Let's face it: We tend to romanticize relationships based on cultural influences, media portrayals and the feelings that are created once you're in love. Those chemicals that flood your brain during relational activity with your partner are some of the most powerful ones you have.
But regardless of how good it feels to fall in love, relationships take work and require continued monitoring in order to be as successful as they can be. Check out these 10 signs of a healthy relationship to see how compatible you and your significant other are.
One of the main pillars of a healthy relationship is trust. But what exactly does trust mean, and how is it defined in a relationship? While definitions may vary, John Gottman, Ph.D., a well-respected clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships, believes that trust is actually a mathematical evaluation that's reviewed over time. (Romantic, right?)
Each partner is continuously evaluating his or her level of trust as the relationship grows. This evaluation is based on awareness of the relationship, the empathy you give and receive, the amount of reliance on your partner and the understanding that you feel your partner gives you. The more of these you get, the more you can trust your significant other and the relationship you're both creating.
Remember as a teenager hearing phrases from peers that became permanent parts of your vocabulary? Well, this type of patterned communication is exactly how you continue in romantic relationships.
So what is healthy communication with your significant other? It involves being open and honest, staying vulnerable and truthful with your feelings and sharing important ideas that are meaningful to you. Healthy communication also involves knowing when to bring up topics based on what your significant other has going on in his or her schedule and reading body language to make an assessment of how your partner is doing.
Respect in relationships involves high regard and admiration for the qualities and abilities your significant other has. People in healthy relationships not only value these qualities and abilities in their significant others, but they're also proud to share them out loud.
When you feel heard and understood, welcomed and valued, considered and regarded in everything that you do, you are respected. Relationships that are healthy may not have this concept down to an exact science, as we all get a little tired or cranky at times and can't give our partner exactly what they need, but as long as your partner feels respected most of the time, he or she will thrive.
4. Sharing Values
One of the key components of a healthy relationship is sharing values with your partner. This can be anything from how you like to spend money, what parenting techniques you guide your children with, what you want to do with your free time or what you believe is important in the world.
People can start out in a relationship with similar values, and as you develop over time your interests in humanitarian activity or volunteer work may diverge a bit. However, as long as you're consistently aware of the importance of a collective value system in your relationship, you'll stay in the healthy range of relationship work.
It's no surprise that sharing the same interests and activities keeps a relationship healthy. When you and your partner like to do the same things — like heading to yoga on the weekends, cooking class with friends or traveling on a camping trip — you get to appreciate life with someone else.
Being around your partner and enjoying his or her company is one of the biggest signs of a healthy relationship. Does your partner make you laugh? Does he or she make you feel happy? Do you enjoy being next to your significant other without even saying a word? If so, you've found someone to do life with that's a good match — and a healthy one too.
6. Navigating Difficult Events
Life is full of ups and downs. During your life you'll likely experience the loss of loved ones, tragic events, pain and sorrow that never mends completely and so much more. The way you and your partner navigate difficult life events together (or separately) can make or break a relationship.
Coming together during a life trauma will help your relationship stay as balanced and stable as it can be. When you're in tune with your partner's pain while also managing your own in a healthy way, you can both help one another overcome the pain rather than dissolving your connection when individual challenges arise.
7. Sincere Apologies
In any relationship there will always be mistakes made and apologies needed. No one is perfect and create conflict can result. You'll inevitably hurt your partner's feelings and have to allow time for appropriate healing once they're hurt.
Depending on the person you're with as well as the circumstances that created the need for an apology, there's a specific time period that's best for an apology, according to Cynthia Frantz, psychologist of the Better Late Than Early study. The study found that later apologies are more satisfying than early ones because the person feels understood and acknowledged. Thus, if you're someone who's able to take your time and hear your partner, your relationship probably is a healthier one.
One of the greatest gifts to give your significant other is space and independence. During childhood, our primary caregiver showed love by giving us the ability to explore our world. As adults, our significant other takes on the role of primary caregiver, and love feels similar but not the same.
According to John Bowlby, a psychologist who specializes in secure versus insecure attachment, people in healthy adult relationships need space to do things they love on their own while still knowing that their significant other is there when they need them.
If you were doing a group project or picking someone for dodgeball, would you want your significant other on your team? Whether it comes to being on the same team in a parenting challenge, having an argument with your in-laws or disagreeing with friends on where to vacation, it's important to always be on your partner's team. This type of loyalty creates strength and trust within the limits of your relational boundaries with one another and provides for optimal health in your relationship.
10. Laughter and Letting Go
At the end of the day, when your job has worn you out, when the kids wouldn't go to bed, when the bills weren't paid on time, you have to be able to laugh and let go. We're usually not in control of what happens to us, but we are mostly in control of how we react.
If you and your partner are able to find the silver lining when your kid wakes up crying at 3:30 a.m. again or the refrigerator needs to be replaced in the middle of tax season, you'll be in it for the long haul. Although laughter doesn't solve challenges, it can alleviate some of the stress and pain and create joy.