Inertia is a funny thing in relationships. The excitement before a first date quickly turns into a month of dating, and the next thing you know it’s been a year of dinners and day trips.
But intentionality is important when choosing a partner: are you with him or her just because you’ve been together for a while now? Separating your belongings and disconnecting from mutual friends seems like such a pain, right?
Or are you making a conscious decision to be a part of a loving, successful relationship? Here are 20 sure signs that prove your relationship is healthy.
1. You Fight Well
It may seem counterintuitive to say that fighting is a sign of a good relationship. But being able to talk through conflict (instead of throwing tantrums) is a sign of healthy communication between mature adults. Find whatever anger-diffusing technique works for you, like walking away for a short time to calm down, or holding hands while fighting to maintain physical closeness. As long as a couple can continue to communicate, they have a great foundation for a healthy, long-term relationship.
2. You’ve Got a Shorthand
Happy couples often have their own way of speaking to each other. Sure, nicknames are cute, but do you have a special name for your Aunt Anna or a phrase that sends you both out of the room snickering? A secret language between two people shows they communicate often.
3. You’ve Talked About Children, Religion and Other Important Topics
Dating can be deceptively fun, in part because it’s not always based in reality. Life isn’t a series of dinner parties, gifts and dressing up. Real life includes messy and divisive topics like religion and politics, as well as important, life-changing decisions like whether or not to have children. If you’ve talked these things through, you’re in a healthy relationship. If not, you’re ignoring reality.
4. You’ve Had a Conversation Through the Bathroom Door
Talking through the bathroom door, as in when one of you is clearly on the other side taking care of business, denotes a level of comfort that is rare in most relationships. Bonus points if you’ve had a conversation in the bathroom while it is… in use.
5. You Look Forward to Travelling Together
Plucking someone out of their comfort zone and placing them in unfamiliar territory is sure to reveal some interesting character traits. Does your partner dive right into the new culture and make friends with locals? Or is his or she panicking over lost luggage, or clearly uncomfortable asking for directions? Travelling together is a great way to find out more about how your partner handles adversity and new situations.
Studies regularly show that money is the number one reason for conflict in a relationship. While you don’t have to have the exact same spending habits (two misers in one relationship would never do anything together!), it is important to talk through your approach to money and your financial goals. There is no other way to avoid this number one relationship killer.
Washington Post syndicated personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary offered this advice: “Find a way to deal with the financial issues that are keeping you apart. You’ll have deeper intimacy —emotionally and physically — and you won’t have to spend a dime on teddy bears, roses or chocolates.”
7. You’ve Seen Each Other Angry, Grieving and Sad
Common advice is to see your partner “in all the seasons.” What that really means is that you see how they handle all of the ups and downs life can throw you in a year. What was their reaction to the death of a beloved uncle? How did she handle being turned down for a promotion? Did things go off the rails or did she turn to you for advice and solace? Any relationship will have to deal with moments of joy and moments of pain, and how your partner copes will have a lot do with the health of the relationship.
8. You’ve Played Doctor, But Not Like That
No sexy nurse outfit needed here. Experiencing illness with your partner is telling. Was he grossed out to see you hugging the porcelain god when you had the flu? Or did he bring over chicken soup and help you clean up?
9. Kindness Is Key
Is your guy sweet to you but rude to a waitress at dinner? Did she snap at a cab driver when he asked her to repeat the address? How your SO treats everyone else, not just you, reveals his or her character.
10. Play Board Games, Not Mind Games
If you go a few days without calling back your SO to encourage his interest or if she tests you by pointing out attractive women to see how you’ll react, you probably aren’t in a healthy relationship. The only games you should be playing are ones like Words with Friends or Monopoly.
11. You’ve Gone No-Makeup, Boxer Shorts
Unfortunately, life isn’t a series of dress up parties. Most of real life is spent in casual clothes, running errands, standing over a stove and visiting with family and friends. Why? Because that means you’re not just each other’s ticket to a night out: you’re companions.
“We are all so hopped up and focused on attaining romantic passion that we have little patience for the more mild stuff of long-term companionship,” explains relationship columnist Monica Gabriel of Verily Magazine.
12. Your Friends and Family Like Them
Friends and family will be honest with you no matter what, right? So make sure they spend plenty of time with your SO, so they can offer observations that your love-struck heart might miss. Or they could encourage you by telling you you’ve found the right one.
13. You Can Babysit Kids Together
Even if having your own is a distant, distant idea (or completely out of the question), spending time with children is a great way to learn more about your partner. Little kids change their minds often, move at warp speed and throw tantrums pretty regularly. Does your boyfriend shut down around kids or manage their changes in attitude with ease?
14. You See Yourselves as a Team
Sometimes in a relationship, one person is the decision maker and the other just goes with the flow. At some point, the decision maker will become resentful and the follower will be unhappy with having life mapped out by someone else. Evaluate your relationship to make sure you’re making decisions together.
15. “Please,” “Thank You,” and “I’m Sorry” Are Common
Ms. Manners was onto something by teaching us all about saying please and thank you. In the comfort of a long-term relationship, sometimes we become more courteous to strangers than our own loved ones. Think about using these phrases often to make mutual respect the basis of your healthy relationship.
16. You Laugh Together, Not At Each Other
If you’re always the butt of your partner’s jokes, it’s time to implement your exit strategy. But if you’re able to laugh together, you’re on your way to a healthy and, studies show, deeper relationship.
17. You Watch Grey’s Anatomy… or Dr. Who
With so much of your time spent in front of a screen, it’s healthy to show an interest in what your partner is binge watching. Even though their Netflix choice may not be the same as yours, by watching together you’re bonding and stocking up on shared pop culture references.
18. You Confide in Each Other
If he’s more likely to call his mom or sister to ask for advice, and you still go to friends to share your wishes and fears, chances are your relationship needs some work. Showing confidence in each other by valuing opinions, asking for advice and confiding secrets shows that you have a true partnership.
19. You Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
It’s no fun (and not healthy) to be in a relationship with someone you’re trying to change. While you shouldn’t bury your head in the sand over large matters, nagging him about his sartorial choices or picking on her for the dirty dishes in the sink are small matters. But they can become large matters by constant nitpicking, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
20. You’re Able to Spend Time Apart
It might be counterintuitive, since the whole point of a relationship is being together, right? A tell-tale sign of a healthy relationship is being able to spend time apart, cultivating your own interests and friendships.
It’s time for some self-evaluation. If you and your boo measure up to these signs of a healthy relationship, consider yourself lucky to have found such a compatible mate. If not, don’t let the inertia of a relationship keep you in an unequal partnership. Work to address the warning signs and put yourself on the road to a healthy relationship today.