Every relationship is different — and comes with its own unique set of quirks and challenges. While the recipe for a successful relationship is definitely not one-size-fits-all, there are common factors that expert Alyson Jones says should be present in any healthy partnership. So get ready to keep score (and tally your results at the end) as we take you through 20 key elements of the healthy relationship checklist.
You trust each other
“A healthy relationship cannot be built on lies and deceit,” says therapist Alyson Jones. “You cannot relax in a relationship if you are worrying about secrets and betrayal. When you don’t trust someone, you find yourself doubting your own perceptions — conversely, when you do trust someone, you can relax and better trust yourself.”
There is balance in the relationship
In a balanced relationship, “There is mutuality in your feelings for each other,” says Alyson Jones. “You trust the relationship is moving along as it should, and there is a natural flow in your feelings for each other.”
There is vulnerability in the relationship
“You cannot have a meaningful relationship without vulnerability,” says Alyson Jones. “To experience love, we must first let the defenses down. Part of love is vulnerability, and without the risks (of being vulnerable) there will be no rewards.”
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You are curious about the other person
“You should be curious about the other person — finding them interesting and wanting to continue to learn about them,” says Alyson Jones. “You want to know about their experiences, thoughts and feelings.”
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You love the person they are right now — not who you think they can be
“When you have an agenda to change a person, you have not accepted them,” says Alyson Jones. “A relationship can inspire us to be our best and do our best — but nobody wants to be someone else’s improvement project.”
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You can communicate effectively with each other
“You need to be able to talk about things and work through things together,” says Alyson Jones. “You can discuss difficult topics and do not hold onto resentments. If you do not feel heard of understood in a relationship it will turn the relationship sour.”
You treat each other with respect
“You must value each other and recognize the other person as a unique individual who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.” Says Alyson Jones.
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There is room for differences in the relationship
“Everyone has a right to their own opinions and thoughts,” says Alyson Jones. “When you have disagreements, you do not name call or put each other down. You speak highly of your partner to others, and you respect their opinions… even when they are different to your own.”
You argue – and work through it
“Disagreements are not the problem – they are to be expected in any relationship of significance,” says Alyson Jones. “The problem is when we cannot resolve the differences – or agree to disagree. Emotions can run high when you are arguing with someone you care for – but we need to fight fairly and make room for differences.”
You each put effort into the relationship
“If one person is doing all the work this will lead to resentment and disengagement from both partners,” says Alyson Jones. “We all need to feel we are contributing to the relationship and that our contributions are valued by our partners.”
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You each have the ability to compromise
“A relationship will not last if you are not willing to compromise,” says Alyson Jones. “It cannot be all about you, and likewise, your partner should not be able to get their own way all of the time, either. Life is made up on compromised — but that being said, one thing you should never compromise on is your self-value.”
The relationship has healthy boundaries
“You are two different people so there needs to be respect of each partner as an individual,” says Alyson Jones. “Each partner should have their own interests, autonomy and independence. You need to be able to spend time apart and experience your life as an individual. You also need to be able to have boundaries in your intimate relationship, and nobody should be pushed into or coerced into something that is past their limits.”
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You have intimacy in your relationship
“It is great to feel sexy with your partner and enjoy the physical aspects of your relationship,” says Alyson Jones. “There are many ways to feel intimate and connected and a healthy relationship will have you exploring intimacy through physical, emotional and intellectual avenues.”
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You can talk to each other without fear of judgment
“If you feel judged by your partner, you will shut down and disconnect from them,” says Alyson Jones. “It is important that you feel you can be imperfect and can be in a space with someone who can accept you without harsh judgments and criticisms.”
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You are loyal to each other
“We need to feel that our partner has our back and we can depend on them to back us up if needed,” says Alyson Jones. “We all need to feel we have our “people” in this world — and the one we can truly depend on above all others is our chosen partner.”
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Your relationship is a safe place in the world
“Our relationship can provide a sanctuary when we need it — and it can help us refuel and replenish before we go out and face the world again,” says Alyson Jones. “If you feel unsafe in your relationship this is an indicator that you need some help. Reach out to others if you feel your relationship is toxic — your personal safety must be a priority and should not be compromised.”
There is kindness and compassion in your relationship
Both partners can say, “I’m sorry”
“We need personal responsibility and accountability in a relationship,” says Alyson Jones. “We will hurt and disappoint each other — this is inevitable. What makes a relationship secure and strong is the ability to own up if we have made a mistake, and to do our best to have empathy for our partner and what they may be experiencing.”
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There is a sense of equality in the relationship
“There may be some things we do better than our partner — and vice versa — but no one should feel they are better or superior to their partner,” says Alyson Jones. “If you feel controlled in a relationship, there may be a power imbalance at play that is not healthy.”
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The relationship is fun!
“Although there is work in a relationship, this needs to be balanced with having a good time together,” says Alyson Jones. “You do not have to have all the same interests, but it is important to be able to be playful together and bring a sense of humor into your time together. Laughter and joy are good for us – and our relationships.”
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The final tally
If you checked off 15 or more: Fantastic – your relationship is obviously on the right track and thriving.
If you checked off 10 to 15: Great job, but if you’re on the lower end of this tally, you may want to examine some areas where your relationship could use improvement.
If you checked off less than 10: No judgment here, but it sounds like your partnership could use a little reflection and revamping to get it back on track.