Healthy couples show these characteristics
A healthy couple's relationship, like every relationship, is unique in its strengths and challenges. There are as many different ways of having a relationship as there are individuals. Celebrating and accepting differences and working together to bring our strengths to a situation make for healthy, supportive relationships. When each partner supports the other’s life dreams there is a sense of reciprocity in becoming/being the best that each can be so there is equity in life achievements as well in the relationship. In healthy relationships, there is no physical, social, spiritual, emotional, cognitive, or financial abuse which is a major obstacle to a safe, loving, and mutually supportive relationship (see my blog post on violence, effects, and prevention).
There are some general things that characterize most successful relationships in terms of attitudes, values, and effective conflict resolution.
Attitudes: Our beliefs about and actions towards our partner colour every interaction. Couples who have a friendship basis to their relationship characterized by fondness, admiration, and a turning towards each other tend to stay together long term. Having a foundation of "we-ness" rather than "me-ness" places the focus on the couple/family rather than just one person getting his/her needs met.
Values: It helps if we focus on the positive rather than the negative during an interaction and remain open to understanding the other person’s point of view. We don’t have to agree with them, just realize there is always more than one way to view a situation. My go-to thought when irritated is: I may not like what he is doing/saying, but maybe he has a good reason for this that I don’t know about yet.
Effective conflict resolution: In any relationship, there has to be a commitment to resolve conflict that allows disagreement, dialog, accepts influence from our partners, and finds solutions that benefit both partners. Partners who never saw or heard their parent(s) argue often feel uncomfortable and may interpret conflict as fatal to the relationship. Since none of us is exactly alike, it is to be expected that we will see things differently, or have different expectations or needs at any given moment. I always worry when people tell me they never argue because that often means they have capitulated (which leads to resentment) or stuffed it (which means it will get triggered again).
When conflict arises healthy partners are able to listen without personalizing criticism. Despite the conflict they show concern for each other, may use humour appropriately to release tension, and have strategies to repair the relationship as soon as possible (ideally during the argument).
Even healthy conflict can set off our attachment alarm bells and create stress reactions (see my blog on stress and relationships). When stressed we act by instinct and initially have difficulty controlling the anger, frustration, fear and/or despair triggered at that moment. In healthy couples they each own their reactions, soothe themselves and comfort each other.
They are each other’s safe haven during the storms of life.