A goal in life for many of us is to be in happy and healthy relationship but most of us can also agree that accomplishing that is easier said than done. The media constantly feeds us the notion that romance and sex are the key components to a relationship—at least initially, we’re led to believe, being attractive, being attracted to, being desired, and being pursued are a huge part of the dating game.
This makes some sense: Humans are instinctive creatures at our core, and although our mating practices are not as instinctively driven as those of other creatures, there’s still there’s a lot that goes into choosing our mates that is simply, well, natural. Yes, we may be fundamentally logical and practical in our choices, but there’s something in our makeup that strives for the kind of genes we want to pass along to the next generation.
Having said that, let’s turn to what really sustains a relationship over time, especially after the first blush of attraction has faded. Romance and sex are vital to any intimate relationship. But there’s no excuse to get lazy and just not bother being fully present as romance rolls into the routine of daily life.
We all should know that there will be ups and downs, and ebbs and flows, within any relationship—made even more complex by our own personal ups and downs, and ebbs and flows. But being unhappy in any relationship, even if you love the person you’re with or have been together for a long time is a huge red flag. To avoid that, partners need to find ways to communicate so that their equilibrium is not disturbed on a long-term basis. (For example, one partner making constant adjustments at the expense of another throws off the balance of the relationship and may cause stress and dissatisfaction.)
Let’s get to the heart of the matter: How do you know you’re in a strong and healthy relationship, or maybe better stated: How do you know you’re in a relationship that’s good for you? Considering these 10 factors can help you decide:
- You and your partner are on the same page in terms of your basic values and life goals. You both know what you want out of life, what your common goals are, what you wish to accomplish in life, and are firmly committed to achieving these together.
- There is a strong sense of trust between you. You openly discuss everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no hidden agenda and no secrets from your past.
- You keep your own identity within the relationship and so does your partner. This is so vital. Marriage may be a large piece of the whole pie that identifies who you are. But above all, you’re still who you are as an individual beyond your various roles in life.
- You spend quality time together doing things that are mutually fulfilling as well as quality time apart doing what is important to you individually.
- You encourage each other to grow and change. In other words, you inspire each other to be a better person.
- You and your partner feel safe communicating personal needs and wants. Time is set aside to discuss issues relevant to you as a couple or each of you individually. Listening carefully with undivided attention is essential to real understanding.
- You respect each other’s differences even if you disagree on important issues. And you are able to turn your differences into fair compromise.
- You share realistic expectations for the relationship, not what you wish or fantasize it should be. Remember that you’re dealing with another extraordinarily complex individual in addition to yourself. There’s enough to work with without pursuing unrealistic ideals.
- Each of you contributes your fair share to the relationship, whatever that happens to be. Each partner brings their best strengths and abilities for the benefit of the “team.”
- You and your partner honor each other’s family ties and friendships. While it’s important to set aside time for family and friends it’s also important to maintain healthy boundaries between you and your partner as a unit apart from other close relationships.
Caring, kindness, support, encouragement, and empathy are the watchwords of a good and loving relationship. There is simply no room for rudeness, meanness, jealousy, insulting, degrading, blaming, guilting, criticizing, judging, or physically acting out, especially when the object is one’s partner. Those boundaries cannot be crossed.
Remember: When you decide to join your life with another person, it’s about embarking on a journey together, for years to come. You don’t give up who you are and neither does your partner. You each retain your individuality, joining the best of who you are for your common good, and if you so decide, for your family.