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.