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12 keys to a healthy, balanced relationship

happy couple in healthy relationshipAfter 21 years of marriage, I feel like my husband and I have a strong, healthy relationship. We argue, bicker and annoy each other from time to time, but at the end of the day we are happy to be together.

We are best friends. We want and expect the same things. We respect each other. While these factors go a long way toward creating a strong relationship, there are several things you can work on to create a healthy, balanced relationship.

Here are 12 keys to helping your relationship reach its potential:

Be responsible for yourself
You need to make sure you are happy first. As the saying goes, “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” When you take responsibility for your own happiness, you have more to give to your partner. You’ll have the confidence to admit when you’re wrong and can build a strong relationship.

Listen to each other
Sometimes all your partner wants is for you to listen to them vent so they can get what’s bothering them off their chest. Other times, your partner may be looking to you for help with solving a problem. You need to be a good listener and know when to simply lend a sympathetic ear and when you need to give advice.

Express your feelings
You may assume that your spouse knows how you feel about him or her. Yet, we all need to know we are loved and appreciated. A solid relationship is based on respect. Let your spouse know you love her often, and let her know when something is bothering you. While you may get used to each other’s moods and nuances, you still can’t read each other’s minds. You have to let your partner know what’s bother you so you can work on it together.

Fight fair
You will argue and bicker. It’s just human nature. Fighting can be a healthy part of any relationship. It’s important that you fight fairly. Here are 10 ways to fight more fairly and strengthen your relationship with your spouse or significant other.

Build trust
You must be able to trust that your partner is looking out for your best interests. Partners who trust each other would never deliberately hurt each other. In healthy relationships, you know your spouse will do what he says he will do. You know your spouse is being open and honest. You know your happiness and well-being is of utmost importance to your spouse.

Come to terms with money
Money is one of the most common causes of arguments for couples. You may not agree on how to manage your money. One partner may be a spender while the other person is a saver. Money may be used as a way to have more control over your partner. You should both have an equal say about how you manage your finances. Decide on large purchases together. If you can’t combine your funds and get along, then create separate accounts. The important thing is to find a healthy balance that keeps you from fighting about money.

Agree on parenting
Parenting styles can also be the root of many relationship problems. You may have each grown up with different parenting styles. It’s best to have a conversation about parenting styles before you have children. You can modify your parenting styles and develop a style that works for both of you.

Spend time together
My husband and I have three kids who participate in what seems like every possible sport and school activity. I work days during the week, and he works nights on the weekend. It’s hard to spend time together without kids or other distractions. We try to have a “date lunch” on Fridays because it’s one of the few days we can work it in. It’s important to spend time together that’s dedicated to just you as a couple.

Give each other space
On the other hand, you may want to spend time pursuing your own separate interests or hanging out with your own friends. You need to do things that let you relieve stress and make you happy. My husband likes to hunt and fix up old cars. I like to read and work on my flower beds. We don’t like to do these things together. It improves our relationship when we are able to spend time doing our own thing.

Be supportive
You can support your partner by understanding that their happiness matters. While you are not solely responsible for their happiness, you should make your partner’s well-being a priority in your life. You should be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader. You are a safe place for each other during the good times and the bad. Just knowing that your partner is by your side can make everything better.

My husband and I don’t agree on everything, but we find a solution that we can both live with. We may have to find a way to meet in the middle. Other times, you may just agree to disagree. One spouse may have to back down and let the other have his or her way. As long as there’s a balance on who gives in, you can compromise for the health of your relationship.

Make time to have fun. Even in the middle of mundane household activities, you can still have a good time together. If you can make each other laugh, you can make it through even the toughest days.

How many years have you been with your partner? What are your secrets to creating a healthy, balanced relationship?