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  • Writer's pictureKate Warren

The key to my heart is...

Welcome back to the Stay U Blog. It's February - the final month of summer here in Australia, and the month of the main event on any hopeless romantic's calendar, Valentine's Day. For some, Valentine's Day means roses, magical candlelit dinners, new lingerie, and passion. For others, it is a reminder of loneliness, lost love, unrealistic expectations, and the heartache of not being able to express your love openly.


The share of single people has been rising over the last decades in many countries, especially in industrialised and urbanised regions. For example, in Australia, one in four households is a lone-person household, and this proportion has increased by 3.3% from 1986 to 2011. One of the main reasons cited in research is "personal preferences."


I'm sure you would agree that "personal preferences" is a very broad statement. So, what do people want and need in a relationship?


To find out, I decided to make a short survey and distribute it amongst friends, work colleagues and online groups, covering a range of demographics. The first thing I noticed is that women are a lot more comfortable with talking about relationships. Finding men who were willing to complete the survey - despite it being anonymous - was difficult.


Basic participant data:

The youngest participant was 21 and the eldest was 75.

80% identified as female, 10% as male, 5% non-binary and 5% gender fluid.

65% identified as straight, 25% as Bi, 10% as other (including pan) and 5% identified as gay/lesbian.


There were a lot of similarities with the responses, especially when it came to wants and needs. These included:


Respect







Independence







Humour/laughter







Kindness







Honesty







Emotional support/Support







Equality







Understanding & empathy







Communication







Loyalty







Commitment








Honourable mentions included: security, self-awareness (of the partner), self-control (of the partner), appreciation, patience, family, and having the same values. I was surprised to see that "trust" was only mentioned twice.


Two other key questions asked in my survey were:

  1. Are you fussy or picky when it comes to finding a partner? 79% of the participants answered 'yes'.

  2. Do you think we (people in general) are becoming more independent? 75% of the participants answered 'yes'.


To expand on question 1, I asked if the participants felt that their high standards (when looking for a partner) were influenced by TV, movies and popular culture. 65% said no. The remaining 35% of participants gave some interesting insights:


  • 30% agreed that their standards were influenced by TV, movies and/or pop culture, with a few adding "books". 95% of these participants were under 35 years old.

  • The remaining participants (5%) chose "other" as their opinion and gave their responses as "previous personal experience", "bad relationships", and the like. All of these participants were over 40.


The following comment from one participant really highlighted the subject:

"I believe media has influenced us in a generally negative way, growing up watching romcoms they were always quite toxic. It's been since leaving an unhealthy relationship 6 years ago and doing a lot of therapy that I've learnt that a healthy relationship doesn't look like a romcom but looks incredibly boring with lots of talking and lots of self accountability. As a result, I have a wonderful relationship built on respect and communication." - F, 33.

My last question was whether they would compromise on their needs when looking for a relationship (specifically, to avoid being single). A majority of people said they would not, which was pleasing to see, but I noted that younger participants (under 30) were more willing to compromise.


Finally, I asked if any of the participants wished to add additional information or comments. A majority of the comments were expanding on or confirming their wants and needs, but there were a few I would like to share:


"People are becoming more independent and want to stay single a lot longer than previous generations. The days when marriages lasted 50-plus years are long gone!!" - F, 54 "I want someone who wants to see me shine and is a true partner, not someone who wants a mother!" - F, 46 "I like being single. I've found it's not worth the hassle of looking for someone at this point in my life, especially with a young teen girl in the house... I do not trust easily." - F, 48 "Fictional men are superior." - F, 27

What do the experts say is the "key to a healthy relationship"?


It's probably no surprise that a lot of research has been done on this topic. Relationships, love and sex are what make the world round, after all. We wouldn't be here otherwise. For the most part, humans crave affection, attention, connection and happiness. We also deserve these positive experiences and need them for our wellbeing.


From the research I have read, as well as the information gathered in my survey, I have discovered five key components of a "healthy" relationship. They are:


  • Mutual respect

  • Open communication

  • Trust and reliability

  • Similar values and goals

  • Kindness


Respect and having healthy boundaries is number 1. This means accepting what we have come to know about the other person and continuing to treat them with respect and understanding. When we really get to know someone, we find out things that are not that great about them, and they find out the same about us. Continuing to hold the other person in a positive light (and vice versa) is essential in a healthy relationship. Boundaries are good to put into place when we know crossing them would violate our mental, emotional and physical health or values. They’re also good for establishing a level of respect for each other and for understanding the things you both feel are important.


Open and honest communication is number 2. This means you want to find ways to express how you’re feeling, practice active listening when your partner is doing the same and work together to find solutions even when you’re arguing. When the going gets tough, find a way to communicate. You don’t always have to see each other eye-to-eye, but you can always be both good and kind to each other and can always seek to understand the other person. That’s what’s going to differentiate this relationship from another relationship that may not have a healthy longevity.


Trust and reliability is number 3. You trust one another and that trust is earned. Trust extends from the seemingly smallest things, like trusting someone with your emotions or allowing yourself to be vulnerable around them, as well as with making some big life decisions - like where to live and what you want your future family to look like - that will (hopefully) take you both into consideration and benefit all involved.

Long after the 'honeymoon phase' has ended, a sign of a healthy relationship is knowing that you can rely on your partner without second guessing whether or not you can trust and rely on them - and there’s no real replacement for time when it comes to trust.


Similar values and goals is number 4. You enjoy each other’s company and support each other’s goals. Maybe your weekly after-work routine is composed of playing video games with each other or watching your favorite shows. For the most part, your mutual interests are aligned. But when your partner suddenly plans to run a marathon, which means they’ll have to carve out time for training, you’re still supportive of those goals and you flex your time and availability when needed.

The importance of doing things together and allowing and supporting each other’s personal growth in a healthy relationship is two-fold: It allows you both to share the things you love with each other, and it gives you the space to be supportive even when something doesn’t fully align with your own individual interests.


Kindness is number 5. This certainly feels like a no-brainer, but we probably don’t think of this one as often as we should. What exactly does kindness look like in a healthy relationship? Kindness looks like feeling safe, supported and a priority to the other person. It is apologising when you’ve made a mistake. Kindness can extend to allowing you and your partner to let go of responsibility sometimes in exchange for personal development. You’ll find that when you let your guard down with one another, the healthiest of relationships allow for a different level of intimacy and understanding.


Healthy relationships are not only something we need with a partner, but also with friends, family members and, most importantly, ourselves. They can enhance your life and make everyone feel good about themselves. They don’t just happen though; healthy relationships take time to build and need work to keep them healthy. The more positive effort you put into a relationship, the healthier it should be.


Thank you again for joining me for the Stay U Blog. I hope you enjoyed it and learnt more about yourself and others. Remember - "If you want to find out about the road ahead, then ask about it from those coming back." Until next time, take care. xx

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