One of the most asked questions I receive at seminars is, "What do couples need to make their relationship work well?" My answer is always the same: in order for a relationship to work well, it must first be healthy. Healthy relationships have many prime factors going for them, and they enhance your life.
Now, the answer that I give makes the questioner pause; it is not exactly what he or she expects to hear. Most want to hear that a good, workable relationship comprises a combination of good sex, common interests, getting along with each other's respective families, etc. Those are all valid points, and they do contribute to the happiness of a relationship, but the first and foremost requirement for a relationship to work well is that it be a healthy one.
According to research by Discovery Health, nearly half of all marriages end in a messy divorce; if you're not married but in a relationship, the percentage of a breakup rises to 65 percent.
For a relationship to work it needs to be "healthy." Making sure you are entering a healthy relationship is one way to ensure that you and your partner won't end up being in the 65-percent breakup group. The reality is that you need to be able to define what a healthy relationship really is.
So, what makes a relationship healthy?
Both partners need to know and love themselves first before they can begin to know and love each other. Each one should spend time pursuing personal goals as well as partnership ones. If you postpone your dreams for someone else, you will eventually begin to resent him or her because you are not doing what you want to do in life. Partnership goals, ones that you both want to achieve together, are wonderful for your relationship, but don't discount personal goals.
There has to be a me within the we.
Bring positive things to the relationship.
You should bring compassion, understanding, love, and a healthy dose of reality. What neither one of you should bring is too much excess baggage from previous bad relationships. Let the past stay in the past. It is called the past for a reason; don't bring it into your present life.
Keep a healthy body and a healthy mind.
If you're finding that you are getting involved with an addict, stop immediately. Addiction is not healthy. You aren't going to change an addict. Addiction will only have an adverse impact on any relationship. The reality is that less than 40 percent of addicts who undergo treatment will return to a normal lifestyle.
Sharing a life with a person addicted to alcohol or drugs can be a potential horror story in terms of time, money, and damage to yourself.
A healthy partnership is one where each person is treated with, dignity, respect, and kindness. It goes without saying that this means no physical or emotional abuse.
Find a partner who really listens.
No joke, the most successful couples communicate. They really listen and care what each one has to say. This includes all aspects of your relationship, including your sexual life together. Be frank and open.
Learn to argue constructively.
You're not out to win a war. Disagreements are fine and good; we are all individuals. There should be no verbal abuse, no raised voices, and no rehashing of past disagreements. Stick to the matter at hand. Don't bring up past slights and arguments that have nothing to do with the current disagreement. It is childish and adds fuel to an already heated moment.
Maintain honesty and trust.
Relationships are built on trust. Lies destroy the foundation of a partnership. That fact makes it difficult to trust again.
Appreciate and support each other.
Appreciate your partner's unique abilities and likes even if they are different from your own. Emotionally support any dreams and goals he or she may have.
Have fun together.
Enjoy being together. Share the best of your lives. Have some common goals and commitment.
Remember: an unhealthy relationship is one in which you feel heightened stress, fear, sadness, and dread, whereas a healthy relationship is one in which you feel comfortable, safe, happy and fulfilled.
To read more from Kristen Houghton, peruse her articles at Kristen Houghton.com and visit her Keys to Happiness blog. Also, take a look inside her book "And Then I'll Be Happy!" and e-mail her at
Copyright 2010 Kristen Houghton