Healthy relationships are a bit like a summer salad. Everyone loves them, and everyone tries to get them right; but everyone has slightly different ideas when it comes to what, exactly, should go into them. What, after all, is a ‘healthy relationship’? Presumably we’re all united on the idea that it should constitute love, trust, laughter and honesty; but once we’re agreed on the relationship equivalent of the ‘primary colours’, things get a little more subjective.
Some couples need regular space; others thrive on constant companionship. Many couples believe in having arguments, fervently insisting that arguments clear the air and that ‘if there’s a couple out there who’ve never argued, they’re doing something wrong’. Many other couples, however, rub along together perfectly calmly all of the time, preferring to nip any potential disagreements in the bud before they can mutate into a shouting match. Some couples have little-to-nothing in common, providing the living proof that opposites can, indeed, attract; while others prefer to share interests, hobbies and passions with each other.
A healthy relationship is a subjective business, that’s for sure. But there are a few areas on which we can share our collective wisdom; and this wisdom should ensure your relationships (present or future) thrive, blossom and bloom just as successfully as the several house plants we have no doubt you’re taking care of at this very moment (if you’re a millennial, you must have a house plant. Right?)
Let’s address the elephant in the room
We’re never one for beating around the bush, and we’re certainly not going to start now. The cheating thing. Let’s get that addressed first and foremost; because cheating can be the greatest enemy of all with regard to a healthy, thriving relationship.
Cheating is bad, and we certainly don’t condone it. But it doesn’t necessarily have to result in a break-up. Many believe the old adage of ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ — and we agree that this is frequently true. Often, the healthiest solution for any relationship in which one person has cheated is to end it: because the trust is broken. Certainly, if the cheating occurs more than once we’d advise getting out of there with all possible haste — and if you’re tempted to check your partner’s phone, follow them around or other such questionable behaviours, we’re going to be frank with you: you’re in the wrong relationship.
On the other hand: if one of you has cheated, but you both desperately want to stay together, it’s not compulsory to break up. What is compulsory is to talk about it. You both need to understand why the cheating happened at all. It may be that it was indicative of an issue in the relationship, that you can now both look towards solving. Bizarrely, cheating can be an impetus to fix an existing problem.
It’s your call, though, gents: at the end of the day, it’s a gut feeling. Only you know what’s right for you.
Don’t succumb to peer pressure
If you’re thinking you’ve heard (or, rather, read) us talking about peer pressure before, you’d be right. We talk about it a lot; but in an era in which millennials are constantly pressured to achieve, achieve, achieve — and all by certain milestones, which were invented and are still revered by society — we feel it’s worth a fairly frequent mention.
Subtle, unconscious peer pressure can be another enemy to many a healthy relationship; and it’s understandable. If you’ve been with your partner for the same amount of time as several other couples you know, and they’ve all moved in together, it can be easy to assume that you’ve got to move in together, too. The same goes for engagements. If you’ve been together for three years, and your friend who’s only been dating his other half for a year has jubilantly announced his engagement on Instagram, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking, “Am I doing it wrong? Should I be engaged by now, too?”
The answer, gentlemen, is a vociferous no. Or, at least, it’s only a no if the only reason you’re considering moving in together, getting engaged or any other commitment-related milestone is because everyone else is doing it. There is no right time for these things: it completely depends on the individual couple, and their wants and needs. Take the commitment up a notch when it feels right for you, and your partner; not when it feels right for your friends.
Don’t let Valentine’s Day do all the work for you
Valentine’s Day is a great day to show your partner how much they mean to you; but don’t let calendar days be the only days when you put in the effort.
If you’d buy your partner a gift on Valentine’s Day, why not push the boat out and surprise them for absolutely no reason one Wednesday evening? Is there a restaurant they’ve been dying to go to; a play they’ve been hinting they’re longing to see? We’d advise paying attention to these subtle pointers, and acting accordingly — a thoughtful, considerate gesture goes a long way towards a healthy relationship.
Equally, don’t save up all your encouragement, affirmations and support for specific days or dates. If your partner gets a promotion, that’s a great time to congratulate them on their successes; but you can congratulate them for no reason at all, too. Don’t wait for an external prompt: make their day with a total surprise.
Most importantly of all: don’t let your wires get crossed
Lots of people hate talking about their feelings. We get it; it can be awkward, uncomfortable and can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. But if you’re looking for a healthy relationship, gents, then we’re afraid to say that talking is the way to get there.
If there’s ever anything on your mind, don’t bottle it up and hope that the problem will miraculously go away. It won’t. The only way to fix any sort of relationship-focused issue is to talk it out with your partner. They won’t telepathically know there’s a problem; it’s up to you to articulate it, and to tell them what you need.
Equally, don’t wait for your partner to bring their problems to you. Check in with them. Ask them how they are; and if their behaviour seems ‘off’, tune into that. Don’t bully them with questions if they don’t want to talk — but you can gently let them know that you’re there, ready to talk, whenever they’re ready. And if you demonstrate these sorts of behaviours, it’s more likely that your partner will acknowledge this and show the same level of courtesy and respect towards you.
Talking is a miracle — it’s amazing how much better almost all of us feel after a good old chinwag. Never underestimate the power of a heart-to-heart; it wins out over extravagant gifts almost every time.
Wondering how to find that elusive relationship in the first place? Here’s how to find someone in a post-lockdown world…
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