How do you know if you’re in a healthy romantic relationship? What I mean is, what if you’re not sure the person you are seeing is the one? Or, what if you are thinking about divorce and feeling confused? I think that when it comes to marriage, relationships and/or to dating after divorce, the line between a healthy relationship and a dysfunctional relationship can get a little fuzzy. In other words, the signs of a healthy relationship are foreign, because you haven’t been in one for so long (since you’ve been married and haven’t been dating.)
So, first of all, my quick answer to not knowing if he/she is the one is, or if you should stay in your current relationship if you’re not sure, then it’s not right. I can speak firsthand—being someone who has been in both unhealthy and healthy relationships, that you will know when it’s right. It won’t be a rebound, you won’t be making excuses, you won’t doubt it, and there won’t be red flags.
But let’s put knowing or not knowing aside for a minute and talk about the signs of a healthy relationship.
A healthy relationship is bliss. I can attest to that firsthand, as I think I am in the healthiest romantic relationship I’ve ever been in. But, I had to wait till I was 49 years old to find it. I don’t want you to have to wait that long! But, if you are over 49, I hope my story motivates you into realizing it’s never too late!
Here are 9 signs of a healthy relationship:
1. You enjoy each other and have fun together.
I know a couple who are really unhappy, and so the other day I asked the guy, “When was the last time you guys did something fun together?” He could not answer. I mean, isn’t the whole point of a romantic relationship to enjoy your lives together?
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about when I say “fun.” I had a great time on a recent Saturday night drinking wine, playing Backgammon and watching movies with my boyfriend. We laughed and talked and it was just as fun as it would have been if we were at the Ritz Carlton in Naples. I honestly feel that way.
Doing fun things together takes planning, creativity and effort, but it is so so worth it. Having fun together keeps the relationship fresh, and when you laugh and giggle and have heart-to-hearts, it reminds you of why you are with the person. So, when crap starts happening—any problems in life, you’re more bonded as a couple and more equipped to handle things better.
2. Arguments and disagreements get resolved pretty quickly.
In a healthy relationship, if there is something bothering one of the people, they speak up immediately. They don’t wait and let it fester. So, there isn’t any pent-up resentment that comes back years later, when one says to the other, “Remember that one summer 8 years ago when you did this?” It takes courage to tell someone how you feel. It can be uncomfortable. But in healthy relationships, it is expected.
3. The sex is good. Really good.
This may sound superficial but it isn’t at all. The sex has to be good and there has to be sex. But when I say sex, I don’t necessarily mean you have to be doing it 20 times a week. I’m talking about kissing, hand-holding, foreplay with words and actions, hugging, and yes, nakedness.
Physically intimacy leads to a deeper and more meaningful connection. It makes your relationship special—different from any of your friends or anyone else in the world. It gives you something to think about that feels really nice, and it makes you feel bonded and adored and loved.
4. You like each other.
I personally think it’s easier to love someone than to like the person. People fall into love that stems from infatuation, comfort, longevity and maybe loyalty. But what happens when you find yourself in a long-term relationship and you realize you don’t really like the person?
Maybe he/she gets on your nerves, or you just don’t enjoy spending time with the person, or you just don’t think there’s much there to like. That’s when it’s hard to get out of the relationship because the two of you are saying the L word and you feel disloyal, like you are doing something wrong if you break up. Plus, if you love someone, you don’t want to hurt the person. All that said, it’s not worth it to stay in a relationship for this reason. Healthy relationships consist of two people who truly like each other.
5. You trust each other.
When people think of trust, they tend to think of it in the sense of “I trust that he wouldn’t cheat.” That’s important, but trust is much more. Trust means that you trust the person will make good life decisions with you, you trust he/she won’t do anything to hurt you or both of you, you trust in his/her ethics, morals, and common sense.
You trust him/her to tell the truth about everything. You trust he/she will take care of you if you get sick or break your arm. And, you trust that he/she is committed to your relationship and wants to be with you forever. If you have any doubts about any of these things, you might not be in the healthiest relationship.
6. You respect each other.
If there is no respect, you may as well break up right now. Respect is huge in a healthy relationship. Respect is being proud of the person’s professional career, of the way he/she treats others, of the way he/she lives life, of the way he/she takes care of themselves and their kids, of the way he/she treats you, of what he/she has accomplished in life (and I’m not talking about money, but rather success), and of his or her values, ethics, morals, and more.
If you don’t respect your partner, you will lose both physical and emotional attraction. I mean, who wants to have sex with someone they don’t respect, or even be around them? With a lack of respect, your feelings might turn into pity or feelings of platonic friendship. In healthy relationships, respect needs to be very high. That also ties into admiration. Ask yourself if you admire your partner.
7. You support each other.
Life is continually changing, and new opportunities and life goals can arise at any time. So, if your spouse decides to go back to school, or go back to work, or change jobs, or take up a new hobby, in a healthy relationship, you would support that.
Now, if the person has 4 degrees and no job, or is starting his 10th business and wants to invest your money, or quit his 5th job in a year, that might be an issue. But love means supporting the other person’s decisions. Furthermore, love goes beyond support. It means sharing his or her excitement about a new venture.
Remember that in real love, there is no competition. What I mean by that is, if your ex becomes extremely successful and/or makes a lot of money, be happy for him or her. Don’t feel threatened by it and be scared that he/she will change. Have enough faith that he/she is still the same person and that the newfound success will only make your lives better.
Lastly, support means being there for the person in tough times—a family member’s death, an illness, a job loss, and other terrible things. If your partner lost his/her job, would you be there for him/her financially? It’s an important question to think about.
8. You’re authentic and honest.
In a healthy relationship, both people are truly themselves. There’s nothing to hide, you’re not trying to be someone you aren’t, and you speak the truth. All. The. Time.
If the two of you are really right for each other, authenticity is the core of your relationship. It’s not easy to be vulnerable, especially after a divorce, but vulnerability will ensure that the relationship is and stays authentic. It will also make the relationship deeper, more fulfilling, and more meaningful.
9. You bring out the best in each other.
Of all the signs of a healthy relationship, this might be the biggest. I have been in relationships where I couldn’t stand myself, and relationships where I truly like myself (like currently.) A true love makes you want to be the best person you possibly can. You look at the other person and admire him/her so much, that you want to strive to be the same way.
In an unhealthy relationship, the person might make you mean, angry, bitter, competitive, jealous, a cheater, unmotivated, or anxious. While it’s understandable that the person is causing this in a way, just by the way he/she treats you, it’s important to remember that you can’t blame someone else for the way you act. That’s on you. But all that said, if someone is bringing out the worst in you, you are in an unhealthy relationship. Period.
In closing, the signs of a healthy relationship aren’t always easy to see, since we all know that love can be blind. Maybe your desire for the relationship to work out is preventing you from seeing the red flags. Maybe it’s causing you to convince yourself that you respect him/her, or that he/she won’t cheat again, or that he’s going to quit drinking this time, or that you are going to change and then things will be better. I hope that’s not the case.
Remember that no relationship is perfect, even the healthiest of relationships, but these 9 things truly matter when it comes to being happy. Does that mean that if you can’t meet someone with these 9 things you should be alone? Good question. First off, I believe it’s better to be alone than to settle for a relationship that lacks some or most of these 9 things, so yes, maybe. It’s your decision. But, I will say this. You deserve all of these 9 signs, and if you believe that, I think your standards and your search for love will change, and a healthy relationship will find you. I hope so!