10 habits of people who have great relationships

I’ve always thought that falling in love is easy, but staying there is much harder.

After all the butterflies subside, real relationships take commitment and effort. The people who have the happiest, healthiest and strongest relationships put the work in.

Here are the habits that they’ve mastered…

1) They practice vulnerability so they can truly open up

You cannot have a close relationship without vulnerability. Period. Neither can you have a sincere one.

Vulnerability is so terrifying because it lays you bare. It demands that we share, and in doing so, expose ourselves.

So it’s no surprise that it feels hella uncomfortable. 

Most of us have gotten good at playing pretend and wearing masks in an attempt to protect ourselves.

That’s why being vulnerable is a habit we need to instill within our relationships early on. It is a conscious choice for the sake of creating deep and genuine bonds with others.

We can all learn to get better at being vulnerable by:

  • Being honest about our feelings and thoughts
  • Expressing our future hopes for our relationships
  • Daring to invite feedback
  • Working on our own confidence and self-esteem

2) They make time and prioritize the people who matter most

Plenty of relationships go under when two people drift apart. Life can get busy and the truth is that priorities will shift.

You may need to put in extra hours at work. Your family or friends may be having issues that demand more of your time and attention.

There are only so many hours in the day. But ultimately, people with the best relationships aim to make time for one another.

Their status never slips too far from the top slot of priorities.

Ultimately, people who have great relationships value their bonds as one of the most significant areas of their lives.

They see them as integral to their overall feelings of belonging and life satisfaction.

Prioritizing each other in a relationship can look like this:

  • Having weekly date nights
  • Turning down other commitments to make more space for your partner
  • Making uninterrupted time to talk every day (without distractions like TV/phones, etc.)

3) They deal with conflict in a healthy way

Conflict resolution is a key part of any great relationship.

Because no matter how good you are together, there will be bad times. It’s inevitable. And your survival as a couple depends on how well you navigate those times.

That means:

  • Learning how to swallow your pride
  • Saying sorry when you are wrong, and also when your words or actions have wounded
  • Trying to see things from another side.

Part of having healthy disagreements is learning to forgive and forget. Rather than dwelling on spats, people in great relationships make a choice to let that shit go.

But it also means being prepared to have the tough talks in the first place.

One of my biggest failings in previous relationships that didn’t work out was trying to sweep things under the rug.

I thought it was a good sign that we never argued — but it was quite the opposite.

I was trying to avoid rocking the boat, but in doing so we kept our true needs and wants to ourselves.

4) They talk openly about what they want

Another essential part of creating good communication within a relationship is learning to vocalize what it is you need and want from someone.

But it’s actually quite shocking how often we can fail to do this.

On too many occasions we make assumptions instead of just asking. We may be scared of the answers we will get and prefer to live with blind hope.

We expect our other halves to read our minds and can feel let down when they can’t.

The only way you can understand one another in any relationship is by being really upfront:

  • Letting each other know your non-negotiables and your preferences
  • Checking whether your bigger life goals and timelines align
  • Discovering whether you have the same values and want the same things out of life

People who have great relationships know that real talk is vital.

That’s not the same as tactless talk, of course. Considerate words are like the oil that helps to keep the relationship machine running smoothly.

5) They are mindful of their words

Words are really powerful. They can hurt and they can heal.

That means for the sake of happy relationships we can’t go throwing around cruel words and expect it not to do some serious damage.

Sure, we can all say things that we don’t mean in the heat of the moment. But over time, it can erode trust and respect.

Conversely, words of praise and gratitude are like a magic tonic. It’s how we feel appreciated and recognized.

We’re talking about:

  • Making kind observations
  • Offering encouragement
  • Giving compliments freely
  • Actively looking for the best in our partner
  • Showing appreciation and gratitude for the things they do for us

6) They have realistic expectations

So many relationships don’t make it because they fall short of being the fairytale we were perhaps hoping for.

It’s not our fault either.

From childhood, many of us are bombarded with an idealized version of what love should look like.

So we grow up wanting the rom-com happily ever after ending.

We can make all sorts of demands from a potential partner. We may get an image in our head of how they should look, act, and think.

The problem is that true love is more humble than the Hollywood narrative.

It demands that we stick with the ups and downs. It requires us to be ok with not getting our own way all the time.

Sure, love can be thrilling, but it can also be boring.

It is real life at the end of the day. And people who cultivate the most successful relationships know that.

They don’t need to be the personification of Romeo and Juliet to make things work and be happy. 

7) They create clear ground rules

We’re talking relationship boundaries baby. Because realistic expectations certainly don’t mean low expectations!

Love may not always be a fairytale, but it should always be based on the foundations of respect, kindness, trust, and decency.

A relationship without boundaries is destined to turn sour.

Practical boundaries in a relationship can look like:

  • Feeling comfortable saying no to each other
  • A right to privacy
  • Communicating sexual boundaries
  • Taking full responsibility for yourselves
  • Deciding together on the do’s and don’ts in your relationship
  • Maintaining personal autonomy over your own life

We hear all the time about how relationships require sacrifice. Sometimes we can confuse compromise with poor boundaries.

But in the words of self-help author Mark Manson:

“If you make a sacrifice for someone you care about, it needs to be because you want to, not because you feel obligated or because you fear the consequences of not doing it.”

8) They adapt and change alongside one another

Looks change, people change, and circumstances change. In fact, very little in a relationship will stay the same over a longer period of time.

My sister has been with her husband for over 25 years now. They were childhood sweethearts.

At her wedding, her maid of honor said something that has always stuck with me:

“In a world where so many couples grow apart, you two have grown together”.

That’s not easy. It demands you allow someone to shift who they are, without stifling them. 

Couples that not only survive but thrive accept that change is going to happen. They do not expect their partner to stay the same.

They navigate changes together and adapt when necessary.

They don’t begrudge it when their other half doesn’t stay the same. They support them, and they expect the same back.

9) They act like a team and offer support

At the end of the day, great relationships are partnerships.

That means being on hand to offer both emotional and practical support.

Being supportive isn’t about always agreeing with everything they say or do. Nor is it being at their beck and call — that would cross some serious boundaries.

It’s about:

  • Co-ordinating your lifestyles
  • Actively listening to one another
  • Being conscious of how your reactions impact each other
  • Approaching one another with empathy and compassion
  • Being considerate and thoughtful as much as you can
  • Helping each other out and pulling your weight

10) They don’t rely on each other for their happiness

People who are in great relationships have their own lives — their own space, their own friends, their own interests, their own freedom.

That may look slightly different in every relationship, but in essence, it’s about remaining an individual.

The most successful partnerships aren’t two halves coming together to create a whole.

They are about two well-rounded individuals choosing to journey through life together, not out of need, but out of want.

That is so much more powerful.

When we expect our partner to make us happy it only leads to disappointment. Sometimes what looks like a very close couple is actually just a co-dependent one.

Our relationships instantly approve when we take full responsibility for ourselves and don’t expect other people to make us happy.

Final thoughts: Great relationships aren’t perfect

Having a healthy relationship doesn’t mean everything is hunky dory every minute of every day.

I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t have a flaw or two. So it’s only realistic to expect that our relationships will never be perfect either.

But the better we get at sharing our needs, fears, and desires, the closer we get to cultivating great relationships.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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