February 22, 2023
Are you worried about making a big enough gesture for Valentine’s Day? The pressure is real, especially if your partner really gets into the gushy side of this (arguably fictitious) holiday.
But there’s another side to February that reminds you to keep your feet on the ground – not just on the Eiffel Tower while heart-shaped fireworks explode all around you: February is Healthy Relationships Month.
Green Flags: How Do You Know If You’re in a Healthy Relationship?
While you might automatically be able to list red flags, warning signs, or toxic behaviors in a relationship, would you just as readily be able to describe what a healthy relationship looks like?
The picture that comes to mind might be a little vague, and that’s not your fault. Our brains are trained to often focus on the negative rather than the neutral, constructive, or positive.
I encourage you to make your own list of relationship green flags. Read on for a few starting points.
Realistic Goals and Expectations
Relationships quickly lose their fun when both partners feel frustrated and like they can’t get anything right for each other. As much as we want the solution to feel telepathic, you can solve this in a straightforward way with simple clarity.
It’s sort of like homework, but hear me out! Did you ever receive a bad grade that you felt was unfair because the teacher made the assignment confusing? It wasn’t clear that a test would cover certain chapters or that a paper needed to address specific points.
Your partner might feel similarly when you’re dissatisfied, but they don’t know what you want. They arrive late to dinner because they stopped to get you flowers, thinking you wanted gifts – but you just wanted them to be on time!
In order to achieve this clarity, you will need to talk regularly about what you both need and want. It can be scary at first, to be that honest – but thriving relationships are about taking radically honest risks!
When goals and expectations are clear, your partner feels like they can get it right, and you can give them an A+. You showed up 15 minutes early to dinner! And then you had time to go flower shopping together before the florist closed. You both feel unstressed and happier – and I would wager most folks would put those adjectives in their healthy relationship description.
In a healthy relationship, you enjoy spending time together, of course. But you can also spend time apart. You trust each other’s flow – that you can visit friends and family in other places, then return to each other.
This can prove difficult for partners of insecure attachment types. If you feel separation anxiety from your partner – or the opposite, anxiety with growing closeness – it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to unhealthy relationships for the rest of your life. Instead, it’s a growth point that can help lead you to greater freedom, authenticity, and security in all of your relationships, not just your romantic ones.
However, it can be very hard to navigate this on your own. I recommend seeking professional help to heal insecure attachment wounds.
You Can Handle Conflict
Many of us were raised in “conflict-free” households. Were they actually free of conflict? No! They were probably tense with repressed emotions and unspoken viewpoints.
Every relationship has conflict. And healthy relationships digest conflict in order to grow.
If it sounds like that takes a lot of maturity, it does. But – like growing trust through secure attachment – it’s a skill worth growing, because it improves all of your relationships. And it’s a robust toolkit.
Healthy conflict is managed through many avenues, including:
- Nonviolent communication
- Respectful disagreements
- Rooting out and addressing the deeper issue
- Empathizing with your partner
- Widening your perspectives
- Achieving reasonable compromise
- And sometimes just letting it go if a disagreement is not important enough! Who really cares if Taco Bell or Arby’s is more delicious as a late night snack?
A Little Help Can Go a Long Way
Do you feel like things have gotten off track? Just because a relationship has drifted into unhealthy territory doesn’t mean it’s over. You can change personal habits, right? That means you can change relationship habits, too.
However, change is much easier with support from a professional, especially when you and your partner need a neutral third party. A licensed professional counselor can give you the wisdom, mediation, and listening that could change the course of your relationship. Most couples wait too long – be proactive about your relationship’s health. Use Healthy Relationships Month to start!