The 7 Elements Of A Healthy Relationship, According To An Expert

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You're always hearing about the importance of building a healthy relationship, but what exactly does that mean? It's not something you learn in school, which is unfortunate, because when you don't, you end up in unhealthy relationships. In a recent O.school class, sex educator Cassandra Corrado broke down the elements of a healthy relationship.

We're not really set up to form healthy relationships because, more often than not, the ones TV and movies portray are unhealthy, Corrado says. After all, it would be pretty boring to watch a movie about two people who slowly get to know each other and respectfully discuss their problems. Instead, we have movies like The Notebook, where one partner manipulates the other into going out with him by hanging off a carnival ride, and Twilight, where someone sneaks into his partner's room and watches her at night. It's no wonder so many people end up in unhealthy relationships when these are the examples they have.

Because of the early messages we get in our culture, forming healthy relationships takes not only learning but also unlearning. In the interest of learning, though, here are the seven elements of every healthy relationship, according to Corrado.

1Equality

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Both people should feel like they're putting in an equal amount of effort into the relationship and having an equal say, and nobody should feel inferior to the other. This is especially important to be mindful of in relationships where one person is more privileged — e.g., heterosexual or interracial relationships.

2Loyalty

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We usually think of monogamy when we think of loyalty, but a partner in any kind of relationship can be disloyal but violating the terms of their particular agreement. "We all have rules and expectations, whether or not we’ve labeled them," says Corrado.

3Support

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Supporting each other means being each other's cheerleaders. You celebrate together when something's going well, and you console each other when it's not.

4Compassion

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In addition to being kind to your partner and treating them how you want to be treated, showing compassion means empathizing with them when they confide in you. "Compassion allows you to have the space for support," says Corrado.

5Communication

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"This is one of the most difficult parts of relationships," says Corrado. Often, we don't communicate how we're feeling or what we want because we're afraid our partners will leave us. And in addition to communicating ourselves, we need to help our partners feel free to talk to us, which means they're not walking on eggshells.

6Respect

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Respect essentially means that you think highly of your partner, and while you may want to change some of their behaviors, you're not trying to change their personality. Respecting your partner also means having enough respect for yourself to hold yourself to a high standard for how you treat them.

7An Appropriate Pace

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It's tempting to rush into relationships in the beginning, when you're infatuated with each other, but it's not healthy. It's important to really get to know someone before you make any commitments.

If you think your relationship is missing any of these things, you're not alone. The first step toward improving on any of these fronts is talking about it.