help make the forgive and forget process pain free.
Every relationship is different. There is no one healthy relationship. But treating your partner with love and respect is the name of the game. Learn how to be honest with yourself, and by extension with your partner. Of course, this is easier said than done. It is a process that takes time and determination!