8 habits of people who build healthy, lasting relationships

You’ve finally found your person and all is well. You enjoy being together, have a lot of laughs, and can speak openly about anything with each other.  

Score! 

But always remember, after the first rush of love and attraction, that solid relationships don’t just materialize, they are built with intent from the ground floor up.

In the earlier days of a relationship, building is a natural process as we invest time and attention to establish a union with long-term success.  

We eagerly make time for our partner early on and do things to surprise each other, such as arranging surprise dates to delight our person as we make it clear we’re looking for more than friendship.  

Then, after your relationship is well-established and fallen into a routine, things can become overly familiar and the magic may begin to wane.

This doesn’t have to be your fate. You can choose instead to continue the use of the healthy relationship habits that got you there in the first place.

Here are eight habits of people who know how to build a strong foundation for fulfilling and lasting relationships.

1) Be proactive 

If you want a healthy relationship you have to decide to be intentional about consistently doing the things that keep love alive, and taking responsibility for your part of the things you can do to keep your relationship fresh and exciting.  

Showing your partner love in ways that are meaningful to them creates positive results that can last a lifetime. Understanding your person’s love language is one of the most effective ways to be proactive in your relationship, and worth turning into a habit.

The challenge in many relationships is that each partner is fluent in a different love language. There’s a natural tendency to show love the way that works for you, but often it doesn’t have the same effect on your partner as it would on you.

Learning and using your partner’s love language speaks volumes about your willingness to put the needed work into your relationship.

2) Look at the big picture

Having the road map of where you want to go already in hand is a great advantage. Having a clear idea of what you want from your relationship helps you set goals and achieve them faster.

Most couples hope for a healthy relationship that endures as you age. You expect to strengthen your couple connection with each passing year as you navigate life’s storms together.  

But we’re only human, and sometimes egos and weak conflict resolution skills leave us battle-scarred and a little more broken each time we succumb to our lower impulses.    

A good tactic to avoid these sorts of negative outbursts is having rules in place to avoid triggering each other unnecessarily.   

For example, some couples vow to never threaten divorce no matter how furious they may be at the moment. Others may have strict “no walking out on a huff” rules in place.

You get the idea. 

The point is, some things come at too high a cost no matter how compelling that (momentary) temptation is. 

It may not be the height of romance, but consider drafting a relationship mission statement with your partner.  

Brainstorm together on the sort of relationship you’d like to create and nurture. Agree to certain ground rules and remember that you’re both on the same team and should always act as such.

3) Fighting fair

Regular disagreements in a relationship aren’t always a bad thing. Every couple has arguments and faces challenges. The important thing is how these challenges are met, not the challenges themselves. 

So when an argument comes up in your relationship (and it will), fighting fairly is another surefire way to show your person the respect they deserve even in the heat of the moment. 

To keep things above the belt, it’s important to avoid contempt and stonewalling during a fight, as these are self-protecting mechanisms that add nothing of value to the conversation.

Instead, protect your precious relationship by only fighting fair. And always remember it’s your partner, not your opponent. 

4) Get your priorities straight

It’s way too easy to get distracted by the tyranny of our never-ending to-do list. It feels like you have millions of demands competing for your attention.  

This can make it hard to concentrate on what’s truly important to you.

Your first step is re-examining your priorities. Your second step is making everything else in your life accommodate your priorities, and not the other way around.

5) Seek to understand

men who are steady and dependable in a relationship 8 habits of people who build healthy, lasting relationships

Do you ever find yourself waiting for a natural pause in a conversation so you can make a point?

Yeah, stop that. This is one of those times that a minor misunderstanding can morph into an explosive argument. 

We all want to be heard, but to be heard we have to master our listening skills first. 

The most loving thing we can do for our partners is to give them our full attention and actively listen to them.

People in healthy relationships are there for each other without passing judgment or ego. They just want to understand each other’s hearts.   

It requires quite a bit of practice to master the skills of listening well. But if you make a habit of it and put forth your best effort to understand your person’s point of view, they’ll be feeling, and no doubt returning, the love.

We know that mutual trust and respect are the bedrock of any lasting relationship. Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.

6) A win-win situation

Closely related to seeking understanding is the habit of thinking in terms of win-win.  

Think about it. Who would want to make a long-term commitment just to cause someone they love to lose out?  

The tension that some couples experience while discussing their jobs, money, household chores, and parenting is much easier to navigate successfully where there is an open win-win discussion.  

It’s important to hash out exactly what you’re trying to achieve as a couple and which one of you is most suited to lead in each scenario based on your natural strengths, life experience, or current life demands (think new baby, having school-aged children, or looking after aging parents, etc.)

Figure out where you want to go and plan your preferred route together, knowing it’ll all work out fine as long as you keep your eyes on the prize.  

7) Ask and you shall receive

Have you ever used any of the following statements? 

“If my partner really loved me, they would just know what I need without me saying a word.” 

“I shouldn’t have to ask. My partner should already know what I want.” 

And, everyone’s favorite: 

“They should know what they did wrong.” 

OK, first things first. Your partner cannot read your mind. They are their own person and see the world differently and have different expectations than you. 

It’s your job as an adult trying to build a healthy relationship to communicate your thoughts, needs, and feelings. Out loud. To your person. 

And yes, you may have to do it more than once.

Couples in successful relationships avoid making assumptions. Instead, they make a point to ask for what they want while holding space for their partner’s needs. 

The happiest couples regularly discuss their desires and respect their differences. You may be a unit, but you’re still two distinct entities.

8) They forgive and move on

Couples who’ve built healthy relationships recognize that their relationship depends on forgiveness to survive. 

Learning how to apologize and forgive is vital not only for a strong love relationship. These skills will also hold you in good stead during all your interactions with other people.

An apology isn’t supposed to be about making an argument disappear. A real apology is a sincere attempt to address an issue as a unit, and then move on. 

If you’re seeking healthy relationships, choose to be happy instead of right. This comes back to priorities again. If peace in your relationship is a priority, a sincere apology will seem a small price to pay. 

Final thoughts

Everyone wants a happy and healthy relationship. Fewer want to put in the necessary work to make that happen. 

But if you’re willing to implement these strategies, you’ll find over time that your effort was well-spent. 

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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