Relationships involve give and take, compromise, and consideration. But in healthy relationships, there are certain non-negotiables that must be honored to maintain a loving partnership that lasts. Affection and unconditional love are foundational elements, but what else does it take to support a quality partnership?
Here are five things you shouldn’t have to ask for in a relationship.
Respect in relationships means that your partner upholds and honors your worth as an individual with your own thoughts, opinions, and uniqueness. What does that look like? That means he or she affirms your choices, treats you with care and, ultimately, values you as a person.
You can see this played out during conflicts. Research shows that conflict isn’t inherently a negative indicator of a relationship, rather it’s how couples handle disagreements that determine how the relationship fares. When there’s respect and compassion involved, conflict can bring couples closer together. According to the Gottman Institute, strong couples have five or more positive interactions for every negative interaction.
2. Open Communication
The ability to openly share your feelings and effectively problem-solve is a hallmark of healthy partnerships. This could be as simple as chatting about plans for hosting a family event or as complex as addressing a challenge at home. You should feel safe articulating your thoughts and feelings.
Don’t forget the power of listening. Carefully taking in your partner’s words and then responding appropriately is the other half of open communication, the side that’s often overlooked. With active listening, you acknowledge that you’re listening and that you also understand what the person is saying.
“Knowing that you are being heard is one of the experiences most likely to cement a feeling of connection to another,” according to F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W.
It’s often the cheapest and simplest gift — time. Through time together, couples develop the other qualities that spur a healthy relationship, like respect and trust. We all lead busy lives, but partners should never feel like they’re competing (and losing out to) other obligations or people, like work or friends.
How we spend our time is indicative of our priorities, and for healthy relationships, you should come above your partner’s other obligations the majority of the time. That may not be realistic in every circumstance, but that premise should prevail in most situations.
Trust is another one of those essential ingredients to a strong partnership. If you find yourself doubting your partner (or vice versa), you’re already down a path that’s difficult to come back from. Couples who deal with trust issues — and there are many issues — often require dedicated time, effort, and professional support to rebuild this crucial piece in their relationship.
But it’s not a lost cause. Partners can work to instill new levels of trust through small, daily victories, which eventually translate to larger wins. To increase trust within a relationship, psychologist and author Andrea Bonior Ph.D. says, “It’s imperative that you stop saying things that you won’t follow through on, or that don’t represent your actual feelings. Even what seem like minor lies, when chronic, will tell the other person that they should no longer trust the things that come out of your mouth.”
And finally, you should never have to ask for emotional support. Your partner should be your biggest fan and champion for all things you. Whether you’re making a career change, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen, or just going about your day, he or she should be a passionate advocate. It’s likely they won’t always be 100% in support of every decision, but what’s important is that they get behind you from beginning to end.
Healthy couples feel supported on an ongoing basis. Simple words of encouragement, whether in a note or verbally, can go a long way to helping reach your personal or professional goals with a loving partner by your side.
Of course, respect, open communication, time, trust, and support are only a few elements that you shouldn’t have to ask for in a healthy relationship. Define what matters most to you, understand your deal breakers, and continually build on the traits that make for a strong partnership.