For those with a partner, having a strong, healthy relationship should always be the goal. And those among us with successful and unsuccessful relationships in our past will know that a solid partnership doesn’t just happen by chance. Rather, it takes constant work and understanding to build something unshakable by challenges, events and growth.
So, what factors contribute to the foundation of a healthy relationship? And what are the signs that a relationship could be veering into unhealthy territory? Below we’ve outlined some pointers and indicators that will act as the building blocks of a strong and healthy relationship, whether you’ve been together weeks or years.
What is a Healthy Relationship?
The idea of a healthy relationship might sound great but you’re likely curious about what exactly that means — especially for those in new relationships as an over 50. After all, if you and your partner get on well and enjoy being with each other, surely that means it’s healthy, right? Well, maybe. It’s not hard for a relationship to seem OK on a surface level but a truly healthy relationship requires a little more than this. Many of you have probably had friends whose relationships looked perfect at face value, only for them to break up due to deeper issues that had festered.
Having a healthy partnership requires give and take. Both people need to be aware of what the other needs to feel secure and loved, and also have to commit to doing their best to fulfill that. It seems simple — and it kind of is — but it does require work from both partners and dedication to stick at it.
Signs of a Healthy Relationship
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how you create a healthy relationship, there’s definitely some key signs that your relationship is strong and ready to weather any obstacle in your future.
This is not only the cornerstone of a healthy relationship but the foundation for all human relationships. Having trust requires putting aside concerns about giving people such direct access to you and instead believing that it will bond you closer.
Ideally, trust in a romantic relationship should be absolute, however this can be difficult depending on the history of your relationship, or experiences in previous relationships. For those over 50 it’s likely you’ve been in at least one long-term relationship and may have experienced a betrayal of trust by an intimate partner before. As painful as these experiences might’ve been, it’s also necessary to move forward and not close yourself off.
Trust can be shown in a number of ways, including respecting your partner’s right to privacy, understanding their need for a life of their own, and not forcing your loved one to continually “prove” their love or affection for you. Once we start testing or checking up on our partners, it’s an indication that something is amiss and should be addressed by both people.
Going hand in hand with trust is the importance of being independent even when in a relationship. While some of us are happy to spend most of our time with a significant other, it’s far healthier to embrace spending time apart as well.
Being away from your partner gives you both space to pursue your individual hobbies and interests, after all, you’re both different people! It could also be a time where you gain some perspective on your relationship, being able to clearly see your strengths and also areas you might need to work on. And time to yourself gives you much needed processing space, whether your processing the good, the bad or just everyday life, it’s all important and part of a healthy relationship. Not to mention, absence makes the heart grow fonder!
Part of establishing a healthy relationship with equal footing is having — and demonstrating — respect for your partner. Listening and taking onboard your partner’s thoughts and feelings will help you understand their point of view and actions. Supporting their choices and stances by having your partner’s back will help them feel encouraged. And finally, maintaining respect even when you’re arguing will help you both sustain a healthy relationship.
Of course you and your partner will have no trouble talking about everyday things but remembering to chat about the deeper issues is important for long-term healthiness. You should be sure to make your aware of things you enjoy, dislike or take issue with. And, while a white lie here and there might be fine to keep the peace or boost confidence, honesty should be the big time goal.
Acting in a way that makes your partner feel safe enough to be honest creates a sort of feedback or check in loop. While that might sound a bit sterile, what it really means is that issues don’t build up over time and seem insurmountable. Honesty creates an openness between you both and allows you to approach problems as they happen.
Affection and Intimacy
There’s no two ways about it, sex is — and should be — a key part of a healthy relationship. Showing your partner affection and maintaining some steam in the bedroom is what keeps your partnership from devolving into friendship. There’s still a feel of taboo, or of overwhelming nervousness, about talking about sex as an over 50 (or an over 60 or 70!) but you’ve still got the same pulse as you did when you were in your 20s so embrace it!
Writing for the AARP, Dr Pepper Schwartz notes that “sexual contact correlates to better health, higher relationship satisfaction and easier stress management.“ Schwartz also encourages those who may be worried about health ailments or “equipment issues” to speak to their doctors openly as there’s likely a simple fix.
Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship
While we’ve covered many of the indicators of a healthy relationship, you could also have concerns about whether or not your relationship is actually unhealthy. Here’s a quick list of some signs that your relationship isn’t its strongest and needs some focus:
Controlling or Toxic Behaviour
If your partner wants to know your whereabouts and dictate who you can and can’t be around, this is a sign of relationship toxicity. While this could be fixed with honest conversations and commitment to change, if your significant other is controlling to the nth degree, this is a sign you need to leave.
Your Partner Keeps You from Being Your Best Self
Your partner should be bringing out the best in you and if you feel like this is being stifled, it’s not ideal. If you feel your partner doesn’t want you to succeed, or if you feel as though you’re suppressing your own success to make them feel better, you need to address this before it ends in resentment and anger.
Unequal Power Balance
In a healthy relationship you should both feel like equal contributors with equal amounts of say and sway in the partnership. When one partner feels like the other holds all the power in the relationship the dynamics massively change. Talk about this with your partner and make them aware of how you feel and put a plan in place to work towards a 50/50 power split.
You Fight a Lot
No, fighting isn’t a bad thing but constant, incessant fighting can be a symptom of a deep issue. People should be happy with their partners and arguing all the time simply gets in the way of that. Life isn’t always going to be smooth going but if you and your partner argue more than you laugh, try reassessing whether this is really what you both want and react accordingly.
If you’re currently single and want to start building your own healthy relationship, sign up to SilverSingles now and start being connected to like-minded singles today!