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The Hallmarks of a Healthy Relationship

by Eharmony Editorial Team - July 13, 2010

Wonder what it takes to make a romantic relationship flourish? Read on.

Remember the last time you took your car in for a diagnostic check-up? Maybe your vehicle was making a strange noise, or perhaps it was for routine maintenance. The mechanic attached wires to the engine, stuck a gauge in the exhaust pipe, hoisted the vehicle on the hydraulic rack to inspect the undercarriage, and so on. The verdict: a few quick adjustments, and you’re good to go. Come back in another 10,000 miles.

Ah, if healthy relationships were just that easy! But of course human beings—with all their emotions, blind spots, and baggage—are far more complex and complicated than even the most electronically equipped, computer-controlled automobile. Consider this a diagnostic check-up to determine if your current (or future) relationship is running smoothly and built to last.

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Healthy Relationship Indicator #1: The Foundation Is Made of Mutual Respect.

Some sage once said, “You can’t love someone you don’t respect.” We could amend that to say, “You can’t maintain a happy, long-term relationship with someone you don’t respect and/or who doesn’t respect you.” Mutual respect is at the very core of enduring relationships. It confers dignity, honor, and high worth to the recipient. In contrast, lack of respect leads to all kinds of relational ills—putdowns, dishonesty, cheating—which are sure to sink a relationship eventually.

Healthy Relationship Indicator #2: Both Individuals Attend to Their Emotional Health.

The degree of durability and well-being in a romantic partnership is directly related to the emotional health of each person involved. For instance, it’s estimated that 75 to 80 percent of all marriages that eventually end in divorce or separation have at least one partner who suffers from a deficiency in this area. Usually, issues had plagued them for years, long before they got married. It’s a fact that no relationship can ever be healthier than the emotional health of the least healthy partner.

Healthy Relationship Indicator #3: Trust Is Nurtured and Protected.

Love and trust are as tightly intertwined as strands on a rope. When trust is broken, love is diminished and damaged. But when trust is diligently maintained, love grows stronger and stronger. Trustworthy partners know that every investment they make in the relationship will pay dividends.

Healthy Relationship Indicator #4: Both Individuals Feel Free to be Authentic.

This means being who you truly are, resisting the impulse to play games or put on a false persona to impress someone. Authentic people aren’t so judgmental, uptight, and defensive that they bristle at differences. They value individuality and uniqueness. In short, authenticity means being real and genuine in any circumstance.

Healthy Relationship Indicator #5: The Prevailing Attitude Is “You First.”

Unselfishness is central to any successful partnership. If you notice that the person you’re with shows little regard for your wishes and opinions, is intent on getting his way, doesn’t ask about your life, and consistently displays a me-first attitude, you’re probably in the presence of someone more selfish than selfless, more bigheaded than bighearted. The best lovers are those who are generous with their time, affirmation, money, praise, and attention.

Healthy Relationship Indicator #6: The Couple Knows How to Work Through Problems.

Every dating relationship and every marriage has conflict. Disagreements are the consequence of two unique individuals expressing themselves on an unending number of issues. Besides which, modern life is filled with headaches and hassles—and the resulting stress on couples is enormous. In great relationships, two people learn how to manage their conflicts thoroughly and efficiently so that harmony prevails most of the time.

Healthy Relationship Indicator #7: Joy and Laughter Abound.

Have you noticed that some couples seem to constantly bicker, squabble, or sit in sourpuss silence? Of course you have. It’s a sure bet these individuals are wondering why they got together in the first place. Healthy couples, on the other hand, regularly laugh together, find reasons to celebrate, and experience delight in unexpected moments. It sounds simple, but the most loving and lasting relationships involve two people who flat out enjoy being together.

You could probably add to this list, identifying qualities you consider essential to healthy relationships. But surely, if the seven indicators above are present, a couple stands an excellent chance of enjoying a magnificent partnership.

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