When we’re in the thick of romance with someone we love, trust, and adore, it can be difficult to see the relationship from the outside. You’re so entangled in each other’s lives that things that may be toxic sometimes go unnoticed and the things that are sometimes great go unappreciated.
It’s important to look at your relationship, both individually and as a couple, and regularly assess your levels of happiness and contentment. Healthy relationships take work. And you'd better be ready to put in the effort.
Here are a few underrated signs you’re actually in a very healthy relationship—and how to stay that way!
You're responsible for your own happiness
There is a difference between healthy, mutual love in a relationship and total codependence. But it’s not always so easy to tell. When you become a “we” instead of an “I,” where does one draw the line?
The relationship is healthy when you continue to maintain a separate and distinct sense of individuality. In stable relationships, “you aren't dependent on your partner for your happiness,” Dr. Kristie Overstreet, a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist, tells Brides.
Overstreet says that in order to be responsible for your own happiness and personal well-being you have to “remain an individual within the relationship which includes having your own interest, hobbies, and friends.”
As tempting as it may be to mold yourself to fit your partner, this isn't going to work in the long-term. The healthiest partnerships are one where there is a definite “we,” one in which you share a lot, but there is also the “I,” wherein two people have their own lives outside of the primary unit.
“Practice self-care daily to make sure you stay balanced so you can bring your best to the relationship,” Overstreet adds. Alone time may seem counterintuitive, but it is crucial.
You can share your emotions openly
It may seem obvious to some, but many relationships don’t allow for open and honest communication. There is an innate fear that if we’re open about dissatisfaction, dysphoria, or relationship issues we have, we’ll wind up alone.
In a healthy relationship “you are able to share your feelings and emotions with your partner without causing an argument,” Overstreet says. This person is your life partner. You have to be able to talk about everything and set up a space for honesty without judgement or bruised egos.
Do you deal with your issues in a positive way versus taking them out on your partner? These are things to think about.
Sharing really is the only way to have a secure bond. “Don't stuff and stack your feelings. Open up and share them with your partner, especially if you are angry. This will prevent you from building resentment towards them,” says Overstreet.
If you can’t be yourself with your spouse, who CAN you be yourself with?
You listen to each other
The healthiest relationships are not just about sharing and expressing emotions but really listening to those emotions and processing them. If your relationship is doing well, “you can hold space for your partner to tell you how they are doing without personalizing it and making it about yourself,” Overstreet says.
This means not just hearing your partner out but truly opening your ears, mind, and heart to what they are saying. You both have to be willing to listen to the challenges the other is facing and look for workable solutions. You are a partner in everything—the good and the bad. And at the same time, you are two people with individual needs and desires.
You consider your partner before making big decisions
A good partner doesn’t make drastic life choices without consulting their partner and considering their feelings.
Toxic relationships focus heavily on the “I”—whether it's about where you're moving, changing careers, what to do with your joint money, buying something extremely expensive—without stopping to consider how their spouse might be affected.
If you’re in a healthy partnership, both of you consider the other, almost by default, when making choices. Keep this in mind.
You could be with your partner all the time
“You don't get tired of being around your partner” in a healthy marriage, Overstreet explains. Even if you’ve been together for years and years, your partner is still your favorite person in the world. They are your best friend, confidant, shoulder to cry on, and the sturdy rock on which you lean.
When something wonderful happens, your partner is the first person you call to tell. When you’re standing in line at the bank, bored out of your mind, your partner is the first person you text to say hi. In healthy relationships, you’re always about each other.