Every relationship has its ups and downs, but some relationships reach the point where one or both partners is negatively affected. Most people can immediately recognize some of the obvious signs that a relationship is bad: for example, when a partner is physically abusive. In many relationships, however, the line between a bad relationship and a good relationship is subtle. Although happiness and feeling safe are two things that may characterize a good relationship, other characteristics affect the quality of a relationship as well.
When both partners show that they respect the other person’s independent identity and personhood in a mutually respectful relationship, partners show a healthy mix of give and take. In a bad relationship, however, one partner may find herself constantly yielding to her partner’s demands and feels as though her own needs are unimportant. Likewise, in unhealthy relationships, one or both partners may put each other down and attempt control or manipulate one another to get their own way.
Strong communication skills can be the marker of a good relationship. In a well-functioning relationship, both individuals share how they are feeling and make efforts to resolve conflicts by talking them out. In bad relationships, partners may give each other the “silent treatment,” be passive-aggressive or avoid discussions of conflicts altogether. “Fighting is part of even healthy relationships. The difference is how the conflict is handled,” states the University of Washington Hall Health Center. “Fighting fairly is an important skill you help you have healthier relationships.”
Mutual trust is usually a marker of a good relationship. In such partnerships, neither party is typically jealous or suspicious because they feel confident in their partner and the strength of their bond, says Campbell University. In a bad relationship, one or both individuals may have cheated at one point or acted deceptively, to the point where the partnership is clouded in suspicion and mistrust. Likewise, either one or both parties might feel mistrustful of friends and feel jealous when their partner talks about other important people in their lives.
Growing Together or Apart
“Since change is inevitable, welcoming it as an opportunity to enhance the relationship is more fruitful than trying to keep it from happening,” explains the University of Texas at Austin. This is the marker of many healthy relationships: when couples embrace changes and use them as opportunities to grow together. In unhealthy relationships, couples often resist change and drift apart instead of trying to adapt to new circumstances as a couple.
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Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.
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