How to Have a Healthy Relationship: 100 Tips
Here are a hundred tips or I should say opinions on how to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship. This is based on my Twitter thread below. If you prefer to read it on Twitter, click here or on the image.
Firstly, an important caveat. Relationships are largely luck-based. Chance plays a role at every step. Where you meet them, whether they match basic criteria such as age, location, availability, your respective attachment styles and many other factors.
But like most things that are influenced by chance, you can stack the deck in your favour. The more you know yourself the more you can set yourself up for success.
“Good” (healthy, fulfilling etc) relationships just feel right. Trust your gut, but don’t mistake your gut with your mind telling you what you want to hear.
Instead of imagining what kind of a partner you want, imagine how you want to feel in a relationship.
The Key Ingredients
Relationships take work, but the good ones suffer more from external friction than internal friction.
Internal friction comes from unresolved trauma. One person wanting to control the other. The other person not knowing how to deal with being triggered and so on.
Internal friction also comes from not knowing what you want. Dating someone because it looks good or because you like the “idea” of them.
Communication is important but even more important is trust. Trust that they want the best for you, trust that they can be relied upon and so on.
Trust is made from your past experiences + your partner’s past behaviour.
Poor communication is like 2 people playing ping pong with 2 separate balls. Good communication is playing with 1 ball and not missing. Great communication is like 2 people performing a dance.
The most fundamental ingredient is honesty. Relationships will fall like an empire if they are not built on a foundation of honesty.
Dishonesty is a form of self-defence. It takes inner work to learn alternative tools to protect oneself.
Notice if you are competing. Remember you are partners, not opponents. Many relationships are based on competition.
Notice if you are comparing. Comparing yourself to each other and comparing your relationship to others’.
Don’t manage the other person and know when you are being managed. Managing them consists of telling them what to say, what to do or not to do.
When you want them to do something but they won’t, it usually means there is a responsibility you’re not taking. Say you get annoyed that they put their socks on the floor. It could be you’re not as tidy as you’d like to be, or you’re tidy and you want them to live your way.
To have a healthy relationship, there is inner work to be done. Some need a lot more than others. Self-love is often the remedy, but for most people, it’s a journey to get there. A lucky few are blessed with it right off the bat, though they still have their own shadows.
Attention is a gift you can keep on giving. Just make sure you are not doing it from a place of insecurity or to numb your own pain.
Another important ingredient is respect. Observe how your partner treats you in front of people they want to impress. See if they belittle you or put you on a pedestal. Neither is good.
Lack of respect comes from subconsciously not being confident in your choice.
Remove external frictions where you can. A dishwasher could be the solution to your arguments about the dishes. But know when the argument is not actually about the dishes.
Be aware of “The Recency Effect”. If you’ve recently fought, your perception of the relationship will be clouded.
Normalise conversations about money. There will always be differences in your salary and contributions. These can become a source of friction but they don’t have to be.
Split the bills loosely. You’re not in the business of transactions, you are in the business of human connection.
Having resentments about money will be toxic. Be in enough resolution that if you were to break up today, there won’t be much to resolve.
On Finding a Partner
Be selective. Resist the temptation to settle for someone that gives you what you want but doesn’t make your heart sing. But don’t confuse selectiveness with pickiness.
Perfect doesn’t exist. Good enough, as long as you’re not compromising on your most important values, is good enough.
If you have to hide a part of you, reconsider the relationship.
If they are a narcissist, reconsider the relationship. Narcissism is the result of deep shame. Without inner work, the relationship will be unhealthy.
If you still don’t feel emotionally safe after some time, reconsider the relationship.
Once you commit, play the long game. If you feel you have one foot out of the door, reconsider whether the relationship is for you.
Accept your partner as they are. But acknowledge each other’s flaws.
Confirm the flaws your partner points out, with other loved ones. We can be the most critical to those closest to us.
The more you familiarise yourself and adapt to each other’s temperaments, the more harmony there will be.
Understand how lack of food, sleep and other core needs affect you and the other person. Recognise the signs and respond accordingly.
We fall for the people who are familiar.
For most people, their partner(s) will resemble one of their parents (or an older sibling) in behaviour. Recognise this and face any issues head-on.
Equally, the people you are put off by, likely share some characteristics with one of your parents (caretakers).
- Relationships shouldn’t take all your energy, and importantly they shouldn’t be a consistent source of stress. Chronic stress is detrimental to health. Conversely, a partner can be a great de-stressor.
Humour, if done right can be a superpower. It can defuse a bomb, or add a sparkle to ordinary days.
Goofyness is an asset that many lack or hide. If you are blessed with it, don’t hold back.
Arguments are a healthy and necessary aspect of relationships. Without them, you will turn to passive aggressiveness and eventually the relationship will become toxic or platonic.
Good argument-mending takes practice. It’s easiest in the absence of a backlog of unresolved disputes. And if you are partners, not opponents.
Perform an introspective exercise where you witness your worst fears about the relationship. Whether it’s a breakup, their death or another scenario. Imagine it, mourn it and face it. It will be healing.
Long term relationships are a balancing act between satisfaction and complacency. You want to be satisfied with what you have and vibe with each other without too much effort, but you also don’t want to become complacent and make zero effort.
Have a time in the day where you each have your alone time. You don’t want all of your identity to be tied to the relationship.
Smothering will create resentment and isolation in the long run. It’s usually a sign of filling a void, likely an insecurity or a lack of trust.
It’s easiest for us to manipulate those closest to us. Resist this temptation and notice when it happens to you.
Know your fighting styles. Some need to walk away and cool off, while others need to talk to process it right away. Not respecting the other person’s fighting style and enforcing yours is like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Your values should form a Venn diagram. This is important to identify early on.
Most people want to be “seen”. Being seen is seductive. The most common and tragic form of complacency is when you stop “seeing” the person you love.
Falling out of love is either the result of built-up resentment or it’s a sign your paths have diverged.
Wanting to change the other person is a natural tendency but an amateur strategy. There’s a reason why they do something and there is a reason why you are triggered by it. Understand those reasons.
Acknowledge the roles your partner plays. Friend, companion, etc. Remember to diversify, you don’t want a single person to be your entire support network.
Watch out for what precedences are set at the beginning. If they are never allowed to be changed, resentment will prevail.
Watch out for third party influences (friends, family etc). It’s challenging but important to set boundaries.
There will be parental elements in the relationship. Humans grow up having caretakers and most people don’t fully graduate from that. Recognise this.
Recognise your circular arguments. The ones that repeat and don’t come to a resolution. To come to a resolution, you will need to shift your approach. Usually, the person who feels like the victim (or both) are not taking responsibility for something.
Be forgiving, but don’t let anyone walk over you. Don’t forgive to be liked. Forgive to move on.
The bigger of a deal you make things into, the less harmony there will be. But if you have a tendency to do this, don’t be hard on yourself, just recognise it.
Change comes from awareness and the motivation to avoid pain. It can’t be forced or it’ll return.
Being desired is intoxicating. Be careful who you give this power to.
Using guilt to get what you want is a slippery slope.
There is always room for love to grow. There’s no ceiling.
Loving someone is more about you than it is about them.
Tough times can be a source of friction, or bring you closer together. Communication is your friend, ego is your enemy.
Travel can put a strain on your relationship, remember each other’s temperaments, they will come out in their extreme form.
Love and desire are inversely correlated. When you first meet, desire is high, and love is low. Later on in the relationship, the reverse is true.
You will have to find creative ways to keep the desire alive. Clue: without separation, there will be little desire.
Having separate hobbies is a great source of creating that separation.
Get fit together. Having a common sport or workout session is a great activity to bond over.
Go on a camping road trip together and collaborate on the various tasks.
Find examples of healthy relationships and learn what they do best.
Express some form of affection every day.
There are still things to learn about your partner even after many years. Not only because of untold memories, but because humans are ever-changing.
Good Maintenance Continued
If you’re long-distance, create some rituals. They will ground you.
Don’t burden them with expectations. Their service is a choice.
Foster what makes them come alive. If you see it as a threat to the attention you receive, it will create resentment for both.
You should be all in. But you should also feel free to leave.
Others shouldn’t get a say in your relationship. But their observations can be insightful. Take it with a pinch of salt and remember to set boundaries.
Even if you don’t relate with the problems your partner is facing, find ways to support them. If you don’t support them, eventually they will walk away.
Don’t rush into marriage. And talk about how you will handle things if you were to divorce.
A breakup shouldn’t be the greatest fear, living in resentment should be.
If you expect your partner to read your mind, it probably means you don’t understand yourself enough. Don’t expect them to do the work. Do ask them for feedback and observations.
Most people fall into 2 categories. Those who value their loved ones over others, and those who value others over their loved ones. If you are the latter, don’t take your partner for granted or undermine them to please others.
Celebrate them. Give them the space to talk about their wins without fear of judgement.
It’s not your partner’s job to make you happy.
Who you are in your partner’s head and who you are in your own head are two different people.
Your partner impacts your health outcomes. You’ll have more meals with them than others. You’ll mimic them in ways unbeknownst to you. Long term partners develop the same types of wrinkles because of the subtle ways they mimic each other’s facial expressions. Choose wisely.
Holding back affection to protect your ego is cowardice. Inner work will lead to courage.
Go the extra mile when they’re sick. It will deepen the bond.
If you’re out of touch with your own emotions, there will be a limit to how deep the relationship could go.
Recognise each other’s fears. Fear explains a lot about someone’s behaviour.
Your sense of meaning in life shouldn’t come solely from the relationship.
Know how your past shapes how you treat your partner.
A partner has the ability to boost your confidence or dampen it like no other.
The fear of loneliness tampers with your decision-making abilities.
The right person doesn’t exist. There are just a group of people out there that can match you better than others. Compatibility can grow over time.
The more we heal ourselves from the past, the bigger the pool of our potential partners becomes.
Acknowledge the role of luck in everything you have and don’t have.
If you enjoyed this, hit me up on Twitter, I’d love to connect.