What comes to mind when you think of a healthy relationship? A sense of mutual respect? Feeling a strong sense of connection? Truly trusting another human being?
Being in a healthy relationship is all of the above—and so much more. A healthy relationship is a connection based on trust and respect for one another. What’s more, evidence points to the fact that positive relationships are those that support our health, empowering us to thrive and possibly live longer with fewer negative emotional and physical challenges.
Of note, there are hundreds of studies that prove that healthy relationships increase our physical health. According to the National Institutes of Health, social support is linked to lower blood pressure, better heart rate measures and fewer stress hormones. True, genetics play a role in health and even longevity. But research shows that other factors matter, including experiences and relationships. When people feel supported by their family or peers, they tend to be happier, or more fulfilled. Science shows that greater happiness, in turn, can help support our immune systems, mental wellbeing and many other aspects of our health.
There’s a lot that goes into building healthy relationships and keeping them stable and strong. In fact, this is something we talk a lot about with patients when they’re visiting One Community Health’s Behavioral Health Department.
Here are a few key building blocks:
1. Respect. While the word “respect” can be subject to interpretation and mean different things to different people and/or cultures, generally speaking, respect is an awareness of who someone is while also having an appreciation for that person and what makes that individual unique. In healthy relationships, you both have an understanding of what respect is, and you both can also relate within the context of that understanding. What’s more, in healthy relationships, you can respectfully ask the other person what he or she needs or wants from you, as well as what that individual likes about you without fear of building walls or other lines of defense. In these partnerships or friendships, it’s easy to find out what they respect about you and how they want to be treated by you. Importantly, the more you respect someone, the more likely you are to trust that person.
2. Open Communication. Transparency, or being able to safely speak your truth, is necessary in cultivating and sustaining positive relationships. It allows you and another person to have a deeper understanding of each other. It also helps build mutual respect and supports more effective conflict-resolution. When you have open communication with someone, you are able to share thoughts and feelings freely. You can listen without interrupting or criticizing the other person, as well as be heard without fear of being criticized.