The Ingredients for a Healthy Relationship

By HRI Director, Dr. Christine Murray

Imagine you’re baking some cookies. As you prepare the cookie batter, you may change a few things up a bit in the recipe–who doesn’t like a few extra chocolate chips, after all? But, overall, you need to get the right mix of ingredients in the cookies, or they just won’t taste right. Have you ever added baking powder when you were supposed to use baking soda? Or too much salt? Now, I’m nowhere close to being a master chef, but I can tell you that food doesn’t turn out right when you don’t have the right ingredients in the recipe.

Relationships can be a lot like baking in that way. There are important ingredients to include in a relationship to help it become happy, healthy, and safe. When one or more of the important ingredients are missing from a relationship, the relationship can feel off, or it can start to deteriorate into having a lot of major problems over time. Just like a cookie doesn’t turn out right without the best mix of ingredients, relationships won’t turn out just right if we don’t put in the right mix of positive relationship ingredients.

What are these important positive relationship ingredients? As we’ve planned for the launch of the Healthy Relationships Initiative, we’ve thought carefully about what it means to have a “healthy” relationship. It is not our goal to suggest that there is one ideal way to have a healthy relationship! We know that the “recipe” for healthy relationships can take many forms, and people’s ideas about what makes a healthy relationship are impacted by many factors, including their cultural background, their religious views, and their past experiences.

We’ve worked to identify core features of relationships that we believe are relatively universally accepted as being a part of healthy relationships. We know that our list isn’t perfect–part of the beauty of relationships is that they are each unique, just like the people in them. However, we believe that these characteristics are common among healthy relationships, even across different backgrounds.