By Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Every relationship is different, but experts have identified a few common patterns of healthy, thriving partnerships. Think: balanced conflict resolution, a little novelty, a sense of stability, and plenty other green flags. And on a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, licensed psychotherapist and trauma specialist Britt Frank, MSW, LSCSW, added one more to the list. Here, she explains the one practice she thinks everyone should follow.
The one nonnegotiable for a healthy relationship.
Some people misinterpret the stages of dating, Frank says. They assume that once they find their mate, their life will begin. According to Frank, this could not be more false; in fact, she argues that’s precisely the opposite of what you should do for a healthy relationship.
“A nonnegotiable for everybody should be to build your life and make sure your life is working before you attach yourself to another human,” she explains. This means solidifying different aspects of your life before looking for a mate, and definitely before settling into a serious relationship.
“It takes a village to sustain a relationship,” she continues. “If you don’t have your own infrastructure of your own friends, your own hobbies, your own wellness practices, and your own mental hygiene in place before you enter a relationship, the likelihood that relationship will be functional or sustainable is pretty low.” Translation: You don’t want to be attached at the hip. Couples who over-rely on each other run the risk of becoming codependent, which can put a strain on the relationship.
Psychotherapist Ken Page, LCSW, agrees: “To give up the journey of self-discovery–at least some of which needs to occur during alone time–is to give up one of the richest dimensions of our lives. And our partnership will suffer, as we will,” he recently told mbg. That said, dedicate time to exploring your own interests and getting to know yourself before investing in another person; this will help you maintain individuality in the relationship. Think of it like furnishing a home that’s fully built rather than one that’s half-finished–you can’t move in to a house with a wobbly foundation.
Before jumping into a serious relationship, spend some time getting to know yourself and make sure your life is self-sustaining. This way, you can enter the partnership with confidence and a strong foundation under your feet. And if you’re already in a steady relationship (or just curious), here’s our full guide to finding the balance between independence and connection.