Healthy Relationships: Friendship and Marriage
Each of us exists in relationship to others. We connect
in different ways to our colleagues, neighbors, casual
acquaintances, friends, family members, and life partners.
Some people enjoy having a wide circle of friends and
acquaintances, while others prefer to maintain close
relationships with just a few important people. Healthy
relationships in all parts of our lives contribute to
our emotional and physical well being.
Healthy relationships provide us with the emotional
support that we need to grow, to handle challenges we
face, and to heal from losses and frustrations. Beyond
emotional well being, evidence also suggests that people
with a strong network of caring friends and family members
actually live longer! Friendships and other close relationships
bring us the joy of sharing our experiences, thoughts,
and feelings with others. They offer us the chance to
reveal our true selves to other human beings, knowing
that we will be loved and accepted for who we are.
Defining a Healthy Relationship
In a healthy relationship, both people like, respect,
and trust each other. They accept each other for who
they are, including the ways that they change and grow
over time. Both people in a healthy relationship feel
free to express their emotions and experiences.
Tips for Developing and Maintaining Healthy Relationships
- Be patient when you are developing a new
relationship. Every relationship takes time to deepen.
- Pay attention. Listen to your own feelings
when you are developing a new relationship. Be aware
of the other person's body language and responses
to you. If you know that you and the other person
are comfortable and you both enjoy spending time together,
you will feel more confident in deepening the relationship.
- Strive for balance. Both people in a relationship
should give and receive. Neither person should "use"
the other one. We're not talking about everything
being exactly even, but if you look at the big picture,
make sure there is balance.
- Communicate. Take time to share your experiences,
thoughts, and feelings. If something about the relationship
is bothering you, clearly express your feelings to
your friend or partner. Listen openly to what they
have to say.
- Work on your own self-esteem. When you feel
good about yourself, other people will be more interested
in spending time with you. This doesn't mean that
you have to be happy and confident all the time. However,
your relationships will be healthier when you can
accept and love yourself instead of relying on the
acceptance of other people.
- Spend some time alone. Even best friends
or lovers need some time alone. Your relationship
will be healthier and more enjoyable if both people
have their own interests and activities and take time
The tips listed above for developing and maintaining
healthy relationships are also useful guidelines for
marriage and/or other serious romantic relationships.
In fact, marriages are often most successful when they
are based in a deep and respectful friendship. In addition
to this foundation, there are a number of other factors
that contribute to a successful marriage.
First, it is helpful for both partners to have compatible
sexual expectations. Sexual intimacy can be a source
of joy and can help strengthen a marriage if it is a
positive experience for both partners. It is very important
to communicate openly about expectations and experiences.
Second, marriages are more successful when both partners
are clear about the roles they expect each person to
play within the marriage and when they share common
visions and goals for the future.
As with any relationship, it is important for life
partners to maintain boundaries. While they may act
as a unit in many parts of their lives, it is essential
for both partners to maintain individuality.
Do not expect your marriage to be perfect; neither
you or your partner is perfect. Disappointments are
inevitable. Honest communication and the ability to
forgive mistakes are vital to a lasting relationship.
Marriages change over time. It takes work to maintain
a healthy relationship. When problems arise, don't ignore
them, hoping they will go away. Instead, talk openly
and honestly with your partner; avoid accusations and
blame. As you try to work out problems, be patient;
problem solving often requires more than one attempt.
Sometimes couples counseling can offer the objective
viewpoint you need to resolve problems you cannot.
For more information, please explore the following resources: