At Serene Harbor, our staff is full of healthy relationship experts. We pride ourselves on our level of expertise and the extensive process of education that we involve ourselves in to keep our credentials current. Based on our team's knowledge and experience in promoting healthy relationships, we have created the following 10 ways that you can evaluate the health of your very own relationships. Whether it is romantic relationships, parental relationships, sibling relationships, friendships, or any other sort of close relationship, you can use the following tips to ensure that it is healthy.
#1. Is the relationship one-sided?
One of the most important parts of a healthy relationship is the commitment and involvement of all parties involved. Have you ever been in a one-sided relationship? Have you ever felt like there was only one person who cared, or one person being selfless, or one person taking care of everything? Maybe you even feel like this right now, and maybe you aren't even the one giving in the relationship. Whatever the situation, it is important that there is a mutual sense of love and commitment, and that the responsibility of the health of the relationship doesn't fall on one person's shoulders.
#2. Does the relationship allow you to be your own person?
Being able to still be your own person and allowing others to be their own people is essential to building healthy relationships. Sometimes this can look like giving each other physical and/or emotional space when needed. Other times it can look like empowering others to pursue their desires, passions, or goals, even when they differ from yours. Sometimes this means practicing self care on your own outside of the relationship and developing yourself as an individual before spending time with another person. Having a strong personal identity outside of your relationship status is important for your overall mental and emotional health, as well as the health of your relationships.
#3. Are you able to be honest about your thoughts and feelings?
When are you able to be vulnerable with your thoughts and feelings, it is a great sign of health in relationships. Feeling as though you cannot be honest or that you have to hide your thoughts, feelings, or other core parts of yourself is not healthy and can be a major red flag in your relationships. This also means allowing others to be honest with their thoughts and feelings within relationships, even when it is not something that you agree with or even necessarily want to hear. Honest, transparency, and vulnerability are key to healthy relationships. That being said, different levels of emotional intimacy in relationships will impact how transparent you are willing to be with someone, and not all relationships require pure vulnerability to be healthy.
#4. Are your concerns mutually validated?
When you bring up concerns or questions are they met with concern, or are they typically disregarded? If someone is constantly disregarding your concerns and/or belittling your feelings when you bring up issues, then this is another relationship red flag. Do you find yourself disregarding the concerns of others? If this is the case, try to practice some self-awareness when communicating in your relationships. Sometimes our communication styles can come across as derogatory or condescending and we may not even realize it! Asking those around you how you are coming across and making them feel can be helpful in this process.
#5. Does the relationship cause you to abandon any core parts of yourself?
No healthy relationship will require you to let go of any part of your core in order to maintain the relationship. If someone is asking you to abandon a core belief, another core (healthy) relationship, an attribute of your person, or any other important piece of yourself, than it is not a healthy relationship. You should feel safe to be 100% YOU and still feel valued, respected, and loved. This also means that others should feel safe to be 100% themselves and it should not impact the quality of your relationship with them. This doesn't mean that relationships do not require sacrifice, but it does mean that you should never sacrifice core parts of yourself as a person for a relationship.
#6. Do your/their words align with actions in the relationship?
Words carry a lot of meaning, but actions carry even more. If you or people you are in relationships with often use words and phrases that do not align with their actions, then this can be a relationship red flag. Sometimes, relationships involve positive words followed by negative actions. For example, someone might say, "I love you more than anything and you are my priority", but then prioritize work, friends, and video games over you. This is a perfect example of positive words not being followed by positive actions. On the other hand, there can also be negative words followed by positive actions, which is also unhealthy. For example, someone might say, "You are ugly and I hate you, I never should have been friends with you", but then show up with flowers the next day. This is an example of negative words being followed my positive actions. This example could be healthy if done once, but a pattern of harsh words followed by immediate acts of kindness could be the sign of an abusive relationship.
#7. Is there accountability for mistakes?
Accountability must involve all sides of the relationship, no matter who is in the relationship. There must be enough love and respect for the other person to practice self-accountability. This means regulating your own thoughts, behaviors, and emotions and holding yourself responsible and not shifting blame when you need to. There also must be enough love and respect for yourself to hold the other person accountable as well. This means being able to communicate when you feel hurt or unheard by the other person, as well as allowing the other person to apologize and come forward with mistakes when they are trying to hold themselves accountable. It is important that all sides of the relationship practice both self-accountability and are able to take accountability from others.
#8. Do you feel like a priority?
This will look different depending on the level of emotional intimacy present within the relationship, but it is important that you feel like a priority to some extent in any close relationship that you are in. If it is a romantic relationship than you might be top priority, whereas a friend might have other priorities above you and the friendship; that being said, that friend should still make you feel like your thoughts, feelings, opinions, and relationship with them is important. Prioritizing is important for any and all relationships, and people's words and actions will make it very clear what and who are their priorities.
#9. Is there a mutual respect for boundaries within the relationship?
All healthy relationships involve boundaries, no matter what type of relationship it is. Boundaries can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, and it is important to both set your own and respect others' as well. Communicating boundaries can be intimidating and respecting other people's boundaries can be complicated, but taking the time to understand one another's boundaries and why they are important can be the deciding factor between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. Keep in mind that boundaries don't have to make total sense to anyone but the person setting them. If you don't understand someone else's boundaries ask, but understand that they do not owe you an explanation. Many boundaries are rooted in trauma or other mental and emotional challenges and it might be difficult for someone to fully communicate that in a relationship.
#10. Is your relationship 50/50?
You probably thought that a relationship being 50/50 was a good thing right? Well, we are here to tell you that this is not the case. Relationships being 50/50 all of the time is a false narrative that is unachievable and not even a healthy ideal of relationships. Sometimes you are going to be having a rough day and only have 20% to give, and you should feel safe to stay at your limit of 20% knowing that the other person will give 80%. Sometimes your partner is going to not feel well and only feel able to give 30%, and you should feel confident in stepping up and giving the relationship 70%. That is healthy -- when one person is struggling, the other one steps up.