1. You give each other space.
Quality time is great (and necessary), but if you feel the need to spend every waking moment together and you’re always wondering what your partner is doing and who he or she is spending time with, you’re entering unhealthy territory. You need to give and receive some space every now and then so you can nurture your own goals and hobbies and have time to engage in activities your partner may not necessarily enjoy. If you’re always together, you won’t have time to appreciate each other.
“Too often we get into a relationship and it’s all or nothing. We enjoy each other so much we want to spend every minute together. We have such fun together we forget the pleasure of others’ company. The relationship is growing so nicely we overlook our own needs for personal growth and renewal,” said relationship expert Megan Raphael. “In a healthy relationship, each person flourishes when there is a mix of time spent together as a couple, and time spent alone or with someone other than our partner. We also, though, have the responsibility to treat our partner with respect when arranging for space. … It’s important to recognize and respect this while not being constrained by it.”
2. You’re not afraid to speak your mind
You shouldn’t feel like you have to edit yourself when having a discussion with your partner. You should be comfortable speaking freely about anything. You each have needs and wants at one time or another, and it will be important for you to be able to communicate those desires.
“We know what to say, but we’re afraid to say it. We worry that our relationships are too fragile to handle the truth. We don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want to ruin what little peace we have left. After all — we say to ourselves — we have to work with them, live with them, sleep with them. Better just to keep quiet,” said psychologist Jennifer Kunst. “But we all know the problem that ensues. There is no peace in that quiet. The pot of unspoken truth simmers. The feelings stew. The pressure mounts. And then we lose not only our cool but our perspective. When we finally speak up, we spew. And the truth of what we really had to say is lost. So the key to speaking up — at least as I see it — is to speak up sooner rather than later.”
3. You feel good about yourself.
Spending time with your partner should make you feel better about yourself. If you leave feeling worse, or dread spending time together, this is a sign that something is not quite right. There is no room for verbal abuse or comparison. A healthy relationship is characterized by kind, uplifting words. You should both feel so good after being around each other that you want to be better and do better. Time spent together should be uplifting, not discouraging.
“A benefit of being in a relationship can be increased self-esteem or at least increased self-esteem in certain domains,” said psychologist Alice Boyes. “For example, if your partner sees you as smarter, more talented, more attractive, etc. than how you see yourself, then over time you’ll probably start to see yourself as more of those things. We start to believe our partner’s view of us — that we really are a bit more attractive, smarter, etc. than we previously thought.”
4. You share similar value.
Do you and your partner have similar views on religion? How about politics? You’ll save yourself a fair amount of relationship tension if you can agree on a basic value system. In addition, if you decide to have children, this can make childrearing much easier. Compatibility is a natural alignment of lifestyle choices and values between two people. Similar value systems contribute to increased compatibility.
“Compatibility usually corresponds to the long-term potential between two people,” said personal growth expert Mark Manson. “High compatibility between people comes from similarities in their lifestyles and values. Educated and liberal people usually date other educated and liberal people…For no other reason than people of opposite moral values, quite literally, repel each other. And sometimes violently.”
5. You trust each other
A healthy relationship is not possible without trust. Life’s storms will knock you down, and it will be necessary for you to trust each other so you can successfully weather those storms. “Trust is the bedrock for building a strong relationship. However, lack of trust is one of the most common themes to surface in most relationships,” said marriage and family therapist Catherine Morris. “Trust means that you have placed your confidence and faith in your partner, and that you expect honesty, integrity, loyalty, and respect to be at the center of your relationship. You also expect your partner to keep promises and confidences, and to stay with you when the going gets tough.”
6. You’re committed to each other
When you’re sick will your partner still be there? When you lose your job will attitudes change? Tough times will come, and a truly committed partner will be by your side regardless of the circumstances. “This may seem self-evident, but nothing shows a lack of commitment like talking about bailing,” said Jeannie Assimos, eHarmony’s vice president content. “We’ve all been there — the argument gets heated and it’s the same argument you’ve had a thousand times. Your mind starts to think, ‘My life would be so much easier if I were gone…’ While it’s completely normal to have these thoughts, sharing them out loud (or even subconsciously) does nothing for the level of commitment your partner feels from you.”
7. There’s a fair amount of give and take
While you won’t always give an even amount in your relationship all of the time, it’s important to receive (and contribute) an adequate amount of love, care, and respect from one another. When one partner gives way more than the other, resentment can — and often will — eventually build. “One way to describe loving someone is valuing that person immeasurably, and two people in love value each other ‘equally immeasurably,’” said Dr. Mark D. White. “In the best relationships, this reciprocal valuation lasts and lasts, but in non-ideal relationships, each partner’s value in the other’s eyes fades, and not necessarily at the same rate. If this happens, eventually one person will value the other more than he or she is valued by the other.