Marriage and Family Therapist
Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross is a licensed psychotherapist with almost twenty years of clinical experience in the fields of clinical psychology and organizational management. She has worked extensively with a wide variety of…
What Does A Healthy Relationship Look Like?
Posted in Breakups & Divo... by Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross on Apr 11, 2009

A DailyStrength member asked me to describe a "healthy relationship". I suppose this is what most people strive for and being given a description of what one looks like seems as if it would help to achieve that goal. I wish there actually was a definitive list that I could provide to all of you, and to my clients, about what specifically to strive for - but there simply is not. I can tell you that when couples come into my office I can ascertain pretty quickly if they have the foundation for a healthy relationship. By the way, some of the couples that come into my office have extremely healthy relationships and, contrary to what one may think, the very fact that they have chosen to see a couples therapist is evidence of their connection to each other and their desire to keep that connection strong. All relationships hit bumps in the road, but it is how couples deal with those bumps that determine the longevity and satisfaction of a relationship.

Those things that make a relationship work are different for different people. There are some basic attributes that I like to see in a relationship that give the outcome of therapy a good prognosis. Couples, who are genuinely interested in how their partner feels about current circumstances, whether or not they agree with the perception, do much better in treatment. In general, couples who are on the same page with regard to big life issues such as; morals, values, beliefs about childrearing (ideas about whether or not to have children in the 1st place), lifestyle, issues around money, religion and yes - even politics obviously have a more harmonious coexistence. This doesn't mean that couples need to share a brain. They can have differing opinions on some things but not on the things that dictate their lives. When opinions do differ, the element of mutual respect is crucial. Learning ways to agree to disagree can help navigate a couple through their differences.

Compatibility is also an indicator of health in a relationship. Again couples can have different hobbies and interests but they need to have enough shared joys to make their time together rich and fulfilling.  After all, laughing and having fun is an essential part of what makes us healthy as individuals and this holds true for relationships as well. When people have shared interests they tend to grow together as they develop those interests further. Many couples whose lives are filled with interests that are profoundly divergent from their mates find themselves drifting apart over the years. As they become more focused or involved in their separate passion they may have little time to spend finding shared joys with their partner. To be clear this does not mean that couples can't have individual hobbies and interests outside the relationship, and in fact it is healthy to do so, but careful attention must be paid to prioritizing and nurturing the bond between partners.



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Hi my name is Bruce, i am 47 have always been single. Have dreamed of marriage but cannot achieve. Most of my time is wanting more than i can get. Have not succeeded with my dating relations for various reasons. Wish someone could council me please. Warm wishes, Bruce
By Seeker63  Feb 18, 2011
Hi my name is Bruce, i am 47 have always been single. Have dreamed of marriage but cannot achieve. Most of my time is wanting more than i can get. Have not succeeded with my dating relations for various reasons. Wish someone could council me please. Warm wishes, Bruce
By Seeker63  Feb 18, 2011
I'm currently in the middle of a book that suggests we expect and accept nothing less than the love God has in store for us. If it doesn't feels like Gods love then it's not. This is the standard of which I am expecting to hold relationships to. We have to realize that love disappoints but it does not hurt.
By JacJac  Apr 29, 2009
This article was also very timely in my life. I am compatible on about 90% of aspects with my girlfriend, but that other 10% can definitly proving be a challenge. But at a high-level I think this article describes what we are trying to work towards, but it is with-out a doubt a lot of work.
By Want2Improve  Apr 21, 2009
Warning...the following may make you feel sick! A healthy relationship to me is one where you actually feel, consistently, some or most of the following, loved, respected, regarded, valued, secure, special, in the 6 years I have been with my partner we have never had a row, fight or said a bad thing about or to eachother, we admire and love each other deeply, we have both been there, seen it, dunnit so we no what works and what doesn't. We are very lucky to have found eachother, I feel I have met the male version of me!I hope it lasts for ever but nothing does, so while I have got it and feel it I'm making the most of it!
By Laurie2  Apr 19, 2009
This was a Great read. I know many times people ask what is a healthy relationship. They look for tangible/physical things to attribute to say "Yep, this is what it looks like and what we need to achieve!"

I think it's a great idea to go to counseling even when the relationship is good, it allows for the bond that two people already share to grow stronger by showing the commitment to continue a genuine, exciting and loving relationship by learning more about how to work to get there.
By ChiTownBear  Apr 19, 2009
Great article!

I have never had a healthy relationship. I suspected what you have written ... just didn't make a good choice in marrying a man with no morals. He is now my ex-husband, 14 years of freedom. Yeah!
By swandy52  Apr 18, 2009
Actually I thought this article was a cursory rehash of what is already out there. No concrete examples. I would like to have seen something a bit more detailed examples of situations that work and those that do not.
By Fuzzybunny  Apr 18, 2009
I liked this article just wanted to add my two cents I have been very happily married for soon to be 19 years. One of the things I made sure to do was not date every tom, dick and harry that came along and no one got the milk for free. I never met anyone in a bar either. To many people hook up until the next best thing comes along. Don't settle for someone your really know your not going to want to put the time into the relationship with.
When I met my now husband I got to know him saw that he was very respectful of women and children and very considerate, smart and had a wonderful sense of humor and yes he was cute but cute is not always everything. Anyway 6 months later we had a beautiful big wedding.

To often people place all the importance on the wedding day and not the actual marriage part. I say look at how they treat their family and friends how are they in stressfull everyday situations do they respect your feelings even if they may not be in agreement. Look at the things that you may not like about that person because if you think your annoyed now by them, when your married to that person the little things that bothered you will increase so make sure you can live with their faults too.
The bigest mistakes I think I see my friends make is they get married thinking that the person they are with will change after they are married and all I have to say is people do not change and you can not change them after your married.
You have to be happy with yourself and not be filling some need in yourself through another person. Have things in common and have different hobbies plus make dates with each we still have date nights . The most important thing compromise and forgive and never go to bed angry. Maybe I just got lucky to have a good marriage partner but I would like to think that I put thought into what it was I was looking for in a partner.
By lise38  Apr 17, 2009
Juliecrawford- that is a very good question. You can have empathy and understanding for another persons feelings whether they are sad, frustrated, hurt or angry and not necessarily agree with their point of view. Parents experience this all they time when they set limits for their children, witness and provide comfort for their disappointment but stick to their decisions. In romantic relationships, couples may perceive a situation differently and have a different emotional response but a willingness to agree to disagree and to recognize and appreciate the differing opinions goes along way towards a deeper connection. It comes down to the ability to put yourself in the other person's shoes.
By CSR  Apr 17, 2009
I am trying to learn how to have a relationship now, i actually think that it is the first "real" one that I have ever had, and i am not understanding how you do this: "genuinely interested in how their partner feels about current circumstances, whether or not they agree with the perception". how are you genuinely interested and not agree?
By juliecrawford  Apr 17, 2009
Easy said than done.
Many people actually do know somehow what a healthy relationship is but only few people follow it with actions.
Ironically, those people who claimed to know more are usually the ones who tend to commit an offense but they cleverly able to deny it.
Good stuff though; just need to put it into action; otherwise, it's as good as nothing.
By rasis70  Apr 17, 2009
Is there any carers out there i have a dependent son and it is getting very hard for me some days I feel like I am drowning and there is now-where to get help, I feel trapped only other carers would understand, so if you are out there I would love to hear from you.
By JonathonA  Apr 17, 2009
I agree with everything mentioned. My only question is how do you know if a person is a good match for you. I am almost 48 and will be looking for a partner in the near future. I have made serious mistakes in the past accepting and settling for those partners that were not good for me. Now I am almost 48, divorced and with health problems, which I feel will make finding a partner much more difficult. I am not sure I am honest with myself since I tend to settle and forget what I need and want in a relationship. I hear from many people both male and female how difficult it is to find a compatible partner so I think the difficult times we are in play a big part in what people are willing to accept in a person. Also I talk to married and those that cohabitate and it seems like no one is truly happy anymore.
By NJGirl07  Apr 16, 2009
very intersting i have a habit of codependency relationships and i want to end this and go for a healthier one
By lisadearlisa  Apr 16, 2009
This is a fantastic, well-informed article. And I am being bias here because I share the same ideas with Miss. Sarnoff-Ross :-) However, if people want to read more about what a healthy relationship would look like, I recommend Cherie Carter-Scott's 'If Love Is A Game, These Are The Rules' book. Small book, lots of truth to it. My prayer is everyone finds the love they are looking for in this life. -M.
By 050306  Apr 15, 2009
This article is amazing and so timely in my life. Thank you for this clear article about what is healthy!
By positiveions  Apr 15, 2009
When one is older, finding shared interests is sometimes difficult... the die have been cast so to speak. We are not trained to roll with fluidity in our relationships; it seems as if egocentricity rules in the good ol' US of A. The very nature of most people seems to be it's their way or the proverbial highway. Letting go of that mindset is beneficial; however, being aware how naturally we slip into the me, me, me path needs to be acknowledged at every level. After all, we are alone when we transition no matter how close we are are in life. Being able to include others in your wonderful ride is paramount; of course, it helps to know who you are first. Faking it doesn't count, and a lot of us do what we think we should do rather than what we really feel.
By artsense  Apr 15, 2009
I am saddened to know that I am 33 and haven't had a healthy relationship since i waswith myHigh School girlfriend 13 years ago.
By Bruiser  Apr 15, 2009
I hope some day I'll have a healthy relationship. Seems like a rarity these days.
By yayasis  Apr 14, 2009

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