There are clear distinctions between healthy and unhealthy relationships. People in healthy relationships feel safe because they build each other up, whereas people in unhealthy relationships tend to control each other and feel unsafe. Knowing the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships is the key to staying safe in a relationship.
- Reality vs. Fantasy.
In a healthy relationship, each person is aware of their strengths and weaknesses. There is no need to hide, nor is there a need to pretend that problems don’t exist as each partner accepts the other. In contrast, unhealthy relationships live in a fantasy world. Neither partner reveal their true selves; both hide. If one person in a relationship is always trying to change the other, the relationship is a facade.
- Completing vs. Finding Completion.
In a healthy relationship, each person finds joy in sharing in the other person’s growth. Two people can work toward completing each other by meeting each other’s needs. But in an unhealthy relationship, the focus is on completion for oneself. It is codependency. And sadly, too many people expect someone else to complete them. However, it never works. Eventually, they move on to another relationship or addiction.
- Friendship vs. Victimization.
A healthy relationship has often been described as two good friends becoming better friends. True friendship is the foundation of a thriving relationship—including passionate marriages. But when true friendship is absent, the relationship is shallow and may be marked by victimization. When one plays the role of a victim, the relationship suffers.
- Sacrifice vs. Demand for Sacrifice.
Nothing strengthens a connection like sacrifice. No relationship can grow without giving up oneself for the good of another. God Himself gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for sin. Most people, though, are more accustomed to demanding from others rather than giving of themselves. Because of this, people remain stuck in unhealthy relationships.
- Forgiveness vs. Resentment.
A relationship flourishes when both partners are willing to forgive past hurts and disappointments. Unforgiveness causes resentment and leads to carrying baggage from past wounds. Each person in a healthy relationship releases their baggage by forgiving. Of course, for reconciliation to occur, the offender must be repentant and show a change on their end. But forgiveness helps a relationship because both parties no longer bring up—or resent—past issues that are no longer a problem.
- Security vs. Fear.
These days, security is a rare commodity. If someone was insecure as a child, they might still live in fear as an adult. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). A healthy relationship drives out fear. So, when someone focuses on others’ needs and not their own, they find love and calm their fears. Relationships where both parties find security are the healthiest.
- Vulnerability vs. Defensiveness.
In a secure environment, a person can be vulnerable. But in a relationship characterized by fear, just the opposite happens—each person builds up a wall. With an unsafe partner, one must protect themselves or be violated, robbed of their identity, controlled, or smothered. A safe relationship allows each partner to be who they are and how God created them to be.
- Honesty vs. Deception.
Honesty is a must-have for a healthy relationship; there is no substitute for it. No lasting, healthy relationship can be built on a foundation of dishonesty. Don’t keep any secrets—whether it’s addiction or a betrayal—because they will destroy a relationship. Instead, find accountability by going to a Life Recovery Group. Without honesty, intimacy in a relationship is impossible.
by Steve Arterburn