Healthy Relationships Improve Social Fitness and Readiness

Man posing for portrait.

U.S. Air Force civilian Matthew Palmisano, the director of Psychological Health with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, poses for a portrait in Peoria, Ill., Dec. 18, 2020. In his role, Palmisano helps support the Air National Guard mental health mission statement to ensure, maintain and enhance mission readiness by promoting individual, family, and community resilience through readily accessible and exceptional psychological health services. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

PEORIA, Ill. --

Building healthy relationships strengthens your social fitness. There is not a “one size fits all” when it comes to defining a healthy relationship. Your perspective, values and deal breakers change as you age.

A relationship that made you happy in your 20s may not look anything like what you want in your 30s. People have different needs; what works for your best friend may not work for you. However, there are some characteristics that all healthy relationships have in common.

Equality. The relationship feels balanced to both people. One person’s wishes and preferences don’t dominate over the others. No one feels as though he or she is constantly giving in to the other. Compromises are made when desires don’t align.

Trust. Each person gives the other the benefit of the doubt. Each person believes the other is invested in the relationship and would not do something to purposefully damage it. Trust is frequently based on mutual respect, common values, and a shared vision of the future.

Communication. Each person feels safe to express thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution. Topics are discussed openly and honestly to ensure each person is on the same page. Conflict is resolved without expressing contempt for one another.

Physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is more than sex. It involves being close to each other; holding hands, hugging, kissing and physically connecting. Every relationship has physical intimacy, including friendships and romantic and work relationships. Respecting physical boundaries is critical to physical intimacy. People with healthy physical intimacy feel safe to discuss their needs and desires, to initiate intimacy and to say no when it’s unwanted.

Fun. When people enjoy spending time together, they have fun, laugh and can be themselves. Relationships have ups and downs, but healthy relationships definitely have more ups than downs. The relationship brings each person joy and happiness and feels easy.

Time spent apart. Spending time together is typically prioritized in relationships. Spending time apart is equally important and is also prioritized in healthy relationships. It allows space to explore personal hobbies, spend time with friends and family and maintain individual identities.

There is no perfect relationship; there is always room to improve.