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What is a healthy relationship?

As therapist’s we often see a wide variety of issues and difficulties come to light when clients present in our office. In my time working within the world of counselling and psychotherapy, over time it has become more and more apparent how common relationship issues and relationship difficulties actually are.

I remember before becoming a therapist, during my time studying, I always imagined my career would be mainly focussed on working specifically with mental health issues, however - the further time progresses, the more often I find myself working with individuals experiencing issues in their relationships.

In acknowledgment of how common relationship issues actually are, I decided to write a short blog about what defines a healthy relationship in hopes of helping you the reader to identify potential gaps in your relationship which may need improvement or perhaps to aid you in recognising areas your relationship is already currently thriving.

So, what defines a healthy relationship?

  1. There is no perfect relationship - First and foremost - it is vital to acknowledge that perfection is impossible and all relationships will always have a mix of both healthy and unhealthy attributes. When we have perfectionist tendencies we can spend a lot of time highlighting the bad whilst to our detriment overlooking the positives and the strengths of our relationship. Honesty, trust, support and respect are just a few key qualities which may characterise a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship will have the ability to acknowledge the presence of these qualities or acknowledge the absence of them and work to build these into the relationship as a healthy foundation.

  2. Affection - While physical needs vary for everybody, compassion in a relationship can be displayed in a variety of other ways than physical touch such as words of affirmation, quality time etc. It is important to note that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to affection in a relationship but a healthy relationship will consist of both partners being content with the level of affection shared in the relationship.

  3. Good communication - Research suggests that the strength of a couples ability to communicate can be a strong predictor in relation to divorce rates in married couples. Communication should flow freely and both parties should feel safe to share. It is important to note that it is a myth when we are told that healthy couples do not argue or engage in conflict. A healthy couple will have the ability to navigate arguments/conflict in a respectful manor being solution focussed and having mutual respect for difference in opinion. Research shows that conflict in intimate relationships can often even be beneficial when done right in addressing serious problems. A healthy relationship with healthy communication will be able to offer respect and empathy during difficult times.

  4. Give & Take - A healthy relationship does not keep scores and involve “I did “x” for you so you owe me “x”. A healthy relationship will consist of both partners doing things for one another because they genuinely want to because they love the other person. We live in a world where the word “equality” is thrown around and used so often that equality has become so much more about people getting what THEY want. In a relationship this should not be the case and when it comes to healthily loving your partner, selflessness is a key characteristic to a healthy relationship. Again, this draws upon the idea of giving without the expectation of receiving anything back. Communication is key to make sure both partners are comfortable, however - when it comes to give and take, imbalances are often quite healthy once both partners are aware of them and content with the way things are.

  5. You have your own space - no matter how close or in love you are, it is important to note that life is not just about spending every moment together. A healthy relationship will involve both partners not just spending time together but also spending time pursuing their own personal goals and passions, spending time with friends etc. A healthy relationship will always be open to growth and having a growth mindset and when it comes to growth, a healthy relationship will involve not only looking to grow as a couple but also continuing to grow as an individual.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to connect with us by reading this blog. Remember, if you are currently in a difficult relationship, Rome wasn’t built in a day, things can improve with the right approach and the right support.

If you are in a relationship where you are experiencing verbal or physical abuse/violence. Please know you are not alone and the right help/support is available for you. If you need support please do not hesitate to reach out to us or click this link to get help from Safe Ireland.

God bless you,


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