When it comes to having and maintaining a healthy, romantic relationship, it’s hard to know what’s good or bad.
Luckily, those who know share their advice and tips on how to do it.
Natalie Haines has often been frustrated by the views she sees some of the students at BYU express about marriage and relationships.
“I hate when I see girls who think marriage will fix everything,” Haines said. “Marriage is hard. It will make everything harder. Things like anger and depression will be exaggerated when you are married.”
Haines believes these views are expressed due to a lack of true knowledge and experience when it comes to relationships and dating.
“A healthy relationship is where both individuals are getting their needs met and feel comfortable about communicating their needs,” Golightly said. “Both partners are able to be open about their needs, and the other cares enough to help them fulfill them.”
Golightly worries that sometimes the extra pressure to be marriage material on the first date can lead relationships to develop poorly, manifesting in extremes.
“Some people do have an incessant need for their partner,” Golightly said. “They become dependent on their partner to feel good about themselves, or they become so focused on the other person that they lose themselves in that person.”
Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is where an ideal relationship should be. Golightly noted frequent arguing as another sign of a bad relationship.
“All relationships do this to an extent, but … when listening stops, when one or both aren’t being heard, that’s when it becomes bad,” Golightly said.
One way Golightly suggested to confront these signs is by having an open, honest, assertive conversation, unless this would put you in a dangerous situation with your spouse. Then the most important thing is to be safe.
Marty Erickson, a marriage, life and family therapist and adjunct administrator in the Counseling and Psychological Department, said his best dating advice is to work on individual selves.
“It takes two people who are working to be healthy on their own to make one good relationship,” Erickson said.
But this is just the beginning of the qualities that go into a healthy relationship. Other foundations are friendship, emotional intimacy and connection. There needs to be both a willingness from both partners to want a good relationship, and a deep sense of respect for one another. There should be a willingness to let the relationship develop, to sacrifice for each other, to be supportive and to be open, real, vulnerable and honest with one another. Partners should feel able to reveal their true selves to one another, communicate well and help and serve one another.
“Relationships are much better, and more meaningful, when people are more real and authentic, comfortable and more able to talk about their fears,” Erickson said.
However, following a checklist isn’t enough. Partners must also be balanced and realistic when viewing a relationship and avoid that tendency to just see the good.
“This is a function of a person who is ignoring the bad,” Erickson said. “It’s a function of immaturity, insecurity and fears. There is no reason to ignore the bad. The person is afraid to lose the relationship. However, by ignoring the bad, … that person’s own insecurity and fears are keeping the relationship from growing. If negative things aren’t addressed, it’s not a realistic relationship.”
Haines’ roommate Caroline Chauncey said she thinks that the most frustrating part about dating is when she feels the guy isn’t truly being himself and worries that sometimes this causes her to not truly be herself.
“I don’t ever want my future husband to think marrying me was a mistake,” Chauncey said. “I don’t want to come off as a different person. But at the same time, I feel like guys don’t open up to me — that they are trying to look and be cool instead of really being themselves. I think this really hurts trust for both of us.”