5 Things Healthy Relationships Do Differently than Toxic Romances.

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Screw ups in the romantic department are normal. Healthy relationships, however, take a lot of work. Read on for five habits and tips that couples in healthy relationships do differently than those in toxic unions.

One of the things I am quite frank about is the fact that I have had my share of screw ups in the romantic department.

If there was a mistake to make, I made it. If there was something I was told I shouldn’t/couldn’t do, I did it. And I suffered a great many heartaches because of it.

I began to correlate drama and dysfunction with love and romance and nothing could be further from the truth.

Part of why I consider being a relationship specialist my calling and why I am so dang good at it is because I have been there, done that and burned the t-shirt. This includes the hard work on my relationship with love to get to where I am today.

Where am I today? Married to the man of my dreams after a long road of off and on, long distance dating with two kids and another currently taking residence (and causing me to waddle rather ungracefully around the house) in my womb.

Here is what I have discovered those in healthy relationships do differently:

1. The past cannot be erased. But you can learn to deal with it.

Many people will tell us that we must release the past or leave the past behind us. While that is a novel idea, it’s complete and utter B.S. We will never forget or release the past, and why should we? It brought us here.

Everything we have encountered, whether good or bad, was a learning experience designed to aid our evolution. People in healthy relationships haven’t suddenly forgotten or “released” their wounds, they have transformed them. They have learned to honor their past and all it entailed as necessary steps to take in the ladder to their personal evolution.

They bring with them the appreciation for each moment and respect for where they have come from and what they have gone through into their current relationship. It adds a richness and depth that would otherwise be lacking if we truly had an ability to push a button and drop our pasts down the chute.

2. Compromise is Key: It’s not always 50/50.

Sometimes it’s 80/20 and that is okay. What is not okay is if it stays in this place of imbalance. We all go through things that leave us gutted or otherwise unable to be fully present in a relationship.

Instead of complaining and throwing a tantrum, those in a healthy relationship understand that sometimes we need to give a bit more while our partner puts focus on other things. It could be a job or personal issues that requires their attention. If talked about openly and honestly, then it’s okay to give a bit more while our partner’s attention is diverted elsewhere.

What is not okay is if this imbalance becomes a part of our everyday existence. One person cannot be the backbone to the entire relationship; the very definition of partnership implies the participation of another for a common goal.

3. Honesty not only counts. It’s critical for a healthy relationship.

And, honestly, this has been the hardest part for me. As a rather independent woman who made her own money and did her own thing for so many years, it became difficult to imagine that suddenly I was supposed to share where every penny went or had to tell my partner where I was going.

My rebellious nature would kick in and “it’s none of your damn business where I’m going” flew from my mouth more than a few times. This, however, does not a healthy relationship make.

While I was playing secret squirrel, my husband was telling me about where the money he made went, into what savings, toward what household project. If he was leaving he would say where he was headed and approximately what time he would be home. It wasn’t done with the feeling that he needed to, but the feeling that it was the respectful thing to do. I took note.

When we are in a healthy partnership, it’s time to open up about these things. Whether it’s where we are headed on a Saturday afternoon or just how many new pairs of shoes we bought as we try to stuff the evidence in the closet.

It took me a long time to realize that I needn’t view it from an adolescent-like perspective and fear that someone was encroaching on my space. We can still be independent and open—those in healthy relationships get that.

4. Silence is deadly. Communication should happen on the daily.

Still ignoring your partner when you are upset with them? Don’t! Please for the love of all that is holy do not keep up with this dangerous trend; it destroys more relationships than I can even number!

Those who are in healthy, long-term relationships understand that the key to anything ultimately boils down to effective communication.

Unless you are Paris Hilton, my guess is that nothing at all in life is going to get solved by pouting in the corner with your arms folded around your chest. There will be times when we are upset with our partner. We will argue and disagree and sometimes we may even say hurtful crap to one another.

That’s the nature of the beast. It’s how we handle those tension filled moments that determines whether we continue on the road of a happy and healthy relationship or take a detour down break up avenue.

We have to be willing to talk about what is bothering us. Is it good to sometimes wait until we have cooled our jets? Sure, no one wants to have a finger in their face and most will check out if our voice is raised.

Talking calmly, however, about what is bothering us is essential for working through issues. Our partner cannot possibly know how we feel and what to do about it unless we create a space where we each can safely share our feelings.

So stop the silent sulking and talk!

5. Separate but together. Space is important.

People who enjoy reasonable health and sanity in their relationships get that a relationship cannot be that which makes their lives full but rather an addition to their already full life. So many, and yes I am looking at my ladies here, find someone they are interested in and suddenly drop their friends like hotcakes and start to devote their every waking moment to their new paramour. Then when the relationship starts to die a slow death due to a lack of space, their entire world falls apart.

When we are in a functional and healthy relationship, there is an understanding that we each must have our own goals and passions. We should have time away for ourselves to explore our own interests. Nothing is sexier than a man or woman who is passionate and capable of holding their own.

Conversely, there is no greater turn off than the stench of clingy desperation. Make your life full and explore what you love—your relationship will be all the more rich for it.

Most importantly, those who are in healthy relationships understand that it all boils down to respect and love. Respect and love for the self, for their partner and for the relationship.

There is a desire to love their partner to such a degree that they feel the ultimate freedom that comes from security.

Healthy doesn’t mean problem-free by any stretch of the imagination; my husband and I clear the emotional pipes from time to time with a good ol’ spat. But, thankfully, we have learned a few healthy habits that allows us to do so in a fashion that doesn’t undermine the integrity of the relationship.


How to delight in eachother:

Mindful offering:

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anonymous Apr 10, 2016 11:13pm

I came to you to find who I am and found the road that would lead me to the answer
You have been down that road all too many times to tell me that it would be easy, so you did not
I went down the road and was going for a long time hoping to return and tell you who I am
but while I was searching for the right words I could tell that you already knew the answer
I wanted to ask you who you are and you have looked at me in a way that made words irrelevant
So I will let go of the words for a while and close my eyes and let the silence talk instead

anonymous Nov 10, 2015 9:48am

Thank you for clarifying! Its good to finally let something else in.

There’s a word for clingy relationships called fusion, which is something like not having a separate sense of identity yet so it’s like a child still learning to have a safe place with mom. When there is that security established the child/person feels safe enough to go out and form their own sense of self. Yes security and trust are a must, or you pull each other down. I went through that in so many relationships without realizing or at at the time able to reach out for outside help. You think if you really love each other you’ll be able to work it out together, but it’s like constantly trying to fix the other person without having your own life straight. A tug o war. Nuts! Starting to have my own life its showing just how much it was actually needed to get out of the house and find my own sense of self. There is more to offer then. You don’t know how bad a situation is until going until experiencing something better. Thanks for the clarification of what having a healthy relationship is, it feels like lifetimes getting to a point of that even being possible. Yea unless you can put down the defenses and talk about things sometimes, itl’s frustration until that trust is there.

anonymous Oct 1, 2015 8:46am

Every relationship needs a good dose of pepper to stay alive and strong

keeping live flame which connects both part of the process

anonymous Oct 1, 2015 8:43am

Be happy , happiness itself is a state of mind , full of sensations and various emotions , also defined as well-being , success, contentment and satisfaction.

Many great article, congratulations !

anonymous Aug 7, 2015 10:37am

“People in healthy relationships haven’t suddenly forgotten or “released” their wounds, they have transformed them. They have learned to honor their past and all it entailed as necessary steps to take in the ladder to their personal evolution” <<<<<THIS!!!!! Also, the silence is deadly thing. Yes, you must talk things out! 9 times out of 10 I've found the real "problems" are misunderstanding/miscommunication. The people we love/love us don't intentionally harm. It's great to reach that awareness. Builds trust. Thank you for a great perspective.

anonymous Mar 23, 2015 8:21pm

I agree entirely with this, though this understanding comes with age. A relationship doesn’t work with just anyone. I find that there should be a parallel sense of being with the other person, not just a few things in common. I have a unique perspective, being nearly too empathetic and possessing a sense of personal accountability that is nearly unbreakable. No one can fix everything, but if the people in the relationship can agree that some life lessons are meant to be learned individually, they are both better off. Thank you for your words, Laura. All would benefit from having them added to their perspective, even those in healthy relationships.

    anonymous Mar 23, 2015 11:39pm

    I agree.. I have what I would consider a very happy healthy marriage of 6 years and we are both pretty good at all, but I noticed I could definately stand to work on #2!! Gonna get started, lol!!

anonymous Feb 1, 2015 1:47pm

What if your partner just cuts of arc because she felt like she was being used, but all of a succeed she starts dressing sexier, and act like she wants you but when you ask if you can have sex she denies and denies.

anonymous Sep 28, 2014 10:15pm

I believe this advice when I feel heathy but right now I feel needy even with all the years of therapy I ve had

    anonymous Oct 25, 2014 4:49pm

    I think its about understanding the power YOU have over the feelings you feel swell inside. If you are feeling needy than ask yourself how you can support/love/nurture yourself more. Often times when we feel rejected, alone, needy etc. its not on account of what we lack externally but rather what we are not giving OURSELVES internally.

anonymous Sep 28, 2014 6:56pm

My wife and I are relationship coaches. For a sports analogy: A relationship is like a sports team. Each player has specific skills and talents that overlap. It would be crazy for teammates to fight each other over the ball, or over anything else. Most sports teams have a coach to help the players get better at the game. Most people in relationships do not have coaches and this is why it is basically a random chance that the relationship succeeds. It is not your fault that you are always finding yourself in bad relationships. You are not trained for it, and there are probably very few that you know whose relationships you want to model. My suggestion: find a relationship coach – if not me, then somebody. There are simple strategies that bring out the best in your significant other, just like there are specific strategies that have been getting you the results you are getting.

    anonymous Oct 25, 2014 4:47pm

    I think people are fully capable of having a healthy relationship through their own self inquiry and evolution without the assistance of a relationship coach (which I am as well so I say this in the air of absolute transparency). There are those who need greater assistance or more structured understanding and guidance and in such cases relationship coaching is such a powerful force-however, it would quite untrue and obtuse, in my opinion to suggest that 1) without our coaching people will only repeat the same mistakes as I find that it is a truly individual decision not a blanketed truth and 2) that everyone lacks healthy relationships from which to model. Though I am a relationship coach and reader who has made a plethora of mistakes in my own right it was through my own work, not with a coach that I reversed trends and I had many relationships to model that were prime examples of what people SHOULD do.
    I made the decision to begin to try things differently and because of this it allowed me to make healthy changes. For those who lack certain skills and/or motivation to do this on their own a relationship with a well qualified coach and reader is quite beneficial. It is not, however, the only option and I find it quite dangerous to suggest otherwise.

anonymous Sep 27, 2014 8:51am

Good read!!

anonymous Sep 10, 2014 8:50pm

These are all fantastic! Thank you. I especially love how you directly related “honesty” to simple acts of transparency and openness. It took a lot for me to learn that being honest wasn’t just a matter of answering questions truthfully, but initiating openness and being forthcoming about what is going on internally and externally throughout the day. It helps keep your partner on the same page and that’s important.

    anonymous Oct 25, 2014 4:43pm

    Absolutely Ironfeep! Transparency is SUCH a powerful word AND act!!!!

anonymous Aug 30, 2014 5:59am

Agree with most of the article (and the aforementioned need for plentiful soulful sex) but disagree that 'arguments' (fights?) are inevitable. I am in my healthiest relationship ever and we have never had a fight/argument. We don't raise voices, call names or innuendo. It has provided a much safer environment for us both to open up to each other more than we thought possible in previous marriages (one each). There are ground rules and you don't even come close to the edges of them if you want to sustain a healthy, private space into which your relationship can grow. Intimacy is the key and when you feel free to unleash anger on your partner simply because they are near, it's the most destructive thing I've ever witnessed. Apologies may be forthcoming, but damage is cumulative, even when easily forgiven (as that often leads to increased intensity/frequency as the permissive environment allows). Best to treat your partner with the same courtesy, respect, forebearance and forgiveness that you did on that first day you spent together in each other's arms, wondering how you ever lived your life without that one. Negativity, cynicism and blame are pure poison, even when sugar-coated.

    anonymous Oct 25, 2014 4:43pm

    I think that you bring up many valid points but I am curious why anger and other shadow attributes are viewed as negative and things we must shun instead of parts of the whole?
    I suppose I view relationships where couples are able to healthfully and respectfully be human to be the healthiest of all and the truth is humans are prone to anger, frustration, cynicism and more.

      anonymous Mar 25, 2015 11:27am

      I can see where Veri is coming from. My wife and I have been together for 15 years .. married for 10. We are free to fight with each other if required, but after the first first couple of years, we haven't fought much. Once or twice a year something goes out of sync. Since it happens so rarely tempers do not flare. She or I might pout for a day and then we talk it out. But usually we just get along very well. We do try and be honest with each other. No secrets absolutely. Both 'all in' wrt the kids. One thing I'd like to add is, we're both very different .. with very different interests in life. I never drag her into things I like (and she does not), and she never drags me into stuff she likes (but I do not). However, we make sure we spent plenty of time doing things both of us enjoy as well.

anonymous Aug 21, 2014 8:27am

Great article Laura!

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 7:08pm

    Thank you!!!!! I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment!

anonymous Aug 21, 2014 7:14am

"the ultimate freedom that comes from security" … very well-put!!
I find #5 especially relevant for me right now. Another way to put it might be, "don't expect your partner to meet all your needs." But I like the way you put it too.

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 7:18pm

    Right Andrea! You are damn right that your partner will never fulfill all of your needs-ultimately the more we fill them the more what they do is a compliment to a light that is already shining bright!

    anonymous Dec 12, 2014 10:05pm

    I wrote that down too! “…the ultimate freedom that comes from security.” Profound, and concise. Beautiful. I feel a kin to you sister. My Long sordid road currently runs up along side that of a good man, and I think this is the healthiest relationship either of us has ever had, if not seen. I refer to Elephant quite often for tidbits in discussions; I can show and tell, and not be the One Pointing Fingers or whatnot. Excellent content, and tool for improvement. Thank you for writing!

anonymous Aug 21, 2014 1:14am

Acceptance of each other helps a lot. Embracing the differences

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 7:07pm

    Yes, handman! You hit the nail on the head, my friend!

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 10:29pm

wow this is a very timely meditation. my partner of 2 years and I are in the midst of a cross country move; prior to this time I had held down the finances in our relationship. Now I’m beginning graduate school and he’s had a difficult time stepping up into a position of equality. How can I support him emotionally during this time while reestablishing my independence? We both realize the stress of moving yet we both acknowledge an balance in our partnership that if left unresolved could deteriorate our hard won commitment.

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 7:06pm

    This is a very common theme, EA, and I totally see and hear you. I went through this as well when I got pregnant with my third child (due in October). I had expected my husband to step up and become more aggressive in his career so that I could relax in mine. When he did not do that I felt a great deal of resentment that he was not embodying the role that "I" had expected of him.
    The truth of the matter is that financial inequality is often times a HUGE issue for couples and becomes even more of one when each person does not clearly define what they expect and need of the other. You two might want to spend some time clearly defining expectations and asking, honestly, whether or not the other can fill that role.
    In my situation I had to compromise and work with him to understand that while my job allows for me to grow based on how much I put in it (self employed life coach and intuitive reader) his job (corporate 9-5'er) is not as giving in that department. We had to each clearly define what we expected and also what we felt capable of doing. We have found a middle ground and you may find that you two will have to work out a similar common ground between you two! If you need further help please feel free to get in touch!

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 6:19pm

Absolutely @englishthistle! A relationship should be mutually supportive and not a constant struggle to one up one another. Don't get me wrong, healthy competition is ok; it sometimes is just what we need to get our asses in gear! BUT it should not be a constant nor should you feel that you are each struggling to out do one another. That's exhausting and hardly supportive!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!! <3

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 3:57pm

Almost every relationship I've had has felt like a competition. Who was more interesting, more fun, had more friends, etc, etc. Trying to best each other doesn't make for an equal and honest situation. Definitely time for a change!

anonymous Aug 20, 2014 12:23pm

#3 and #5. And don't forget. LOTS of Sex. Also, no matter how frustrated you get, speak to your partner as though they are someone you don't want to hurt. Consciously.

    anonymous Aug 20, 2014 6:17pm

    OH I agree so much with the need for sex, lol. As much as people gloss over it at times I feel its a crucial aspect to the intimacy and bond created and shared between two people. It takes a great deal of work but you are right that its important to be very aware and think what is about to be said so that we avoid hurting those we love. Though, I must admit that no one is capable of hurting us more than those we love because of the value we place in their thoughts, opinions and actions. Its a two way street of conscious language and an ability to forgive. Thanks for commenting!

    anonymous Aug 16, 2015 11:24am

    Sex isn't necessary for every couple though. If it's important to you, don't sluff it off, but don't force yourselves to do it if you're just not into it. My husband and I have only been married for 13 years, but we are happy with not wanting sex. We rarely get 'the mood' to do it, and that's fine for us.

      anonymous Nov 10, 2015 5:34pm

      agree with retiti1…my spouse and i (very happily married) are not very sexual people. and having sex rarely makes sex better for us. I think the media or our culture puts a lot of pressure on sex as being key in a relationship, and that is the case for many relationships but it isnt for many. Being intimate i think is key for our relationship..cuddling, hugging, etc.

Amy Wagner Aug 4, 2017 1:51am

Subject of the others children turns into fight any advise

Shawna M Kellems May 2, 2017 6:30pm

How do you not become silent in an argument when you have always been the peacemaker in the relationship? When you was expected to be silent in all circumstances for most of your life? When. Speaking up in the past would at times lead to a very scary situation? How do you know it is safe to talk about anything you might disagree with?

Daniel McCullar Apr 15, 2017 5:48pm

Not bad and for the most part I agree 99%. Where I disagree is the 50-50 percent part the truth is relationships are not 50-50. They are typically 100 100. You each get 100% and sometimes somebody else will give you 100% plus whatever else the partner needs them to give at that time. Sometimes it's 120 sometimes it's 150. And something that they should've added to this article that I see a problem with all too often his growth. You both have to be willing to grow every day. Because we all change day by day both my mother and you're by ear. If you're not wanting to grow and evolve not just individual but together your relationship is doomed.

Tim Dibble Mar 4, 2017 8:33pm

All relationships are and must be inherently unhealthy. For without the learning experiences, we'll never find a way to be inherently healthy ourselves. For a lucky few, they learn through the bad relationship with the same person and create a good relationship, but all relationships are inherently unhealthy, that's why they are exciting, enticing, broadening, frustrating and rewarding.

Erin Elizabeth Dec 18, 2016 7:32am

Definite agreed Crystal! This all should be common sense but sadly it isn't to many and those who do these things, they just might benefit from this article. :)

Crystal Coppola Caracciolo Nov 1, 2016 7:28pm

Unfortunately many especially in their 30's still don't get this and that's why their relationships keep failing :/

Leslie Rodgers May 11, 2016 10:15pm

I appreciate the article but it seems like these things kind of go without saying for anyone with some common sense and over the age of about 24?! It's sad to me that this may be enlightening to some people. I suffered through many years of bad relationships but I KNEW they were bad because it was painfully obvious and I never stayed long.

Melina Powers May 1, 2016 7:50pm


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Laura Brown

Laura Brown is an Intuitive Therapist who blends intuitive tools with traditional therapeutics to help others on their journey towards sustainable wellness. You can schedule your Intuitive Medicine Session, Manifest Session, or receive an Intuitive Tarot reading at Of Spirit & Bone and receive daily readings and other musings by following Laura on Instagram.