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The world often tries to sell you the idea of a perfect relationship or a perfect partner - both of these expectations can be dangerous, as they may leave you feeling disappointed. We’re all only human after all, and can’t be expected to be perfect all the time.

But a perfect relationship is different from a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship is one that creates a positive environment for your partner and you to grow and prosper in - together, as well as individually.

Naturally, our relationships have a bearing on our physical and mental health, too. Someone who is in an unhappy relationship may experience more anxiety and stress. Whereas someone in a loving and supportive relationship is likely to be less stressed (and therefore healthier).

A meta-analysis on "How Much Does Love Really Hurt?" - published in the Journal of Relationships Research brought out by Cambridge University Press - found a "statistically significant but modest relationship" between the quality of relationship, breakups and mental health in adolescents (13-17 years old) and young adults (aged 18-29).

Another study - published as "Caught in a Bad Romance: Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Mental Health" - with over 5,000 teens found a link between the failure to have an "ideal" romantic relationship and severe depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in adolescent girls.

Of course, the ill-effects of a bad relationship aren't limited to young love. Many studies have focused specifically on the quality of a marriage and its impact on physical health. Case in point: a 2001 article - "Marriage and health: His and hers" - published in the American Psychological Association's journal, Psychological Bulletin, looked at 64 articles published between 1991 and 2001 to assess the relationship between a bad marriage and poor health. Here's what the researchers found: "Marital functioning is consequential for health; negative dimensions of marital functioning have indirect influences on health outcomes through depression and health habits, and direct influences on cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, neurosensory, and other physiological mechanisms."

A happy relationship, on the other hand, can have a positive effect on health. Research shows that people with chronic health conditions like diabetes are more likely to practice self-care if they are in a loving, committed relationship.

A large study with 55,000 middle-aged and older people in 16 countries across Europe also found that being married and having children - or what the researchers called "family status" - contributed to greater life satisfaction and fewer mental health problems in older age. The findings of the study were published in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed journal, in 2019.

To be sure, there are many different definitions of a healthy relationship. But some factors remain common: trust, communication, honesty, respect and love. Of course, this doesn’t mean having to divulge every single thought, blindly trusting your partner or even loving them more than you love yourself. No, there is a delicate balance to everything. A healthy relationship does not translate to unconditional love - that’s an unreasonable expectation. People change, their priorities change and you need to know at which point the relationship isn’t healthy anymore and when it has reached the point of not being salvageable.

Here are a few tips that might help you do that.

  1. Signs of a strong relationship
  2. Tips to strengthen your relationship
  3. Identifying unhealthy relationships
  4. Tips to fix an unhealthy relationship
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Only the people in a relationship can judge if the relationship is strong and healthy or not. Outsiders will never really have the full picture, so it’s alright not to take their opinion very seriously. Here’s how you can tell if your relationship is healthy:

1. You respect and trust each other

Every solid relationship - whether romantic or otherwise - is based on a foundation of trust and respect. Without these, there would be no sense of security and doubt would seep into your mind at every turn. Always worrying about what your partner is doing and whether they’re lying to you about something is not a healthy way to live or love.

2. You’re both on the same page 

Different people want different things at different stages of life. It’s not necessary for your partner and you to always align your life goals - that would be unfair to both of you. But you can be open about where you’re currently at and where you would want to be in a few years and also let them know whether you could adapt and support their life goals and plans.

(If your goals are completely misaligned, have a candid talk about that too. Discuss what you and your partner would like to do next. Whether you choose to go your separate ways or work out a system that is acceptable to you both, it's important to have this talk now - before you start resenting each other.)

3. You both have your own separate lives as well

It’s great to get along with your partner, their friends and family so much that you want to spend all your time with them. But it’s even more amazing to remember who you are without them - what your likes are and who your friends are. Many couples grow together but the people in healthy couples also continue to work on themselves as individuals. It’s okay to take out time for yourself sometimes - it doesn’t mean you love your partner any less, quite the opposite in fact. Reflect on yourself, work towards your goals and, most importantly, don’t ignore your friends when you’re in a relationship.   

4. You both communicate in a healthy manner

A relationship is nothing without communication - and the communication needs to be healthy too. You need to be able to convey how you feel about your partner, or when something they do upsets you or things you’re finding challenging, not only related to the relationship but even outside of it. And that’s not all - a huge part of healthy communication that often gets ignored is listening. Pay attention to what your partner is trying to tell you, don’t just hear them and disregard their words. It’s a two-way street - you’ve got to give to get. Even when you have a fight, it should be resolved by healthy discussion rather than letting it fester inside.

Read more: How to talk to your partner about sex

5. You have each other’s backs

A very important role our loved ones play is to provide support. In a healthy relationship, both partners should be able to gauge when the other needs their support and be willing to provide it. Often it’s not even a physical requirement but just lending a shoulder to cry on or giving them a hug when they’re feeling overwhelmed or weak. When one of you is having a hectic time at work, the other can do small things to make them smile or make their day a little easier. It’s always the little things. 

6. You both make an (almost) equal effort

No relationship blooms without time and effort. Sure, it seems like it should all be easy once you find the person you want to be with. But the honeymoon period comes to an end and then it’s all about wanting to make it last and putting in the work required. This also needs to be a somewhat equal contribution - sure, a little bit of imbalance from time to time is understandable but overall, a relationship wouldn’t be healthy if only one person was always making the effort. 

7. You genuinely like each other

There is often a thin line between love and hate - one minute you love them to no end, the other they say something so irritating that you jump to hating them (briefly). That’s okay till the time it’s all in good fun. And in a long-term relationship, there can be highs and lows of how much you love each other. But what’s even more important than loving each other is actually liking each other on a very basic human level. Liking their kindness, their sense of humour, the way they care for their loved ones - this is what it comes down to in healthy relationships and making them last. 

Read more: Tips for the first time you have sex

Many before us have tried and tested what it takes to make a relationship strong and healthy. Here are a few things you can try: 

1. Spend quality time together

Don’t let distractions ruin your relationship. When you’re with your partner, make sure your attention is on them and only them. Keep your phone on silent. And no, unfortunately, watching movies together doesn’t always count as quality time. You need to interact with each other, share how your day was, your ideas, your thoughts and actually make a connection. 

2. Find a common interest

It’s alright if both of you have different hobbies - you can always discover a new one that you’re both interested in. Remember, you don’t have to be good at this activity - the point is to spend time together learning something new, even if you fail at it.

3. Share your deeper feelings

Sure, okay, you can talk about what you ate for lunch and what your boss told you. But from time to time, you should share the deeper stuff, too - like what your ambitions are, important instances from your past that shaped you and your hopes from the future.  

4. Include your partner in your future plans

It’s okay to make plans for your growth. But once you include your partner in those plans, it’ll help them realize how seriously you take the relationship and what they mean to you. And, of course, if you don’t see a future with them, then be honest about that too.

5. Show them your appreciation

Many things we do in love are done selflessly which mean you don’t necessarily need to be thanked for them. But that doesn’t mean that if you do get appreciated for your efforts you won’t feel loved and valued. 

6. Give them some space

Showering your partner with attention is just as important as leaving them alone from time to time. Everyone moves and processes things at their own pace. If you feel like your partner is struggling with something and needs some time to come to terms with it, then give them some space but also let them know that you’re there if they need you. 

7. Plan new experiences

Whether you’ve been together for a month or ten years, it’s important to always keep the spark alive. One way of doing this is to have new experiences together - go for trips, learn a new language, adopt a dog (before you do, make sure neither of you is allergic and that you both absolutely adore animals). Keep evolving and nurturing your relationship by going on new adventures with each other. 

Read more: Tips to make sex life better and fun

There are many ways in which a relationship can be unhealthy. The obvious ones include emotional, sexual or physical abuse, cheating on your partner, manipulation and obsessive behaviours. But there are some subtle signs that can often get missed. Here are a few of those: 

1. If you can’t be yourself

If your partner doesn’t accept you the way you are and is always trying to change you, you aren’t in a healthy relationship. This is also true if you always feel pressured to live up to their unrealistic expectations or to fit into their idea of a perfect partner. 

2. If there are no boundaries

It’s good to have some space and boundaries in a relationship - no matter how much you love each other. If your partner doesn’t believe in them and keeps flouting boundaries, even after you try to set some, then your relationship is unhealthy and may need to be reanalysed. It might feel good sometimes or at the beginning of the relationship, but can lead to you feeling extremely suffocated by the other person very soon. 

3. If you feel unappreciated or disrespected

There has to be some emotional satisfaction in every relationship. Many people aren’t vocal in showing their appreciation but they do simple things to show it nonetheless. Don’t settle for "I’m not that kind of person" or "that’s just how I talk". It’s okay for you to want to feel loved and respected in a relationship. These are very basic needs and do not qualify as wanting to change your partner. 

4. If you don’t like their company anymore

People grow and change all the time - sometimes you go in different directions. After a while, if you feel like everything your partner says annoys you and you can’t seem to agree on anything, your relationship has definitely turned sour. You may still love them, but love is never enough for a relationship to be healthy. You need a lot more than that and it’s okay to not settle for less. 

Read more: How to have safe sex

If you’ve realized that your relationship is unhealthy and both of you wish to still try and make the relationship work, here are a few things you could try:

1. Start at the beginning 

If there was a time at the beginning of the relationship when things were a lot better and both of you were happy, try going back to that. Imagine that you’re meeting each other for the first time - ask each other out, plan the date, go for a picnic, maybe even build up the sexual tension by abstaining for a bit. It’ll take effort on both of your parts but can lead to a completely different relationship. 

2. Reestablish trust 

If the trust is lost - or was never there - you need to find it somehow. There are no two ways about it - you can’t really move forward until you do. Remember, trust is earned. Tell them your intentions, let your partner know what you mean to them and then follow it up with actions too. Give them honest and constructive feedback and be open-minded when you ask them for theirs. 

3. Be a better listener

Don’t get defensive at every turn and don’t cut them off when it’s their turn to speak. You won’t run out of time - you’ll get a chance to tell them your side of things. But remember that it’s okay for their experience to be different from yours - things you may find sweet, they may not have appreciated. Listen to this feedback and use it in your future interactions. 

4. Take responsibility 

Sit down and come up with a plan - a type of agreement between the two of you. It always takes two to work on a relationship and two to break it as well. So look back and see what you can work on and do better in the future. If the end plan looks like something both of you can work with, then it’s time to put it in action. 

5. Consider therapy

If you’re unable to reach a solution but still not ready to walk away from each other, you may want to consider couple's therapy. A relationship counsellor might be able to help you identify the problems, come up with techniques that may help you communicate better and overall make your relationship healthier than before. 

Read more: Common mistakes during sex

Dr. Abdul Haseeb Sheikh

Dr. Abdul Haseeb Sheikh

8 Years of Experience

Dr. Srikanth Varma

Dr. Srikanth Varma

8 Years of Experience

Dr. Pranay Gandhi

Dr. Pranay Gandhi

10 Years of Experience

Dr. Tarun

Dr. Tarun

8 Years of Experience


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  2. Mirsu-Paun A. and Oliver, J. How Much Does Love Really Hurt? A Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Romantic Relationship Quality, Breakups and Mental Health Outcomes in Adolescents and Young Adults. Journal of Relationships Research, 7 February 2017; 8, E5.
  3. Kiecolt-Glaser J.K. and Newton Tamara L. Marriage and health: His and hers. Psychological Bulletin, 2001; 127(4), 472–503.
  4. Soller B. Caught in a Bad Romance: Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 26 February 2014; 55(1): 56-72.
  5. Becker C., Kirchmaier I., Trautmann S.T. Marriage, parenthood and social network: Subjective well-being and mental health in old age. PLoS ONE, 24 July 2019; 14(7): e0218704
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