Relationships are dynamic aspects of our lives that require ongoing effort to maintain their quality. Some of the key components include effective communication, conflict resolution, and emotional intimacy. Healthy relationships may also involve shared interests and values, mutual trust, or a sense of obligation and commitment. Some relationships are formal or structured (such as marriage), while others are casual and informal (such as hookups or platonic friendships).
Most of us have an idea of how a relationship should work. Two people share responsibilities, pursue engaging and stimulating interests independently, and manage to finely balance each other’s needs. They cook and clean together, and they go out to have fun or spend time with friends. They’re always supportive, never critical, and they respect each other’s personal boundaries.
While the need for human connection is innate, our ability to develop healthy relationships requires learning and practice. This starts in early infancy, when infants bond with caregivers who meet their basic needs for food, warmth, care, and protection. These bonds form the basis for our lifelong patterns of interacting with other people.
Although it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security by the comfort of a steady relationship, real love requires hard work and constant vigilance. It’s important to recognize when a partner isn’t meeting your emotional needs and to be aware of controlling behaviors that restrict social interactions or isolate you from your support system. In addition, a healthy relationship should encourage you to reach out to other loved ones for advice and encouragement.