by Heather Corinna
If you've had a general physical for school before, you might have seen a list to give to your doctor that told him or her what to check you out for to be sure you're healthy and well. Just like your body, our relationships need basic checkups now and then, too. We often have users come to the interactive portions of the site who have read very short checklists about healthy relationships before, but who feel like they're too vague to offer much, and who need help evaluating the health and well-being of their relationship from a broader perspective. Want one of those shorter lists? Here's a good one.
Here's a more extensive list for your relationships to go through by yourself, give to a partner to check, and share and go through together. Maybe you want to look over it as a whole, or maybe just focus on one or two areas where you think there may be some issues, or places where your relationship could stand some improvement.
Even if everyone says everything is fine, sharing a list like this can make someone feel like they have more permission to speak up about something that really isn't so fine, or allow each of you to identify areas that might be okay, but would be great with a little extra focus put on them.
- Prerequisites: Do I like the person I am in a relationship with? Does that person like me? Are my wants and needs and this person's wants and needs a good fit? Do I want to be in the kind of relationship we're in? Do they? Is now the right time in my life for me to be in this kind of relationship? Am I in a relationship in order to connect with someone else and share my life, rather than because I am afraid of being alone or am looking for someone else to provide a life for me? Do I have good self-esteem? Does my friend or partner? If either one of us has any special issues or challenging history, such as a history of abuse, not being out, a mental illness or disorder, a physical, intellectual or social disability, are we both informed about how that issue might impact our relationship and are we prepared to manage it?
- Communication: Do we talk? Do our talks have some depth? Do I feel connected when we talk? Are we actively listening to each other? Am I taking responsibility for my own feelings in our communication, and is my friend or partner doing the same? Am I comfortable with how we talk; the way words are used? Does our communication feel balanced, with each of us both sharing well with words and also listening well? Are we making just as much time to communicate about our lives right now as we are for things like going out with friends, having sex or making future plans? Do I leave our communications feeling good about the relationship and myself?
- Limits and boundaries: Do we have them? Are we expressing them clearly, and do we both feel free to put them out there? Are we doing well at respecting each other's limits and boundaries? Are there any existing limits and boundaries we need to check in about, revise or refine? if any boundary pushing or crossing has happened in the past, have we resolved that fully?
- Pacing: Does the pace of my relationship feel okay to both myself and the other person? Am I still able to engage in the other parts of my life, including my relationships with my friends and family, my studies, work or creative projects, my life goals and plenty of time alone by myself? Do either of us feel rushed or pressured to move things faster than we'd like? When things do feel too fast, do I feel like it's always okay for me to slow them down? Is the relationship progressing at the kind of pace I want and am comfortable with? How about for my partner?
- Decision Making: Are we making decisions about our relationship as a team? Are we checking in with each other about changes in our lives or feelings that might affect or impact the other person, the relationship or any plans about the relationship? Do I feel heard? Do they? Do I feel like I have just as much of a voice and a say as the other person and do they feel they, too, have an equal say?
- Agreements: For anything we have agreed on -- like when to see each other, what level of exclusivity our relationship has, future plans -- have our agreements been made by both of us together, with plenty of discussion about them? Am I making any agreements I don't want to, or aren't sure I want? Am I pushing the other person into any agreements I want, but they might not, yet or ever? Are our agreements clear, with each of us fully understanding what they mean? Do we have any current agreements we need to talk about revising or adjusting? Do our agreements leave some room for possible change?
- Responsibilities: Are we mutually sharing responsibilities in the relationship, with things like money, plans, safer sex and birth control (when applicable), healthcare, any shared family responsibilities, addressing and working through conflict or differences or other responsibilities? Do we each feel like the responsibility is equitably divided, rather than any one person feeling like they're carrying a greater burden?
- Flexibility and Realistic Expectations: Are we being flexible with each other, understanding that people and situations change, and that that can change plans, the nature of our relationship, our moods from day to day, and how much time we have to spend together? Do I feel free to grow and change in positive ways in my relationship, rather than being expected to stay exactly the same person as I was at the start? Do I allow for that kind of freedom for my partner or friend? Am I understanding that my friend or partner may have limitations, or that I may have skills or talents they don't? Is what I'm expecting what we have agreed on, rather than more or less than we've agreed? Are my expectations based on shared communication and agreements, on the wants and needs my friend and partner has expressed, rather than on what I'd more ideally want? Are theirs?
- Individuality: Am I allowed to be my own person? Is my partner or friend? Do I understand that we won't want to do everything together, and that we each have our own unique interests? Do I have a solid identity outside the relationship? Does my partner or friend? In the ways we are different, have we worked out some ways to manage our differences? If I'd prefer my partner or friend was different in some way, am I understanding that expecting them to change for me isn't a fair expectation unless they also want to change for themselves and have made an agreement with me about change? Do I appreciate our differences as much as I might sometimes be frustrated by them? Do we have enough in common that we each feel able to be our own person, but still really connect? Do we both accept each other's pasts, including past relationships?
- Trust: Is my friend or partner trustworthy, and do I trust them? Can they say the same for me? Do we both keep each other's confidences and honor our agreements? Are we both respecting boundaries instead of pushing them? Are we doing things to gradually build trust? Is it okay that it's taking time to build trust? Do we both understand the difference between trust and control, and are we sure to avoid trying to control one another or keep tabs on each other in a way that's not healthy or within reason?
- Respect for Other Relationships: Are we both allowing and encouraging each other to build and sustain relationships with others, such as friendships, family relationships or (if the relationship is a friendship or an open relationship) dating relationships? Do we both understand that some other relationships are just as important as ours? If I'm having a conflict with someone my friend or partner is in another relationship with, am I trying to work that out with that person? If I feel threatened by any other relationships, am I working on that for myself? Am I some part of some of my friend or partner's other important relationships and community? Do I have other people I can talk to whose opinions I value if and when I'm having issues in this relationship? Does my friend and partner and do I encourage them to do so?
- Equality and equity: Are we equals? Do we both feel like equals? Do either of us feel or act superior or inferior in general? If there are ways in which there is or may be a power imbalance in our relationship, are we working to resolve and/or manage that?
- Conflict Resolution: When I have a conflict, do I take the time to bring it up as calmly and fairly as I can, rather than bottling things up or exploding in anger or frustration? How about for my friend or partner? Are we understanding conflicts will happen, and taking the time to really work on resolving them, rather than avoiding them or blowing them off? When we're working out conflict, are we communicating with kindness and compassion? If and when we have trouble working out conflicts by ourselves, are we asking for help together from family, friends or a counselor?
- Dealing with Different Desires: If and when I want something my friend or partner doesn't, or want something at a time they don't want it, am I being cool about that and accepting that difference? Are they doing the same for me? Are we working together with differences in desire to find middle ground that works for both of us? Are we acknowledging that it's okay not to be the same or to want the same things at the same time? Have we talked about what these differences are, rather than making assumptions based on things like previous relationships or gender stereotypes?
- Safety: Am I safe? Do I feel safe? Is my friend or partner safe with me in all environments, both alone and with friends or in other settings? Am I confident my partner or friend would never intentionally do anything to hurt me physically, emotionally or sexually, and can my partner or friend have that same confidence in me? Do I think carefully about how I treat my partner or friend to avoid doing them harm? Do I feel respected and treat my friend or partner with respect? Do our friends and family feel we're safe in this relationship? If there is anything about me that might make me, a friend or partner unsafe, such as troubles with managing my anger or my own low self-esteem, am I working on those with a counselor or some other skilled helper? If my friend or partner needs to do some of that kind of work to assure I'm safe, are they doing that?
- Care/Love: Do I feel loved, liked and/or cared for? Do I feel valued? Does my friend or partner? Am I shown love and care in words, not just in actions, and do I also demonstrate care in actions as well as words? Have we each talked about what we need to feel cared for, so we both know how to express that care in a way the other can experience? Do I love myself just as much as I love this other person?
Want more in-depth information on healthy relationships? You can find that right here. Want to look at an article about some possible troublespots? Try this one on. Worried your relationship might be unhealthy or abusive? Check this out.