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Characteristics of Healthy Relationships And Patterns

While all relationships are unique in their own way, there are some characteristics that differentiate a healthy interpersonal connection from an unhealthy one. Here are several to consider.


Trust is a key component of healthy relationships. Research suggests that your ability to trust others is influenced by your overall attachment style. In other words, relationships experienced early in life help shape a person's expectations for future relationships.

If your past relationships have been secure, stable, and trusting, you are more likely to trust people in future relationships. If, however, your past relationships were unstable and undependable, you may have to work through trust issues going forward.

Trust is also established by how two people treat one another. When you see that the other person treats you well, is dependable, and will be there when you need them, you are more likely to develop trust in them. As this trust grows, the relationship becomes a greater source of comfort and security.

If you feel that you have to hide things from the other person, it may be because you lack this essential trust.

Openness and Self-Disclosure

Another characteristic of healthy relationships is feeling able to be yourself. While different couples have varying levels of openness and self-disclosure—the latter of which refers to what you are willing to share about yourself with another person—you should never feel like you have to hide aspects of yourself or change who you are.

At the beginning of a relationship, you may hold back and exercise more caution about what you're willing to reveal. Over time, as the intimacy of a relationship increases, partners begin to reveal more of their thoughts, opinions, beliefs, interests, and memories to one another.

Being open with each other helps you feel more connected as a couple while fostering greater trust. Self-disclosure can further enhance trust in your relationship

Healthy Boundaries

Although your partner may have different needs than you, it's important to find ways to compromise while maintaining your boundaries. Boundaries are not about secrecy. Instead, they establish that each person has their own needs and expectations.

Healthy boundaries are unique to each individual and each couple. They establish what you will and will not accept in your relationship. Examples of healthy boundaries include agreeing not to go through each other's phones, giving each other the time and space to have friendships outside of the marriage, and respecting each other's personal space.

A partner with unhealthy expectations of openness and honesty might expect to know where you are and what you're doing at all times. They may also restrict who you can spend time with or demand access to your personal social media accounts.

Mutual Respect

In close, healthy relationships, people have a shared level of respect. They don't demean or belittle one another and offer support and security.

There are a number of different ways that couples can show respect for one another. These include:

  • Listening to one another

  • Not procrastinating or stonewalling when your partner asks you to do something

  • Being understanding and forgiving when one person makes a mistake

  • Building each other up, not tearing each other down

  • Making room in your life for your partner

  • Taking an interest in the things your partner enjoys

  • Allowing your partner to have their individuality

  • Supporting and encouraging your partner’s pursuits and passions

  • Showing appreciation and gratitude for one another

  • Having empathy for one another

Love and Affection

Healthy relationships are characterized by love and affection. A relationship often begins with passionate love or an intense longing, strong emotions, and a need to maintain physical closeness. This eventually transforms into compassionate love, which is marked by feelings of affection, trust, intimacy, and commitment.

The initial passion that marks the start of a new relationship tends to decline over time.

Even though intense feelings early on eventually return to normal levels, couples in healthy relationships can build progressively deeper intimacy as the relationship progresses.

It is important to remember that physical needs are different for each individual. There is no right amount of affection or intimacy that applies to everyone. The key to a healthy relationship is that both partners are content with the level of affection they share.

Good Communication

Healthy, long-lasting relationships—whether friendships or romantic partnerships—require the ability to communicate well. Being able to communicate doesn't mean having no conflicts. It means being able to resolve differences of opinion effectively.

When conflicts do arise, those in healthy relationships can avoid personal attacks. They remain respectful and empathetic of their partner as they discuss their thoughts and feelings and work toward a resolution.

Sometimes conflict can even be an opportunity to strengthen a connection with your partner. Research has shown that conflict can be beneficial in intimate relationships when serious problems need to be addressed, allowing partners to make changes that benefit the future of the relationship.

Conventional wisdom (and research) says that good communication can improve relationships, increasing intimacy, trust, and support. The converse is also true: poor communication can weaken bonds, creating stress, mistrust, and even contempt.

Because conflict is virtually inevitable in relationships (and not necessarily a sign of trouble), you can reduce a significant amount of stress and strengthen your relationships at the same time if you build the knowledge and skills to handle conflict healthily.​

To become someone who practices healthy conflict, it's important to become aware of patterns and destructive attitudes that can exacerbate conflict in a relationship.


Strong relationships are marked by natural reciprocity. It isn’t about keeping score or feeling that you owe the other person. You do things for one another because you genuinely want to.

This also doesn’t mean that the give-and-take in a relationship is always 100% equal. At times, one partner may need more help and support. In other cases, one partner may simply prefer to take more of a caregiver role. Such imbalance is fine as long as each person is okay with the dynamic and both partners are getting the support they need.


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