In the simplest terms, a healthy relationship is one that makes you feel good about yourself and your partner (s). Not only do you enjoy being together but you can express your true self – and allow your partner to do the same (s). All relationships are different, of course, but healthy ones have at least five important qualities in common. The acronym S.H.A.R.E. can help you remember these qualities.
In a healthy relationship, you feel safe. You don’t worry that your partner will harm you physically or emotionally, and you don’t feel inclined to use physical or emotional violence against your partner. You can try new things (like taking a night class) or change your mind about something (like engaging in a sexual activity that makes you feel uncomfortable) without fearing your partner’s reaction.
You don’t hide anything important from your partner, and can express your thoughts without fear of censure or ridicule. You can admit to being wrong. You resolve disagreements by talking honestly.
You and your partner accept each other as you are. You appreciate your partner’s unique qualities (such as shyness or emotionality) and don’t try to “fix” them. (If you don’t like your partner’s qualities, you may want to examine your motivations for being with that partner.)
You think highly of each other. You do not feel superior or inferior to your partner in important ways. You respect each other’s right to have separate opinions and ideas. This is not to say that you have to tolerate everything partner does or does not do (such as refusing to get help for a drinking problem).
A healthy relationship is not just about how two people treat each other – it also has to be enjoyable. In a healthy relationship, you feel energized and alive in your partner’s presence. You can play and laugh together. You have fun.
If you suspect you’re in an abusive relationship, there’s a good chance you are. Perhaps you know deep down that you’d be better off without the relationship but are afraid to leave it. You may depend on your partner’s income, you may fear being on your own, or you may rationalize the relationship as “better than nothing.” In the long run, an abusive relationship can do far more damage to your self-esteem than the absence of a relationship (and the opportunity to find a healthy one.)
Even the healthiest of relationships can have hard times. A common issue in relationships is desire discrepancy, when partners’ libidos do not match.
Note that relationships do not have to take any particular form to be healthy. You don’t need to follow certain steps (e.g. date, then commitment, then marriage), you don’t need a fairy tale, and you don’t need follow expected societal rules (such as monogamy). As long as your relationship is safe, honest, accepting, respecting, and enjoyable, you can define your relationships as you wish.