Before you take the next step in your relationship, consider checking in about the emotional health of the partnership. Similar to the practice of discussing each other’s sexual health before having sex, discussing emotional health before you move forward with a significant relationship milestone, like being exclusive, is critical. If you don’t evaluate the emotional health of a relationship, you may rush into intimacy and commitment without fully understanding your compatibility. This can contribute to frustration, disappointment, and relationships being built on an unstable foundation.
In this post, we discuss what an emotionally healthy relationship looks like, how to evaluate the health of your relationship, and why emotional health is critical to the success of the relationship.
What is an emotionally healthy relationship?
An emotionally healthy relationship often stems from emotionally healthy individuals being in a relationship. The following characteristics are often present in emotionally healthy partners:
Self-awareness with regular reflection
Responsive communication style rather than reactive
Easily recognizes contributions to relationship successes and challenges
Emotional health means making self-care a priority and communicating needs around boundaries. Emotionally healthy boundaries are characterized by clarity, and firmness, while also having some flexibility. Lastly, emotionally healthy individuals can easily recognize and share how they think and feel, express their preferences, and address conflict or differences in the relationship in a productive manner.
How do you evaluate the emotional health of a relationship?
Evaluating a relationship in the early stages can be challenging. Sometimes, it takes time to see how a person truly reacts and responds to challenges to know their emotional health. Oftentimes, partners are on their best behavior early in a relationship and it might take time for them to slip into patterned reactions.
Evaluating a relationship for emotional health may require you to tune into your intuition and the subtleties of someone’s reactions to a challenge or question. Notice how their reactions and interactions make you feel and what emotions accompany their responses to a demanding situation.
Sometimes, you can inquire about past relationships, or witness relationships with their family and friends to get a sense of their emotional health and how they address, respond to, and overcome challenges. Most people feel that if they treat service professionals, for example, with respect and politeness, that necessarily means they will treat you that way too. While it is a bad sign if they don’t do this, going a step further to see how they treat friends and family, as well as you, will give you a lot more information.
Lastly, observe how they respond to issues at work or when you are out in the world to get a sense of the way emotional health might unfold in the relationship. Even noticing how they respond to traffic or treat a store employee bagging their groceries can be telling. Notice:
Are they easily frustrated?
Are they quick to judge?
Do they engage in power struggles or are argumentative?
Do they accept responsibility or place blame on others?
Don’t short-change evaluating your compatibility and the emotional health of the relationship because you want to rush into other phases, like introductions to friends and family, sex, fun travel and leisure activities, holidays together, and more. Take the time you need to evaluate the relationship in this way, knowing that personal emotional health often contributes to strong emotional health in the partnership. Therapy can help you more objectively evaluate the emotional health of the partnership and at the Center for Shared Insight, we can support you on your relationship journey. Contact us to learn more.