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What Makes a Healthy Relationship vs. an Unhealthy Relationship?

Do you look forward to every Valentine’s day? Do you wonder what you’ll get from your sweetie? Or what special treat you’ll give to your friends? Whatever you look forward to, Valentine’s day is a great way to celebrate relationships, whether it’s with friends or with a loved one.

Sometimes though, we can find Valentine’s day frustrating. Maybe you’re single and have had poor relationships in the past, or maybe you’re in a relationship, but questioning whether it’s a healthy one or not. You may know that a healthy relationship requires communication, trust, and respect, but something doesn’t feel right despite having all that. So what really sets the two apart? How can we distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships?

Healthy Relationship: Open Communication

So you know in healthy relationships communication is key, but it’s important to note that it should be open communication. Both partners (or people in a platonic relationship) should feel free and safe to express their thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes etc. No one should feel judged. Open communication also means listening and responding in an honest but respectful manner. You shouldn’t feel like you’re walking on egg-shells either. 

Unhealthy Relationship: Assumptions

You know the saying: “Don’t make assumptions. It makes an ass out of you.” Well, it’s kind of true. When we don’t talk to each other, whether from pure stubbornness or from the fear of confrontation or judgment, we tend to make assumptions. Our natural biases come up with assumptions and little things become big things. A simple coffee maker left empty becomes a pointed attempt to ruin your day. A noncommittal answer turns into a slight against you. A relationship with assumptions quickly becomes chaotic and mistrustful. 

Healthy Relationship: Mutual Respect

It might seem obvious, but a healthy relationship means you have mutual respect for one another. That doesn’t necessarily mean you agree on everything together, but it does set the stage for (you guessed it) effective dialog to take place. Couples with mutual respect for one another treat each other with kindness and without judgment.

Unhealthy Relationship: Disrespect

In contrast, you may be in an unhealthy relationship if you don’t respect one another. If when talking to each other, your opinion is brushed aside or considered unimportant. If you’re taken for granted. If you’re given no privacy or time for yourself. These are all signs of disrespect. Disrespect leads to a dysfunctional relationship at best and an abusive one at worst.

Healthy Relationship: Empathy & Support

Successful couples know how important emotional support is. That it’s important to have empathy for what their significant other might be going through. Healthy relationships give people hope. In a healthy relationship, you should know that despite life’s lows, your partner (or friend) is prepared to be by your side.

Unhealthy Relationship: Belittling 

When you constantly hear criticism from your partner, your self-esteem is bound to falter. When your self-esteem is crushed, it’s hard to love yourself. If you can’t love yourself, it will be even harder to love another person in a healthy way. Sometimes a hurtful partner will say things like they’re “just joking,” but it’s important to remember that jokes are meant to bring joy, not bring you down. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Parkland, FL

Sometimes we find ourselves compromising in relationships. We might feel it’s safer to stay where we are, easier to just stay quiet, that it’s best if we “settle.” I’m here to tell you that you’re worth it. You’re worth all the things that make a relationship healthy: you deserve open communication, respect, empathy and support. Sometimes it takes learning a little more about ourselves and how to think positively to understand our worth. 

If you’re interested in learning more about CBT therapy, reach out today for a free consultation. Don’t forget to love yourself this Valentine’s Day. 

Dr. Lindsay Howard, Parkland, FL

Dr. Lindsay Howard, Psychologist, Psy.D.

Hi! My name is Lindsay Howard, and I help people in the Parkland community conquer their anxiety and depression with the help of CBT therapy. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you, feel free to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with me.

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