Relationships impact health. According to Harvard Health Publishing social connections influence long-term health; studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. Inversely, a lack of healthy relationships is associated with depression, later-life cognitive decline, and increased mortality.
What makes relationships healthy? Healthy relationship encompass four types of safety. Physical safety is safety from violence or threats of violence within a relationship; this is bottom line safety and if it’s the foundation of a healthy relationship. Emotional safety is the safety to share with another, safety to be yourself, and safety to express your feelings. Next, commitment safety is that which comes from the feeling of being able to depend, trust, and count on another. Finally, community safety is feeling safe in terms of where you live and having a support network. Each of these elements are present in healthy relationships but positive relationship include much more.
Communication allows you and your partner to have a deep understanding of each other, and allows you to connect. In a healthy relationship with good communication, both partners:
- Treat each other with respect
- Speak openly to one another about thoughts and feelings
- Feel heard when expressing feelings
- Listen to each other and compromise
- Do not criticize each other
- Feel supported to do the things they like
- Celebrate each other’s accomplishments and successes
Each person should express to their partner what they are and are not comfortable with, when it comes to intimacy, finances, family and friends, personal space and time. In a healthy relationship with boundaries, both partners:
- Allow each other to spend time with friends and family
- Do not abuse technology to check on a partner
- Trust each other and do not require their partner to “check in”
- Do not pressure the other to do things that they don’t want to do
- Do not accuse the other of being unfaithful
Even healthy relationships can use an improvement. You may need a boost if you feel disconnected from your partner or like the relationship has gotten stale. Try spending time together trying a new hobby and talk about the reasons why you want to be in the relationship.
CHI is committed to creating and promoting a culture of non-violence as an essential element of healthy communities and a healthier society. Everyone deserves to have safe, healthy, and happy relationships. If you are in an abusive relationships or would like more information contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a confidential 24/7 hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or www.thehotline.org.
(Veronica Zietz, MBA, is the Director of the CHI ND Violence Prevention Program.)