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Relationships are vital for mental health and wellness. However, an unhealthy relationship is detrimental.
From family, friends, partners, and colleagues, people have all kinds of relationships over the course of their lives. Many struggle with building healthy relationships. Indeed they do not even recognise the stress from relationships and how it is impacting their health. Some relationships end or deteriorate, causing much distress.
How does one reduce relationship stress? How does one maintain relationships? How does one build healthy relationships? These are all pertinent questions.
This article summarises information regarding healthy and unhealthy relationships, and serves as a guide to relationship success.
What is a Healthy Relationship?
In a healthy relationship, the good outweighs the bad. It can be defined by relational satisfaction, which is the degree to which an individual is content and satisfied with his or her relationship.  When both individuals have a high degree of relationship satisfaction, the relationship is likely to be healthy. Besides being balanced and complementing the lives of both individuals, healthy relationships are practical and emotional pillars of support. The couple (whether romantic or otherwise) knows each other well. They communicate and understand each of their perspectives and work towards accommodating solutions for problems or issues. There is a secure attachment style and display of positive relational maintenance behaviours. At the very least, these outweigh the insecurity or negative relational maintenance behaviours. Over time these are identified and fixed, especially over conflicts. What are the simple signs of a healthy relationship?
12 Signs of a Healthy Relationship
1. Realistic Expectations and Goals
Realistic Expectations and Goals reduce anxiety
Unrealistic expectations and delusions may be common especially in the initial phases. This does not exist in Healthy Relationships because these only serve to cause problems for the individuals down the road. 
Integrity Helps with Social Networking (important for humans) 
Open and Healthy Arguments
Open to different perspectives.
Not hurtful and not disingenuous.
Gaining understanding, not about overcoming the other person’s argument.
Listening to understand rather than to respond 
No Personal Attacks
Does not contribute to the argument, only causes hurt.
Sympathy means understanding things from your own perspective, while Empathy means understanding things from another person’s perspective. This helps in Validation.
Validation of Thoughts and Feelings
Validation does not mean acceptance. It means normalising people having all kinds of thoughts and feelings, even if they are illogical.
Thankfulness and Appreciation
Feeling gratitude for one’s partner may predict whether a relationship is meant to last. 
Partners show Interest with each other
No Procrastination when partner asks for something
Supportive, especially of goals
Offers Safety for both; a Safe space
Recognises Individuality of each Partner
No Belittling or Demeaning
Boundaries set and followed
No Restriction regarding whom partner spends time with 
Able to Be Oneself
Not necessary to hide or change aspects of oneself
Self-disclosure builds over time and with intimacy, should feel comfortable sharing everything if one chooses to
Sharing of Important information
Built upon good treatment and dependability
Partners take Responsibility
Overcoming Trials that test trust
7. Time together
Schedule time for each other
Attentive and fully present
Nothing fancy, simple walking is better than nothing
8. Affection and Intimacy
Hugs and Touch
Comfort, tenderness, vulnerability
Intense passion that fades after initial phase of relationship, grows into intimacy and commitment
Both partners content with the levels that shared with each other
Comfortable with asking for and rejecting disliked acts of affection and intimacy
Planning e.g. housework, shopping, vacation
Both get required support and accept the dynamics. Even when sometimes one needs more help than the other. Or when one may even want to be the caregiver. 
No Unresolved Conflicts
Break routine, engage in shared passions or try new activities
Daily routines are exciting, e.g. with humour
Complete and Fair Conflict Resolutions before moving forward
12. Comfortable Pace
Partners are comfortable with the pace that the relationship grows at. 
What is an Unhealthy Relationship?
An Unhealthy Relationship is one that can be defined by a low degree of relational satisfaction for one or both individuals. The high levels of stress drastically reduce one’s well-being and create more stress. Damaging behaviours may be present. Stress is always present in a relationship and the individuals need to actively relieve stress. This involves a range of communication styles, and relational behaviours. Major changes and crises, or periods of stress can push one into damaging behaviours and coping mechanisms. This increases relationship stress. What are some simple signs of an unhealthy relationship?
12 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Pressure to change oneself or quit one’s passions
Neglecting needs over that of partner
Lack of privacy
Having more control over shared assets like money
Criticism of behaviour, external parties that one spends time with, clothing
Fear of voicing one’s thoughts and opinions
Spending time together is a chore
Active avoidance of partner 
Violence and Screaming 
To identify unhealthy levels of stress in a relationship, you may wish to read this.
What Makes a Relationship Healthy or Unhealthy?
Relationships produce stress in and of themselves, while the individuals’ stress itself factors in sometimes. In a Healthy Relationship, stress is managed whether it is from inside or outside. In an Unhealthy Relationship there tends to be poor stress management, especially from within.
What are the Sources of Relationship Stress?
Sources of Stress in a Relationship
Health and Wellness
Values and Beliefs
How to Build a Healthy Relationship?
This section answers this question and explores tips for a healthy relationship.
Building healthy relationships requires awareness first. The components of relationships such as attachment styles, communication, and maintenance behaviours are explored below. In a way, all of them are related to communication, the basic element of any relationship.
The 4 Relationship Attachment Styles
What are Attachment Styles?
Attachment style refers to the way adults relate to others. It is formed in childhood. Like children, adults develop “mental models of self and social life”.  The model of self reflects the degree of dependence and the model of others reflects the degree of avoidance. 
You may also wish to read: Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD): The Complete Guide Singapore (2022) Attachment styles ‘‘explain how both healthy and unhealthy forms of love originate as reasonable adaptations to specific social circumstances’’. In romantic relationships, this is based on the availability and supportiveness of a partner.  Most researchers believe that attachment styles lie on a spectrum. 
Positive view of self and others. Enjoys both autonomy and intimacy.
Negative view of self, positive view of others. Anxious; Constant need to be loved, self-acceptance comes from others that they value, i.e. They are only able to accept themselves when others constantly convey the love that they need.
Positive view of self, negative view of others. Need to stay independent. Thinks relationships are unnecessary, avoids commitment in them.
Negative view of self and others. Fear of unworthiness leads to the need to avoid romantic rejection. Distrusts others.
The image below helps you to view the variations with Anxiety and Avoidance on axes.
How can Relationship Attachment Styles Change?
1. Phases in life
Attachment styles can change according to phases in life. Someone on a recent streak of achievements may find themselves to be more secure than someone who suffered a setback, even a minor one.
Partners can affect attachment styles in the way they act with us. A partner may be able to reassure someone that is anxious, leading to more trust and security on the side of the anxious person. Evidently, the converse is true. Sometimes anxiety may be at the point of mental illness, and a partner may be unable to reassure that completely.
You may also wish to read: Anxiety Disorders: The Complete Guide Singapore (2022)
Someone who was securely attached can change to insecure styles with unhealthy friendships and romantic relationships.
Sometimes a person with anxious style may not feel any anxiety in a relationship as they are not as attached. The degree to which one desires a relationship to continue affects the stress they feel at the possibility that it could end. Dates are not always bonded. 
Being aware of how one interacts in relationships reveals what needs to be improved. To do this, one must identify all the emotions they feel when they experience insecurity with a partner, especially romantic partner. Examples are anger and distrust.
Therapy and videos or audios to self-soothe help. Self-soothing is difficult to do by the self, so initially guidance is required. Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be of aid, and there are various informative books from psychological professionals) on this.
Some may fear becoming attached to the therapist. Such fears need to be addressed. Fear of becoming dependent only leads into insecure relationships. Competent therapists offer a secure attachment with their clients. Secure attachments lead to more intimacy which raises autonomy. Higher autonomy results from more intimacy which comes from a secure attachment. This is why it is hard to change this by oneself or in an insecure relationship without external assistance. 
Relationship Communication Styles
Communication satisfaction promotes relational satisfaction because communication is fundamental in relationships.
Different communication styles are a source of relationship stress. While there are myriad classifications of the pattern or style, there are common features to avoid and helpful ones to use.
Dialogical communication theory suggests that healthy relationships are founded on genuine conversation, mindfulness of the other, and the intention of having a living mutual relation.  Both individuals will feel valued when one communicates in a way that represents oneself and acknowledges the other. This communication process enables both to feel a mutual sense of relational satisfaction.
4 Relationship Communication Styles
Assertiveness means that one stands up for their own opinions, feelings, and rights while respecting those of the other.
Less likely in a relationship when one partner is insecurely attached.
Demand-withdraw; One demands and the other withdraws.
Aggressiveness is where one is hostile, controlling and trying to imposing their own beliefs, is ironically due to one’s belief that disagreements are damaging to relationships.
Anxious and Avoidant styles
Self-silence stems from the same belief, and is done by inhibiting one’s self-expression and actions. Those who are more sensitive to rejection are likely to exhibit this.
Non-assertiveness is allowing the other to impose their opinions, feelings, and rights, while not voicing out and standing up for one’s own. Both of the styles above can cause jealousy induction, as one is attempting to communicate via non-verbal means. 
Communication Styles During Conflicts in Relationships
These can be classified into 4 styles based on the degrees of cooperation and of directness- Opposition or Cooperation, either Direct or Indirect.
Image 1 below draws them into 2 axes based on the spectrums, splitting them into 4 distinct quadrants representing the styles. The characteristics of each style are listed within the quadrants.
A direct approach clearly lists the problems to be addressed and this may lead to successful problem resolution. An indirect or tactful approach may lead to a the wrong belief that changes are unnecessary, and this maintains the status quo.
Clearly, direct cooperation in comparison to indirect cooperation predicts further improvement in problems or issues in the longer term.
Interestingly, while it may seem otherwise, opposition does help sometimes. The degree of directness is key in resolving a problem. Confronting problems via conflict prompts partners to make desired changes. This results in successful problem resolution.
Conversely, affection, validation, and humour, though lowering tension, does not prompt partners to make desired changes.
However, besides direct cooperation which is always helpful, the other 3 styles can be helpful in certain situations. Image 2 below shows the situations in which they are helpful and unhelpful. 
Relational Maintenance Behaviours in Relationships
Relational maintenance behaviours are “actions and activities romantic partners use to sustain desired relational definitions”
Negative Maintenance Behaviours
Purposely evoking jealousy through means such as - discussion about past and current relationships, flirting with others, lying about the existence of a rival, and even infidelity
Used by those more susceptible to jealousy and suspicious of infidelity, to improve their confidence and self-esteem
More likely used by insecurely attached, especially Preoccupieds and Fearful-Avoidants, as they are fearful of not being reciprocated and likely to feel jealous
Partner and Topics
Way for Preoccupieds to test
Letting partner make decisions or plans
More likely used by Preoccupieds
Preoccupied styles ‘test’ the relationship and reassure themselves with spying and destructive conflict.
Positive Maintenance Behaviours
Positive relational maintenance behaviors include humour, support, small talk, affection, mediated communication, assurances, romantic affection and support, conflict management, advice, social networks, and openness. Secures are most likely to use these. Dismissives will completely not use these. 
Collectively, dismissives and preoccupieds, or those with a negative model of self or others, are perhaps most likely to use negative maintenance behaviors, regardless of relational satisfaction.
However, remember that attachment styles exist on a spectrum and someone can have high levels of secure attachment but also some level of preoccupied or fearful attachment which may lead them to use some negative maintenance behaviours.
Individuals who use more relational maintenance behaviours are less likely to feel loneliness. 
Different Love Languages in Relationships
Chapman’s 5 Love Languages:
Words of affirmation
Acts of service
Physical touch 
To find out a partner’s preferred love language:
What does my partner do or not do that hurts deeply?
What have i requested that my partner do most often?
How do I regularly express love to my partner?
What would an ideal partner be like? 
When Should I Talk to a Professional about my Relationship Stress?
Unable to share feelings
Withdrawal, criticism, and contempt in interactions
Affair and/or abuse
Overwhelming daily stress from the relationship 
Where Can I Seek Help for my Relationship Stress in Singapore?
A variety of professionals for all kinds of relationships are available, most of which involve 2 or more (in a family setting). The list below has clinics which offer specific services or a diverse range for different contexts. Children counselling is available too. For anything friendship related, a personal therapist would help, which all of the clinics below offer.
Relationship Therapy services include couples (not married), pre-marriage, and marriage, and affair, and divorce/discernment counselling. Some service providers may be more specialised in certain areas, e.g. affair and divorce.
For work settings, both personal therapists and training courses involving entire teams can help. As an individual you may wish to see a personal therapist. As a leader or employer, you may wish to consult corporate programmes.
A key skill would be leadership because every employee, in fact every person in any relationship benefits from learning about the principles of leadership. Some of the therapy services listed below offer corporate workshops and related programmes.
Regarding fees in general, If your employer has the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), it may cover some or all of your fees to seek professional help for personal or work-related problems.
Reach Community Services
Block 307 Shunfu Road #01-137 Singapore 570307
Special Rates for Students
Shan You Counselling Centre
Blk 5 Upper Boon Keng Road #02-15, Singapore 380005
Additional Subsidy available
My Community Counselling Fund available
The Enneagram Singapore
Parc Vista Condo: 460 Corporation Road, Tower 6 #01-03, Singapore 649815
Singapore Counselling Centre
51 Cuppage Road, #03-03, Singapore 229469
- Video Sessions available
Applicable for EAP
Talk Your Heart Out (TYHO)
Video Sessions available
Applicable for EAP
+$30 for physical space
501 Bukit Timah Road
#04-03 & #03-02, Cluny Court
121 Upper East Coast Road
Allinthefamilycounselling (Sex therapy)*
60 Paya Lebar Road, #11-06 Paya Lebar Square
*You may wish to read our The Ultimate Cost Guide to Sexual Dysfunction Treatment Singapore (2022).
How Much Does it Cost to Seek Help for Relationship Stress in Singapore?
First session usually costs more as it will be longer.
Couples counselling could cost anywhere from $100+ to $300+
Family counselling costs anywhere from $100+
Packages are usually available (most of the services listed above have packages)
Low-income households usually get subsidies from certain service providers. This will be usually listed on the website and you can contact them for more information. Usually, private practices of a single therapist are unlikely to have such subsidies.
Some organisations have Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), and some service providers are involved in that; you get discounts.
When Should I End a Relationship?
To the following points, there are no mitigating factors. E.g. “I’m staying in the relationship for my children”. Couples who cannot love each other yet stay together are unhealthy for children.
Abuse and Violence
Lack of teamwork
Lack of engagement
Lack of attraction or intimacy
Varying goals; For instance, someone who did not want to have a child may want to have a child and the partner may not want to make such a big investment 
FAQs on Relationships
Is Stress Normal in a Relationship?
Yes. You may wish to refer to the section “What Makes a Relationship Healthy or Unhealthy” in this article.
What are the Most Stressful Things in a Relationship?
Highly insecure attachments
Different communication styles
Poor conflict resolution
Different goals and priorities
Lack/loss of affection and intimacy
Lack/loss of respect and rest
How Often do Couples Fight in a Relationship?
There is no definitive answer for this.
Can Narcissists Have a Healthy Relationship?
Building a healthy relationship is difficult but they are impactful in your wellbeing. Awareness of the various factors helps you improve yourself and your relationships.
Some relationships may be strained, but there are tools to mend them. Other times, they may have to end, though we do not want them to. Importantly, the relationship with yourself should provide stability in your life, before you are able to build a healthy relationship with others.
Reducing the stress within the relationship is vital, and a relationship should be supportive, rather than burdensome in your life. Managing stress from outside before they affect our relationships, is just as vital.
This Valentine’s Day, we have partnered with Ferne Health to write about the ups and downs of relationships.
Up next: 5 Signs Your Relationship is So Stressful That It's Unhealthy (coming soon)
This piece was brought to you in collaboration with Ferne Health
Having open and honest conversations about sexual health and communicating your STI status to your partner helps foster a safe and healthy relationship. It is recommended for sexually active individuals to be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Ferne Health is a digital health platform that delivers accessible, at-home solutions for sexual health. We provide teleconsultations, at-home testing kits or home visit tests, medication, birth controls, and supplements. Apart from providing discreet and convenient sexual healthcare solutions, Ferne actively advocates for body positivity, mental wellness and actively engages with like-minded brands to raise awareness on topics that promote self-care.
At frankie, we make mental healthcare and wellness easy for all with just one small task a day. Head on guided wellness journeys that understand your stressors or triggers or work with our behavioural and wellness professionals - all from the comfort and privacy of your home. Sign up for our Closed BETA here.
About the Author
Faizi is a fresh marketing graduate who runs an Instagram page on Alexander the Great. His view on life is summarised by the book title, “Only Cry for the Living”, though he has not read the book. Spending much of his undergraduate years transitioning from a religious to secular life, he hopes for a better future for apostates and has given interviews to this end. For him, The Only Easy Day is not Yesterday, but Today, because Today is easier to get through than Yesterday or Tomorrow.
This editorial section solely expresses the opinion of frankie and is not endorsed nor commissioned by any external party. The list is non-exhaustive. At frankie, we believe that your best provider of medical advice is your doctor. Please consult a doctor before undergoing any treatment or procedure.
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