Basic Tips To Write Healthy Relationships

All too often, fictional relationships that were supposed to be perceived as ideal and admirable are just... not that. Stories often act as if stalking people and stomping their boundaries is fine, gloss over how clear communication is is absolutely essential, and depict numerous things that just wouldn't add up to a happy, healthy relationship in real life. Now obviously, not every fictional relationship has to be a healthy one, but if that's what you want to depict, here are some basic tips to get you in the right direction.

First written: July 29th, 2012. Last updated: May 4, 2021.

Table of Contents

First, understand that love is not inherently good.

Many of us have been implicitly and explicitly taught that love is inherently good, and therefore, any action motivated by love is good and justified.

However, this isn't how things really work, and this way of looking at things has actually done harm.

Some abusers honestly believe that their actions can't be hurting their victims because they're motivated by love. Likewise, many victims believe their abusers can't really be abusing them because they clearly do love them in some fashion.

At this point, many people would say that this isn't really love, and that if the abuser actually loved their partner, they'd treat them better.

Unfortunately, this is an idealized version of love, not how love really works. In real life, love is complicated, and sometimes it can be pretty selfish. The things you do for the people you love is just as much for your sense of well-being and good-doing as anything.

People can truly love someone and do absolutely terrible things to them because they have dysfunctional beliefs about love and what it means. They might think love means having no boundaries, or that loving someone means you'll always know what's best for them.

Obsessive love disorder is a thing, and while it's not someone's fault for having it, the behaviors associated with it are very harmful, and it does require treatment.

Love isn't inherently good or bad. There are only ways of expressing it that are appropriate and healthy, or inappropriate and unhealthy. Healthy, appropriate expressions of love respect people's boundaries and always involve informed consent.

Give them something substantial in common.

Infatuation (AKA the "love at first sight" feeling) is great for drawing people together initially. But infatuation doesn't last forever, so it can't hold a couple together indefinitely.

Do their core values align with each other? You can't exactly have a happy, harmonious relationship when one partner thinks murder is grand while the other finds any sort of violence utterly horrifying.

Do they have any hobbies or interests in common? This can give them something to talk about and do together. For example, Marie and Pierre Curie shared a passionate love of science and enjoyed working together.

Do they have any mutual friends? They don't need to share all the same friends, but having a few mutual friends in common can be good since they can all socialize together.

...But don't make them exactly alike.

It's good, normal, and healthy for people to have different interests and opinions. It's healthy and fine to enjoy doing things apart from each other.

No two people can ever be exactly alike, so if you see a couple who seems to have entirely identical tastes in everything, it's probably because one is trying too hard to please the other, or because one is forcing or pressuring the other to imitate them. Either way, someone isn't being their authentic self, and it's not healthy.

Watch out for codependency.

Fictionland often acts as if it's normal and healthy for a couple's life to completely revolve around each other, but in reality it's really not. Life's problems are complicated, and two people can't always meet each other's needs no matter how much they love each other. Plus, community is human nature, which means it's normal to interact with peers, neighbors, other people's kids, mentors, parental figures, elders, and so on.

When someone relies on a romantic partner to meet all of their emotional needs, you have what's known as a codependent relationship. In a codependent relationship, one partner generally acts as the other's caretaker. The physically and emotionally draining nature of playing the caretaker is inherently damaging and unsustainable. The one being taken care of is allowing themselves to be an emotional vampire rather than finding healthy to address and sort out their problems.

They should feel relaxed and comfortable with each other.

In a healthy relationship, both partners will be able to relax and let down their guard around each other.

If your characters are practically at the altar, yet one or both of them are still afraid to be themselves or are fretting over whether they might say the wrong thing, something's definitely amiss.

If anything and everything makes one worry about the other's loyalty, something's amiss - either one partner has some insecurities to work out, or the other is behaving suspiciously or dishonestly, or it's a little bit of both.

Remember that mind games are never a good sign.

Playing mind games is a form of manipulation that avoids healthy forms of interaction and communication, and keeps the other partner feeling anxious, insecure, and even helpless.

Sometimes, people don't even realize they're playing mind games. Nonetheless, they are unhealthy and people do need to realize and acknowledge what they're doing and take responsibility for it.

Mind games can include:

Mixed messages: EG, claiming to love and adore their partner one day, then giving them the cold shoulder the next.

Damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't questions: EG, "Do you think you love me more than I love you?"

Inciting jealousy: EG, flirting with other people in front of their partner, spending hours on the phone in front of their partner, etc.

Guilt trips: EG, "I can't live without you! If you leave me, I'll hurt myself and die!" (Someone might even feel like that's true in the moment, but it doesn't mean that it is.)

Victim-blaming: EG, "Look what you made me do!" or "If you didn't want me to shout, you shouldn't have made that comment!"

Dismissing or trivializing their partner's feelings: EG, "You're taking this way too seriously. Lighen up!" Or, "You're always so childish. Grow up!"

Treating their partner as weak or incompetent: EG, "Oh, you shouldn't carry these bags; you might hurt yourself. Let me take them instead."

In closing

Every healthy relationship requires mutual trust, clear communication, and respect for each other's feelings and boundaries. Long-term relationships require shared values and interests. It's also a healthy and normal for people to have healthy relationships outside of their partners, and very unhealthy to have no one else.

Once again, not every fictional relationship has to be healthy, but it's important to know what you're doing if writing a healthy relationship is in fact your goal.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you like it, please consider sharing it with your friends and on your social media, and consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day!

If you liked this, you might also be interested in:

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Tips to Write & Roleplay Believable Successful Long-Term Relationships
More Tips For Portraying Believable, Functional, & Healthy Relationships
Yet More Tips To Portray Believable & Healthy Friendships & Romances
Tips To End Canon Ships Better & More Believably
Plot Punter - Romance Edition
Couple Development Questions
So You Want To Have An Attractive Character?
Basic Tips To Write Better Abuse Victims & Abuse Situations

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