Relationships with our family, friends, intimate partners, community members and colleagues, form an important part of our lives, affecting our sense of self, satisfaction levels, physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. While relationships can be one of the most rewarding parts of our lives, building healthy relationships with others requires hard work and ongoing effort. As we strive to build nourishing relationships with others, here are some signs that a relationship is strong and healthy.

What is a healthy relationship?

Healthy relationships are a source of love and support, crucial to our well-being. Building healthy relationships also carries many benefits, including increased self-esteem and sense of worth, improved mental health, and opportunities to learn new things about ourselves and the world around us.

In a recent survey by Relationships Australia, people who relied on one strong relationship were more 1.4 times less likely to experience loneliness and reported better mental health1.

Building a healthy relationship

Healthy relationships can look and feel different for everyone but here are some ways you can build the foundations of a healthy relationship:

1. Open communication

When people from different walks of life and varied perspectives try to communicate, it can often lead to misunderstandings. Healthy relationships are not always defined by the absence of misunderstandings, but rather how people overcome moments of confusion with honest communication and respectful listening.

Some examples of open communication include:

  • Being available to listen without interruption
  • Clarifying rather than assuming what the other person is thinking
  • Speaking with honesty and vulnerability
  • Being empathic and trying to understand the other person’s perspective
  • Using verbal and non-verbal cues to create a welcoming and safe environment for the other person to share
  • Trying not to be defensive or overly reactive.

Open communication can help us feel safe during disagreements. A recent survey from Relationships Australia found that those who don’t feel safe disagreeing with their most important relationship felt lonelier.

2. Respect and safety

Practicing respectful behaviour, as well as feeling respected, is a crucial part of a healthy relationship, and helps build mutual trust and feelings of safety. The Kids Helpline describes respect in the simplest way as ‘accepting somebody for who they are, even when they're different from you or you don't agree with them’.

Respectful behaviour in a relationship can be learned and can look and feel different depending on the context. For example, the respect for your employer may be different to the respect you extend to a close friend or intimate partner.

Here are some questions to help determine if you’re in a respectful relationship:

  • Do we feel safe being around each other?
  • Can we express who we are without judgement?
  • Can we share our wants and needs with each other?
  • Do we listen to each other during disagreements?
  • Do we take responsibility for our mistakes?
  • Do we appreciate each other’s boundaries?

3. Sense of freedom and independence

Healthy relationships add value to our lives, helping us thrive. Although the best relationships take time and effort to build, healthy relationships do not subtract from our individuality or sense of independence. Instead, healthy and secure relationships function as a platform to help individuals thrive in other parts of their life2.

When people are in healthy relationships, they experience the freedom to express their individuality, enjoy hobbies and activities outside of their relationship, control their own finances, follow their beliefs, and make decisions about their body, work and friends.

How Mission Australia helps build healthy relationships

Mission Australia is a national Christian charity that stands together with Australians in need, until they can stand for themselves. From mental health programs to housing support and parenting groups, our diverse services across Australia aims to help people in need thrive in their lives and relationships.

Here are some of the many ways we help people build healthy relationships:

  • We support mums and dads to be the very best parents they can be through playgroups, literacy and financial education programs, and more.

    Parenting Together is a program based in Launceston and surrounding regions in Northern Tasmania for parents to attend parenting workshops and therapeutic activities to help foster positive parenting skills and relationships.

  • We work with families to help deal with challenges that tear families apart such as problem gambling, domestic violence, drug and alcohol issues and long-term unemployment.

    The Dubbo Family Preservation service supports families by connecting them to services such as domestic and family violence services, men’s behaviour change programs, alcohol and other drugs support, educational support and more.

  • As young people journey to adulthood, we help them manage uncertainties in their life, overcome challenges and empower them to become independent adults with thriving relationships.

    YouthBeat works with young people in Western Australia who may be experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness by providing a safe and supportive place for young people to wait, while arranging their return to safe accommodation.

Read more about building healthy relationships or find a Mission Australia service near you.

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