Mutual obsession and spending every waking moment together are indicators of a pretty healthy relationship, right? Nope! The signs that your romantic relationship is in good shape are a little more subtle than that. Here’s a list of what will really tell you that you are in a healthy relationship.
You start thinking “we”, not just “me”
It may sound like something a therapist might tell you, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Sharing life goals and focusing on what is best for both people in the relationship is one of the major signs that relationship is healthy. According to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, “Couples who put their marriage above their own desires are more likely to flourish.”
You share mutual complete trust in one another
Trust is a simple concept that is all too difficult for many to put into practice. Happy, healthy relationships thrive on two-way trust. That means clear, honest, and open communication between both people. No ugly secrets, no concealed desires should come between you.
You are equally able to be happy when spending time apart as you are when together
Being clingy and needy is not a positive personal characteristic. Dr. Abigail Brenner explained it this way in a 2015 Psychology Today piece: you know your relationship is very healthy when both parties are equally content doing things as individuals as well as together.
You encourage growth and change in each other
It may be a romantic movie cliche that is beyond cheesy, but there is a tremendous amount of truth and valuable wisdom in knowing that your partner makes you want to be a better person. The best relationships are strengthened by mutual encouragement and challenge to help each other grow and progress towards personal goals.
You can disagree and still respect each other’s opinions
No two people are ever going to agree about every decision or topic they come across. It would also become fairly monotonous fast. Dr. Brenner says that that the key to letting differences strengthen your relationship is the ability to disagree with the other person while still being respectful of their perspectives and opinions.
You are genuinely engaged in listening to each other’s problems
This means the nodding, smiling, and “yes-dearing” while your mind is elsewhere is bang out of order. You have to listen closely and engage with what they are telling you. The plus side to all this is that if you start to find yourself engrossed in the inner workings of your partner’s day-to-day life, your relationship is on very solid ground.
You have no storybook/romantic comedy movie illusions about your relationship
Is it your dream to transform a curmudgeonly but soft and sweet on the inside man into your dream boyfriend? Turn off the DVD player because you need a reality check. Realistic expectations about a relationship are vital to its long-term success or failure.
You understand what sharing really means
Selflessness is a good watchword for relationships as well as working together on a team. That means doing dishes or helping the kids with homework even when you are tired and don’t feel like it. When both people in a relationship know they are both putting in as equal an effort as possible and sharing the work of a relationship as fairly as they can establishes very clearly that your relationship is in good shape.
You have a friendly relationship with each other’s families while still maintaining healthy boundaries
Your relationship is not long for this world if you don’t both get along with your in-laws. At the same time though, you need to make sure that you have mutually agreed upon, sensible boundaries established, too. For example, does your brother-in-law really need to drop by every Sunday night unannounced to do laundry?
Both of you maintain your individuality and identity apart from each other
Don’t be one of those couples who spends so much time together that you actually start to think they look alike. It is a clear sign that there is something unhealthy about that relationship. If you are still very much your own person even after a long time in a relationship, that’s a very good sign. Romantic as it may be to completely lose oneself in another person, it is not at all a smart idea for a healthy relationship.
You share legitimate, genuine interest in one another
To have a relationship in the first place, you probably already have a great deal of mutual interest in each other. However, for things to work long-term, you have to show genuine interest and take the time to ask real questions. All attachment theories demonstrate that active participation in mutually communicating interest in the other person is a key component to maintaining a strong relationship.
You build each other up to other people
It is a long established fact that couples who have happy, healthy relationships are frequently complimentary of each other when talking to friends, colleagues and family. At least, that is according to John H. Harvey and Julia Omarzu of the University of Iowa and The Gottman Institute.
You respect each other even when you discover flaws
Too many people go into relationships with the expectation of finding the perfect person. Perfectionism, however, is not beneficial when applied to relationships. People always have their flaws, and healthy partnerships are built on mutual acceptance of each other: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You interactions are more often positive than negative
This may seem obvious, but when times get tough or you are stressed, it is important to make sure that your interactions are more positive than negative. As researcher Will Meek pointed out in his 2013 Psychology Today article, those positives and negatives add up in each other’s minds, and you will feel much more confident and happy in a relationship where daily interactions are mostly positive.
Both of you try equally to find compromises
According to experts at The Gottman Institute, and Harvey & Ormazu, everyone in a relationship needs to be solutions oriented. Problems are going to come up, and you will have to find ways to overcome those difficulties together. Couples that make it in the long term are the ones who can find mutually acceptable solutions and work together to implement them.
You know not just when to apologize, but also how
Holding grudges against your partner is a sign of poor relationship health. Recognizing your own fault and knowing how to apologize and move forward can help make things right again. According to Meek, the healthiest and happiest couples don’t let problems linger, but rather make amends immediately by starting with a proper sincere apology.
You can both say “no”
Nancy Wesson, a California-based couples therapist and marriage counselor emphasizes the importance of couples being able to refuse one another without doing damage to their relationship in the process. “Each person can say ‘no’ to requests from [a] partner when necessary without feeling guilty and tell their partner when something feels not right or hurts them,” Wesson explains on her website while discussing the fundamentals of a healthy relationship.
You know how to make each other feel loved
Be it flowers or a compliment, healthy couples know what makes their partner feel loved and appreciated. As Dr. Tammy Nelson, noted sex and relationship specialist, told the Huffington Post in 2014, “You know you are with the right person when they tell you what makes them feel loved and you are happy to generously lather them with whatever they need. And they do the same for you.”
When you fight, you fight fair
Arguing and disagreement is normal, even in the best relationships. One of the ways you know you’ve found a keeper though is when you can disagree in constructive ways. Dr. Terri Orbuch explained it this way to the Huffington Post in 2014: “A good relationship is one where the two of you fight fair. In other words, you don’t curse, scream, talk down to each other or dismiss each other,”
You miss each other when you’re not around
Missing your partner in their absence is a vital part of great relationships. “If they are ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ that doesn’t bode well,” states Science of Relationships co-creator Benjamin Le when talking to The Huffington Post.”But if you have an emotional response to him or her being away, it’s a signal that you really want to be with him or her.”