What makes a relationship a healthy one?

(Part four of six)

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Interest in health now touches almost every facet of American life: diet; exercise, home and work environments, even relationships.

Evaluating a relationship to see if it is healthy may seem like a difficult task.

According to Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist Charlotte Shoup Olsen, a couple can look to three clues to test the health of their relationship:

* Does each partner like the other?

* Does each partner have a mutual honor and respect for the other?

* Does each partner want to be connected with the other?

There are several other traits that contribute to a healthy relationship, Olsen said. For example, discussing individual stresses and filling the simple need of daily recognition.

Devoting attention to these daily needs fosters a healthy relationship, she said.

Another trait of a healthy relationship is how a couple resolves conflict, Olsen said. When a conflict seems unresolvable, each partner must use respect and honor while restraining from criticism and contempt. They also should be willing to compromise.

If the couple’s shared memories are positive, that is another important sign that the relationship is healthy. In fact, creating positive memories actually builds a relationship, Olsen said.

Couples also can identify signs that their relationship may need work.

For example, when the couple stops having fun together or partners are always thinking negative thoughts about each other, their relationship may be losing its healthiness.

Another more obvious unhealthy sign occurs when the couple is rude and disrespectful toward each other, she said.

When a relationship is developing unhealthy characteristics, the couple can step back and evaluate the problem areas.

Once the problem areas are identified and the couple intentionally works on these problems, a couple can move toward liking each other, mutually honoring and respecting each other; and desiring to be connected with each other.

This process can take a substantial amount of work if the problems are deep, Olsen said.

A couple should not mistake all differences to be unhealthy traits, Olsen said.

“You are two separate individuals and you are going to be different,” Olsen said. “It’s important to remember that no partner is ideal.”

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