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How to Support Healthy Love

By Milena Lopez

Having healthy relationships with friends and romantic partners is the backbone to a living an overall fulfilling and healthy life. It means having stability, warmth, love, companionship, devotion, and true friendship. Healthy love is what keeps us going when times are tough, or when nothing seems to be going right – when your partner is there to listen to you and support you, no matter what, it can make you feel like you are on top of the world. There is nothing better than knowing you have someone in your life who is always willing to be with you and experience life with you, just the way you are.

Partners in healthy relationships support each other and have the other partner’s best interest at heart. Selfless acts – like doing household chores while the other is tied up at work or standing up to protect the other partner when others do not – can go a long way in helping your partner feel loved. When conflicts or problems arise in the relationship, the partners work together to solve these problems by talking things out, but never through manipulative or controlling behavior.

Conflicts can occur in all types of relationships, including ones based on romance or friendship alone. Each person in the relationship is still an independent thinker, so there will naturally be disagreements. In a healthy relationship, conflicts should never lead to physical or emotional abuse. If a partner becomes abusive in the relationship, it is no longer healthy and is never the victim’s fault.  

What does a healthy relationship look like?

Supporting and maintaining a healthy relationship is not always easy, but it is possible when each partner makes an effort to do so. A healthy relationship should have evidence of the partners engaging in respectful communication, giving enthusiastic consent, and coming to fair compromises.

Respectful Communication

Couples in healthy relationships should make time to discuss their thoughts and feelings together about things of importance, including conflicts. One cannot conduct healthy, serious communication in a relationship via text or email, but rather through real-life human interactions. If a problem or disagreement arises, partners should attempt to address the problem by talking face-to-face. Being mindful of how the other partner feels and being compassionate for their cause is essential to having a respectful discussion or argument. Discussions about difficult or unsettling things in the relationship can feel terrible in the moment but can eventually lead to one or both partners making a change for the better. It can also lead to finding out what each partner does or does not want or like.

Enthusiastic Consent

The concept of consent in a healthy relationship can change, depending on the context. Whether the couple is deciding on whether to have sex, have children, or move in together, it is imperative that both partners consent to doing so when they decide ‘yes.’ Without enthusiastic consent from both partners, the relationship may start to deteriorate – one partner may feel he or she never gets their way, or one partner may end up abusing his or her power over the other.

Fair Compromise

Making compromises that are fair to both partners can help solve problems when one or both partners do not give consent. It is important that both partners know that compromising is an option. However, compromising is not appropriate for all situations. For example, compromising usually is not appropriate when consenting to sex – if one partner does not want it, do not force it upon that partner. Making compromises can help when settling matters of practicality, like financial decisions or which side of the family to visit for the holidays that year.

How can ‘healthy’ look different in every relationship?

Not every relationship is the same. This goes back to the idea of consent- some couples may easily consent to some things that both partners in another couple may not consent to, ever. For example, some couples decide to have children, while some do not. Additionally, many people show love differently than others, even within one relationship. Research conducted on this shows that there are different ways in which people define and show love. Love can be romantic, between best friends, logical, playful, possessive, or unselfish. However, showing love never involves abusive behavior.

How can we celebrate healthy love and relationships?

Celebrating milestones, like wedding anniversaries, is an important component to healthy relationships. Milestones can also include first-date anniversaries, anniversaries of the day the couple met, or the anniversary of leaving a previous abuser.

Setting aside time for each partner to be present and engaged with each other while doing their favorite things is a great way to celebrate. It does not have to be anything fancy or expensive, just something the couple enjoys doing together.

Friends and family members can join in on the celebrations, too. Inviting friends and family over for anniversaries or other milestones can help reinforce and spread the idea that everyone deserves healthy love.

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