Building Healthy Relationships: 5 Crucial Steps

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In first responder life, it takes one to know one. This is pivotal in building healthy relationships. When you know a person’s stressors and lifestyle, you understand better and can make that relationship a success.

That might be why so many first responders date and marry inside the industry, but not so for all and not a requirement. Plus, that’s not the only type of relationship that matters.

Relationships go beyond romantic partnerships. You have business relations, friends, family, neighbors, and more. There are common factors to make it a healthy relationship.

Let’s review some crucial steps of building a healthy relationship, whether romantic, family, professional, or anything else.

Crucial Steps of a Healthy Relationship

A healthy relationship requires a few crucial steps: communication, active listening, understanding, trust, and compromise.


Communication is essential. Police must communicate before going into a risky situation. Firefighters need to communicate before entering a burning building. Not knowing your plan means your comrades may be unable to help you and vice versa.

It’s as important in family or friend relationships. Who’s bringing what to the cookout or who’s checking on Dad at the nursing home? If a person doesn’t have the proper information, things get complicated or misinterpreted.

Communication is more than speaking. It involves how you speak, your tone, your body language, and your timing. It may not be the best time to blurt out bad news if a person is about to take a test. You also wouldn’t give that news with a joke. You would wait for the best moment and deliver it with kindness and compassion.

If you’re struggling with something, communicate that to someone to get help. Communicating your stress to someone in confidence is beneficial too, even if that person can’t help. When we communicate, we’re offloading some of our stress—so don’t hold it all in!

Active Listening

Active listening is more than just hearing words. It’s showing you’re listening with body language and confirming you heard and understood what was said. Eye contact is helpful but not required. However, turning away from other things, like a computer, smartphone, or television, is important. It’s hard to believe someone is paying attention to you if they’re staring at a screen.

Active listening calls for proper body responses such as facial expressions. It’ll show on your face if you’re listening and attentive to what the speaker is saying. Sad news will illicit a sad or concerned expression. Troubling news may cause you to frown. Joyful news should make you smile.

Repeating back instructions or key information also shows you’re listening and helps the speaker gauge if you’ve heard correctly.

If you show you’re listening to a person, they’ll be more open and honest in their communication. You also will understand your speaker better if you’re fully present and attentive.


Understanding where a person is coming from grants you compassion. Those who have suffered loss, understand the mourning. Anyone who’s undergone addiction treatment will have a better understanding of addicts seeking treatment.

It’s not to say those who haven’t had those experiences are not compassionate, but that it takes just a bit more understanding for them. You can understand loss enough by simply loving another person and not wanting to lose that person. You can understand other difficulties through other associations as well.

There are those in the world with great amounts of compassion, but you are truly more likely to have compassion when you open yourself to understanding where a person is in life. If you can find those connections, you’re likely to grow in patience and be more willing to listen. In turn, you’ll notice others are more willing to listen to you as well.

When others see understanding in you, trust builds.


You don’t get trust overnight. When building healthy relationships, trust must be earned. Trust is especially difficult for those who’ve had their trust broken. If you have an understanding of that, you’ll have more patience as they slowly come around that obstacle.

Trust comes from reliability and honesty. Those caught in lies aren’t considered trustworthy. Those who always show up for their shifts are more trusted by management.

Say what you do and do what you say. It’s that simple.

Things happen of course, but a willingness to admit fault or communicate the cause as soon as possible will alleviate help to build trust as well.

For first responders, trust is crucial. Partner have each other’s backs or their lives are in jeopardy. Making trust a priority helps with building healthy relationships. But there’s one more element, compromise.


The hardest part of any relationship is compromise. Not everyone can change and not everyone needs to, but the willingness opens an avenue to peace.

You and your coworker both need the night off. His is for a sick relative but yours is for a date. If both of those were on your schedule, which would you prioritize?

When you’re willing to change for others, you find others are more likely to change for you. But this goes deeper than schedules.

You want to go to the movies but your friend doesn’t want to spend the money. Could you pay for two or are you willing to stay in? Maybe you need to change bad habits like smoking or drinking. Maybe you’re being challenged to change your temper. Whatever it is, are you willing to try a new approach for the sake of building healthy relationships?

Even if you’re yielding to someone else, you’re thinking outside your consciousness and showing that you’re willing to adjust. This leads to others doing the same in return.

Make Room for You

All of this sounds rather passive, but it doesn’t have to be. You need to think of yourself as well.

Don’t be a doormat but be clear in your communication. Make sure you’re being heard. If you’re not feeling heard, say so. Be aware of your boundaries and communicate them. Make sure you know your partner’s—romantic and professional—boundaries as well.

A relationship goes both ways, so make sure there’s room for you and it’s not just one-sided. Otherwise, you have a toxic relationship and that’s no good.

The other person also needs to communicate and listen. You can have compassion and understanding, but see that the other person is putting in effort. You can be willing to compromise but realize what’s being asked isn’t best.

Keep going back to communication and express yourself. This shows you’re doing your part but that you require the other person to do theirs. When conflict arises, if you can’t communicate through it, be sure to seek third-party assistance. This shouldn’t be all on one person.


Sometimes you don’t get what you want. It may take more time or it may not be offered where you are. You need to make a judgment in each scenario. When it comes to building healthy relationships, it’s about more than what you want. It’s a coming together of two sides for a common goal. What can you do to make it more attainable? Are both sides pursuing this? If not, figure out why.

Building healthy relationships takes time and effort, but with the right steps, it can be a success.