Everyone’s relationship is unique, and people come together for many different reasons. But there are some things that good relationships have in common. Knowing the basic principles of healthy relationships helps keep them meaningful, fulfilling and exciting in both happy times and sad:
Keep physical intimacy alive
Touch is a fundamental part of human existence. Studies on infants have shown the importance of regular, loving touch and holding on brain development. These benefits do not end in childhood. Life without physical contact with others is a lonely life indeed.
Studies have shown that affectionate touch actually boosts the body’s levels of oxytocin, a hormone that influences bonding and attachment. In a committed relationship between two adult partners, physical intercourse is often a cornerstone of the relationship. However, intercourse should not be the only method of physical intimacy in a relationship. Regular, affectionate touch-—holding hands, hugging, or kissing—is equally important.
While touch is a key part of a healthy relationship, it’s important to take some time to find out what your partner really likes. Unwanted touching or inappropriate overtures can make the other person tense up and retreat—exactly what you don’t want.
Spend quality time together
You probably have fond memories of when you were first dating your loved one. Everything may have seemed new and exciting, and you may have spent hours just chatting together or coming up with new, exciting things to try. However, as time goes by, children, demanding jobs, long commutes, different hobbies and other obligations can make it hard to find time together. It’s critical for your relationship, though, to make time for yourselves. If you don’t have quality time, communication and understanding start to erode.
Couples are often more fun and playful in the early stages of a relationship. However, this playful attitude can sometimes be forgotten as life challenges or old resentments start getting in the way. Keeping a sense of humor can actually help you get through tough times, reduce stress and work through issues more easily.
Never stop communicating
Good communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. When people stop communicating well, they stop relating well, and times of change or stress can really bring out disconnect. As long as you are communicating, you can work through whatever problem you’re facing.
Each of us is a little different in how we best receive information. Some people might respond better to sight, sound or touch. Your partner’s responses may be different from yours. Take some time to learn your partner’s cues, and be sure to communicate your own as well. For example, one person might find a brief massage after a stressful day a loving mode of communication—while another might just want to talk over a hot cup of tea.
So much of our communication is transmitted by what we don’t say. Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, leaning forward or away, or touching someone’s arm communicate much more than words. For a relationship to work well, each person has to be receptive to sending and receiving nonverbal cues. Learning to understand this “body language” can help you understand better what your partner is trying to say. Think about what you are transmitting as well, and if what you say matches what you feel. If you insist “I’m fine”, while clenching your teeth and looking away, your body is clearly signaling you are not.