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What’s needed for a healthy relationship?

It’s common to think that relationships are easy with the right person. But this isn’t the case, all relationships need certain things for them to work, especially in the long run.

1. Be kind

Everyday acts of kindness

You may think that relationships are made and broken over the big stuff. In fact, the Enduring Love? research project showed that the key to lasting relationships is everyday acts of kindness.

Being appreciated and valued by a partner are the main things that make people feel good about their relationship. These things also help relationships to weather the storms when things get tough. 

Showing someone you appreciate them doesn’t have to involve expensive gifts or grand gestures:

  • Thank them
  • Be affectionate
  • Help them with a task
  • Make them a cup of tea

The key is to think about what you appreciate and what your partner appreciates. These may not be the same things, so talk together about the simple everyday things you can do for each other that will also show you care. You might find it useful to do an online love language test together so you can understand each other better.

2. Prioritise communication

Communication is the foundation of any relationship

There’s no doubt that communication is good for relationships. Different people communicate in different ways. It could be talking, laughing, texts, written notes or the kind of communication that doesn’t need any words at all. But there’s no ‘right’ way to do it.

How to communicate better together:

Make time to chat

Everyday conversations, about nothing in particular, are important for relationships. Try to plan time into your week to just hang out, relax and chat without any interruptions. You could go for a walk or listen to music together. 

And remember, talking is great but listening to your partner is just as important. Being listened to makes us feel understood and cared for.

Silence is golden

Communicating isn’t just about talking. It’s about saying nothing too. Making your partner a snack, enjoying a quick hug or catching each other’s eye when something funny happens can mean more than words sometimes. 

Online communication

When it’s hard to find time to be together, talking online, whether through memes, Tiktok videos or Whatsapp can help you feel closer to the other person and let’s them know you’re thinking of them. This is particularly useful for long-distance relationships.

Bear in mind that although online communication can be great, it is easier for misunderstandings to happen. When you can’t see somebody’s face and body language it’s easier to get the wrong end of the stick. Try to save important conversations for when you meet in person.

If you don’t get to see each other often, be mindful of spending too much time on your phone when you’re with each other as this can reduce the quality time you have and may lead to one person feeling they aren’t worthy of your attention. If you struggle to put your phone down try leaving it in another room or turning it off.

Meta communication

We all have own ideas about the best way to communicate and they might be very different to your partner’s. Getting to know your partner’s also includes getting to know how they like to communicate. When you do have something to talk about, you can explain what you want from the conversation. For example, maybe you want them to just listen, maybe you want them to help you find a solution or maybe you just want to let off some steam.

Arguments are a normal part of relationships but how you manage them is important. More about arguments

3. Spend time together and apart

Make sure you have me-time as well as us-time

It’s a myth that spending every moment together is the key to a strong relationship. Some people need more time together than others and it can change over time, the important thing is talking about it with your partner.

If you struggle to find time to see each other, here are some ideas of how you could fit in quality time into your day:

  • Date night – have one special evening a week that you reserve for the other person
  • Cook or clean together
  • Go for a walk or to the gym together
  • Watch a film or TV series

You also need to have time just for you. Putting yourself and your needs first is not selfish and can help make your relationship stronger.

It’s really important to keep friends around you and not drop them when you start a relationship as friends can…

  • Relieve pressure on a partner to satisfy all of each other’s needs
  • Provide support in times of relationship crisis or conflict
  • Help you reflect on how the relationship is going and how it could be improved
  • Help celebrate the good times in your relationship

Should your partner be a part of your friendship group?

Some people want their partner to be a part of their friendship group and other’s don’t. There’s no right or wrong answer. Some people prefer to keep that boundary in place so that have more time away from their partner but others enjoy being in the same friendship group so they can do shared activities with other people.

4. Build trust

For most people trust is a key element of a close relationship. Trust helps us feel secure in relationships but it means different things to different people. It’s worth thinking about what ‘trust’ means to you and finding out from your partner what it means to them.

Trust can mean:

  • Being able to rely on your partner – they will do what they say and they won’t let you down
  • Being honest with your partner and not having any secrets
  • Being faithful and not cheating
  • Having a deep understanding of each other

To build trust it helps to:

  • be truthful
  • be reliable
  • agree what’s OK and what isn’t in your relationship
  • believe in each other
  • not make promises you can’t keep
  • not blame the other person for feelings that date back to your own previous  experiences or previous relationships
I don’t trust them…

If you don’t trust your partner, think about why this is the case. Is it past experience with other people and you’re assuming they’ll behave in the same way? Is it something they’ve done or is your imagination running ahead of you? 

For example, if you’re suspicious they may be flirting with someone because they’re spending lots of time online, you need to have an honest conversation about what they’re up to when they’re online.  It may be you need to agree to both be more open about your online activity and show each other some of your messages or posts. Or it may be you need to agree what level/type of flirting, if any, is OK in your relationship. As with everything in a relationship, communication is everything.

They don’t trust me…

If your partner doesn’t trust you, you need to talk about why they’re feeling this way and get to the bottom of what’s making them feel insecure. Sometimes people find it hard to trust because they’ve been let down in the past and just talking about an issue like this may help.

Also, be honest with yourself. Are you doing things that are contributing to this situation? Read through the list of things above that help build trust and ask yourself if you’re making an effort to be reliable and truthful. If not, why not?

Sometimes jealousy can become abusive. You should talk to someone you trust about what’s going on if your partner: 

  • wants to know where you are and who you’re with all the time
  • is being controlling in other ways
  • accuses you of things which aren’t true
  • doesn’t want you to see certain people
  • sometimes get very angry

More about abuse and how to get help

I’ve/they’ve cheated

One of the biggest barriers to trust in a relationship is if one person cheats on the other. Some couples can rebuild their relationship with lots of hard work but others can’t.

It’s not true that once trust is lost a relationship is over, you need to work together to build it back up again.

If lack of trust is a persistent problem then it may be time to consider if your relationship has a future. Maybe one of you is making unreasonable demands on the other, or perhaps one of you has betrayed the other’s trust repeatedly. Or it may simply be that neither of you has done anything drastic but you just can’t seem to communicate with each other in a way that overcomes the issue of trust.

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