What does a healthy long term relationship look like?

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    Hi Everyone,

    I have come to the realization that I have no idea what a healthy long term relationship looks like.

    My own parents got married and stayed together out of duty and responsibility based off of their cultural expectations. In short, there is always constant struggling and tension.

    Since they have not been the best example of a happy or healthy long term relationship (in my opinion), I would like to open a discussion based on the following question: “What does a healthy long term relationship look like?”

    Some additional questions I have been pondering:
    – In a healthy relationship, are you always happy? As soon as you are unhappy, do you leave? Or do you stay to see if things get better?
    – Are there long terms or phases of struggles? How do you over come them?

    Please feel free to share any thoughts, opinions, advice, or own experiences.

    Much appreciated,



    hi lotus, I have been happily married for two and a half year now. Its not long term but as far as I’ve read and seen a healthy long term relationship is a roller-coaster ride. I believe you can’t enlist a healthy relationship because we are all different. But still I think some things are consistent like.. trust, fun in each other’s company, mutual respect and support for other, and a good sex.


    Hi LotusFlowerinTheMud,

    I’ve been with my DH half my life, and we couldn’t be more opposites. The artist and the engineer! The one glue that has held us together in harmony is RESPECT. Even when we disagree, I understand where he’s coming from. The only (rare) times I’ve “put my foot down” were on well being and safety issues. The rest of the times don’t matter and I’ll follow his lead (oftentimes pleasantly surprised!) and he does the same. I also let him enjoy his life/interests and he lets me enjoy mine. We meet at the end of the day and compare notes! And the weekends we are devoted to the family and each other.




    Dear LotusFlowerInTheMud:
    You asked: “In a healthy relationship, are you always happy? As soon as you are unhappy, do you leave? Or do you stay to see if things get better?”

    In a healthy relationship you are definitely not always happy. As soon as you are unhappy you definitely do not leave. And you don’t stay “to see” if things get better.

    A good relationship, like a bad one does not just happen. You don’t passively wait to see what happens. It is what you make it. You enjoy the labors of your work in the relationship. You do not give the job of making yourself happy to your partner. You are responsible for it as well as to all your feelings. Your job is to make yourself happy and his job is to make himself happy.

    You help each other in the process of finding peace of mind, in living better, in being happier. There are such interpersonal skills to make it possible, such as EAR, Empathy, Asseriveness, Respect.

    And it is possible to have a healthy long term relationship (starting with a healhier and healthier short term relationship, one day at a time) even when you witness none of the sort as a child.

    Take care:

    Lily Tran

    Hello LotusFlowerInTheMud,

    First of all i really like your username as it contains a wonderful link to your question. (figuratively speaking haha) The lotus flower needs the mud in order for it to grow and in order for it to grow it needs elements from the cosmos – sun, rain, air, soil, seed. If we miss any of this elements, the lotus cannot grow properly. This is the same as any relationship we have. In order for us to have a healthy relationship we need remove the notion of him and I because in any relationship there must be the efforts of both parties for relationship to work well, hence the word “we”. And when we do this, it allows us to be more opened to our loved one’s differences in thinking and understanding of things we can come accept them and come to respect them. At the same time his suffering is our suffering and his happiness is our happiness, so we if we really care for someone we will try to put ourselves aside and attend to their suffering through deep listening to their suffering. Without the removal of self-centered attitude, deep looking and listening, we cannot build a healthy relationship. It is difficult for an unhealthy relationship to transform into a healthy relationship especially when scars of emotional and physical wounds form prolonged suffering. Because of this, it is emphasized that two people must be willing to put themselves aside in order to grow together. If you have time, you can look into How to Love BY Thich Nhat Hanh. He talks about the principles that form a strong foundation to a long-lasting healthy relationship.


    I am not always happy, but for me the good moments outweighs the bad. At the end of the day, I am happy regardless, but I like the feeling of sharing my life with her – the good, the bad, the ugly.

    We don’t hesitate on the good; We support each other for the bad; As for the ugly, that is a judgment call … Sometimes, I choose to deal with the ugly myself because it is my own personal struggle, and I don’t want to bring her into it. I know she would be there to support me, but part of me doesn’t want her to worry about it.

    I guess I have never really question the big things. I know that I we will be there for each other. We value each other and we share the same values – love, trust, respect, communication, etc.

    Honestly, it is the small things that can sometimes be the bigger issue, and at times, it is a bit ridiculous.

    For example, I don’t really like sleeping next to someone because I get really hot. On the other hand, she somehow thinks that if I don’t hold her or have some form of contact with her when we are sleeping means that I am growing distant. We used to fight about this all the time until I just finally gave in and now I find that if I am not holding her, it feels weird and I can’t sleep as well – go figure.

    I remember a time when she woke me up in the middle of the night by slapping me in the face. I was so furious that I shoved her off the bed – not my proudest moment, but I was pissed since I had no idea what was going on. It turns out she had a dream that I cheated on her, and she was hurt and crying. We dealt with it and went back to bed – she apologized in the morning, but I was somehow still at fault for giving her the bad dream.

    She likes shoes; No, scratch that, she has an obsession that I can’t understand. She has a whole closet of them and she will still end up buying more. I finally had to put my foot down where if she buys a brand new pair of shoe then she has to give two away to charity.

    I try to do little things around the house to help out – take out the trash, wash the dishes at night, clean up, etc … little things really. It just keeps the peace, but she allows me to have my quiet time as I like to go running or biking after work.

    I guess all I am really saying is that for me – the important things, our values, are never really questioned so in that sense it is really easy to be with her. The small things, the annoyances, the differences in personality and lifestyle are things that are harder, but I guess I wouldn’t really change them because it things interesting.

    I know a few people that gets into relationships thinking – I will be a better man/woman for you because I love you.

    I look at it differently; I am me … simply and always. I will be a better man for me … for myself. However, I am a better man because of her.


    Hi everyone, thanks so much for your responses, I’m deeply touched by all of them.

    Alex- Your response in particular had me laughing with joy. My boyfriend also gets very hot when sleeping, and I am always very cold, so usually I hog all the blankets. Thanks for your insight.

    Lily Tran – Thanks very much for your response as well as noticing my username! I actually chose this username as it captures how I feel right now in life, very much “in the mud.” But it is my hope, just like the Lotus flower, that I will get through this and come out a much better and brighter being.


    Your responses have led me to a follow-up discussion. Please find it under the following topic title “Discussion about hardships in relationships, when to stay and when to leave?”

    You have all been so insightful and I would most appreciate it if we could continue the discussion.

    Liza Davis

    I guess for me, one thing that I notice, is that I love change and to change – so a healthy long-term relationship is one that would allow me to grow and for my partner(s) to grow. I put (s), because I have been a serial monogamist, and after a while I realized that “forever” and long-term is often only possible if you allow the relationship to change in the direction where both people benefit the most – that is where it can serve each person’s highest purpose. Not everyone is in touch with their highest purpose, and if one thinks that a relationship should supercede one’s life purpose – there is a problem.

    Pardon me about all the vagueries – but I am looking more and more favorably at relationships that have NO definition at all. In the last 16 years, I have had 3 long-term over 10 years each relationships with 3 different men. But when I say “relationships” they were never defined. In fact, there was never any agreement reached as to us being any particular thing to each other. One was a very romantic and only slightly sexual friendship, another was an overtly sexual friendship that turned into a business partnership, another was a soul-friendship – truly I can and have told him anything that has had its sexual meanderings … and each of these men, I have remained very close to … when I say close – we still are active in each lives as friends and/or business partners, confidantes … and I have seen other women in their lives come and go, come and go … It isn’t that I am a doormat. If I am pissed at them I let them know. And in the case of #2, I officially ended our sexual relationship about 3 years ago, but we continued to speak to each other daily at most or at least weekly since then. We even lived together happily last year, while he was dating various people, and I had shifted my interest to someone else.

    What is odd – is that when I am with somebody whether it is “official” boyfriend/girlfriend or it is open, I am not much interested in seeing other people. And as long as I know that they are WITH me in the moments that we are together – I didn’t much care what they did with their time or bodies when they weren’t with me. Thing is – I like to have a LOT of independence and time to myself, and really don’t want to be thinking about my relationships all the time. I am an on and off person, at my best in a relationship – that means, when I am with a guy – my focus is concentrated on us – but I need my time alone, separate without worrying about another person.

    BUT, now, I have these three different men in my life, whom I love, and would never sever my relationship with them, because they are too much a part of my life as it is now. But I am not at all interested in standing in the way of them starting “official” relationships, in fact I have celebrated healthy relationships for them … I REALLY want them to be happy.

    So, if and when I am faced with the “opportunity” of an “official” relationship, I know I will have to be with a man that is secure enough about himself and me and us – to let things unfold naturally – Because as far as I am concerned, those other men … my dear friends have already become healthy long-term relationships … it’s just that they didn’t keep the same form — the love and commitment to caring and being in another person’s life has remained steady – only the container changed.

    I guess, we all pick what challenges we want to face – I prefer to be flexible in attitude, and steady of heart – so I can keep people I love in my life, but this wasn’t always the case. I only started this practice after my mid-30’s. And now 51, I feel that I love men more than ever, because I am seeing them for who they are rather than what I imagine they “should be” in reference to me and how they relate to me.

    I am sorry if this riffing on “undefined” relationships seems to be a sidetrack to the conversation. But for me I have spent so much time in these types of relationships after years of being in “defined” serial romances. And I believe over all, I have had less heartache these past 15 years in compared to the prior 15. It has seemed the more I loosened my grip on thinking how things “should be” and let them be … the closer they came to what my heart and soul actually needed in relationships – which have all become healthy and long-term … and I am grateful for however they will last into the future.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 5 months ago by Liza Davis.

    A note to lizadeeza: you are saying then that currently you are having three long term relationships, all of which were sexual and neither one has been sexual for years. You are saying that you love each one of the three but are not possessive of either. I understand then that you do not wish to change either from the way it is but are open to changes.

    Do you have any negative feeling/s at all when one of them is involved with another woman? Any whatsoever? Can you share more about how you achieved that DISTANCE from them as what they meant to you then and how you achieved CLOSENESS to them as what they mean to you now? And more, if you will, on the nature of past closeness and nature of current closeness???

    Curious: anita

    Liza Davis

    The way I putit is confusing – but I wasn’t sexual with all of them at the same time. For me, I am generally monogamous by nature. I was referring to 3 different relationships. The first had a few sexual events – really that was what it was like in the five years I was in love with this man. It was more like a romantic friendship/creative partnership, that veered a couple of times into the sexual. It was a very complicated sort of relationship, that over time became simpler and simpler. It became simpler, when I became more secure in our friendship, and realized what the correct form that our friendship should take for us both to be happy.

    The next was more of a friends-with-benefits situation which was overtly sexual, that turned into a business/creative partnership. For five years, I was crazy about this guy … and at certain points, yes jealousy would come up … but as time wore on, and I saw again, he and I were steadily in each other’s life – not just as bed-buddies, but friends and work-partners … and he didn’t seem to be interested in getting “serious” with anybody … it didn’t really matter what he did when he wasn’t with me. We never had that sort of relationship where we needed or wanted to answer to the other person. You don’t ask your friends what they are doing with every moment of their day. For the most part, when we were living in the same area, he primarily saw me, but would tell me of other women he would meet from time to time. Since I was fine with seeing him once or twice a week, and we usually spoke once a day or more … I didn’t really feel “neglected.”

    I actually enjoy a feeling of missing a guy, or longing for them, when I love them. It makes me appreciate them more. I also enjoy my alone time, and find that when I spend a LOT of time with a person, and don’t have my alone time – where I don’t have to think about another person besides myself … I get cranky. I have so many different interests and things I like to do on my own – writing, design, practicing music, reading, etc … that being with someone all the time detracts from doing things I love to do. So truthfully, as long as a guy that I love, is treating me well when he is in my company, and keeps in touch regularly when we are not seeing each other, what he does on his own time is his own business. For me, out of sight – out of mind, but not out of heart.

    The last guy – well I met him when I was seeing the second, but he and I were mainly friends, but the kind of friends that would talk for hours on the phone and confide everything to each other about our lives. A couple of times, including once within the last month – we ventured into the sexuality zone. The first time happened a couple of years ago, this entirely freaked me out, because I didn’t want to ruin a good thing (our friendship). I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship with him, or with anybody. Last time, it was just beautiful, but I still don’t see us as steady romantic partners.

    I am not saying my experience is necessarily applicable to anyone else – but it has been from my experience – that true love is a lot more malleable than people want to believe it is. They want to put it in a box, a cage, and control it because of their own feelings of low self-esteem. I am not saying I don’t believe in life partnerships with one person … and that you can remain sexual with that one person … but love isn’t ONLY about sex. And when people are willing to throw away relationships because of sexuality … then they are demeaning all the other important components.

    I think if I were to get married, I would prefer to have an open option – with the proviso that we were marrying each other because we desired each other as primary life companions, but not necessarily sole companions, depending upon each other’s capacity to satisfy each other’s needs. For instance, in my long-term engagement, in my mid-30’s, he was really demanding sexually, and also really wanted me to be with him ALL the time, to the point that I barely got to see my friends or work on my own projects without upsetting him. And I literally encouraged him to see a prostitute at some point. I said it in anger, but I wouldn’t have minded him giving me a break – without him needing to give me the details of why he wasn’t asking for sex 2 or 3 times a day.

    I love sex, but I like it to feel special, and if it becomes a routine … ugh.

    I don’t want to POSSESS love, because I hate the feeling of being POSSESSED or CONTROLLED. I want someone to be with me because of choice, rather than obligation. If we both know that we have the opportunity to be with other people but we choose to be with each other, and that we make that choice on a consistent basis … that is a bigger statement in my mind, than just throwing away the keys to freedom and saying that this is true love. True love cannot be contained or controlled.

    I am a strange mixture of romantic and pragmatist. It makes me sleep better at night, at least.

    Bethany Rosselit

    Hi Lotus,

    Actually, most people don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like!

    In a healthy relationship, you both help each other grow. You both are at ease with yourself, so that you are not depending on the other person for validation, etc. But instead, you act as mirrors to each other, so that you can see where you need to heal yourself.



    I loved reading these, a lot of insight from so many different experiences. 🙂 I have recently broken up with my best friend and reflecting a lot on what I consider love to be, so maybe my thoughts will be illuminating or your responses to them will be more so. Love to me is like a fire that you and your partner tend. The fuel is respect, which is the heavier logs that keep it steadily burning. Respect is made up of mutual trust and honesty, all the big things that make you want to invest in a long term commitment. Tenderness is the kindling, which gets it up again when it is burning low. Tenderness is made up of affection, humor, fun, all the little things that bring you joy. Neither of you alone can keep the fire going, each of you need to rest and vigilance is required lest the embers go out. Couples can use up all their fuel and have a hot fire burn out or either can not give enough and watch it slowly die. Seems to me a good relationship is all about balance. Give and take should be about equal and both parties should equally want the relationship to succeed.

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