Over the weekend, I scrolled through some old notes on my phone and stumbled across a few entries in a private folder titled, “People.” I had completely forgotten about this folder and quickly remembered that it contained juicy files about my ex-boyfriends: things they did, qualities they possessed, aspects about them that I admired and disliked. As a teen, I used to write down every little thing about the men I dated as a way of analyzing whether or not our relationship was successful and how closely this person compared to the ideal version of the boyfriend I wanted to date. These notes were also a reminder of the positive and endearing qualities that I saw in my significant other, especially when I needed a personal reminder after a fight or if I was questioned about my relationship by close friends.
After reading my old entries, I realized that I never took any notes about my current relationship, with a person whom I’ve been friends with for three years now. That’s not to say we haven’t gotten in fights or that I haven’t doubted my decision to be in a serious relationship as fresh college graduate, but there aren’t many aspects of us, of him, or of myself in this relationship, that I need convincing of. Part of maturing and becoming more self-aware is understanding what you need in a relationship, what makes a relationship work, and recognizing when you have something good. It’s refreshing to be with a person who brings me peace of mind and values our friendship above all else. So, I’ve made a list of signs that you’ll probably notice if you’re in a healthy, hopefully, long-lasting relationship.
1. You are like-minded and have similar values
If you’re in a healthy relationship, you share similar values and aspirations. You may have different personalities and ways of achieving certain goals, but ultimately these goals are the same. My boyfriend and I had similar childhoods and experiences growing up and we have comparable temperaments, so we often joke that we’re the same person in respective boy/girl form. We’re both restless when it comes to staying in one place, enjoy feeding our artistic sides, and need time for ourselves. This is not to say we agree on everything or that we’re carbon copies of each other, but we’re like-minded when it comes to the things that matter most.
2. You respect each other and maintain your own identities
You value one another as individuals and maintain your own identities in the relationship. You are respectful of each other’s lives and privacy, giving you time to nurture different aspects of your own life, including your career, family, and friends. My boyfriend knows that I need enough space to reconnect with myself and be productive in achieving my own goals, but he also gives me enough attention and care that I feel loved. Your significant other is genuinely happy about your accomplishments and trusts you to make your own decisions and carry yourself in the world.
3. You feel balanced and safe
It’s a huge warning sign if the majority of stress in your life is caused by your partner. In a healthy relationship, you don’t wonder whether or not your significant other cares about you, or values you as a person. You feel free to express your opinions and needs, and you can be vulnerable and honest with each other, even when disagreeing. If your partner is away or you’re in a long-distance relationship, you might feel lonely, but you don’t feel hopelessly alone. A friend recently said to me, “You must be really happy. You barely vent about him!” That’s not to say I don’t talk about my relationship with others, but there’s not much to whine about. It’s the least drama-filled aspect of my life. I rarely worry that my boyfriend doesn’t get me, or doesn’t understand how I’m feeling. I don’t constantly check my phone to see if he texted or called, nor do I have to talk to him every day. I know that even if we don’t speak for a while, we’ll circle back and check up on one another because we care.
4. They make you a better person, without trying to change who you are
There’s no such thing as a perfect partner, but there’s something about the way your significant other acts or treats you that makes you want to be a better person. They do not try to change your character or disposition, but inspire you to continue improving yourself. If I ask my boyfriend for advice, he gives me an honest answer, even if it’s not what I want to hear. Your significant other helps you reflect on the decisions you’ve made in the past, and think about how to approach situations in the future. They challenge and push you outside of your comfort zone, but ultimately give you the confidence you need to succeed.
5. You can talk about the future
In most relationships, timing is everything. Life is always changing and there’s a lot that’s out of our control, but talking about the future is a healthy way of communicating with your partner. It’s not a topic that you avoid even if you’re scared, but a way of acknowledging that despite uncertainty, you feel safe in your relationship. You don’t feel anxious about the direction your relationship is going. My boyfriend and I don’t know where we’ll be in two years, but we’re willing to support each other’s dreams, however way we can. You are able to talk about the future in a way that isn’t terrifying and you both recognize that when it comes to you two, a relationship isn’t all or nothing.
6. You’re happy with yourself
Healthy relationships are full of laughter, fun, and intimacy in the simplest ways. This can range from inside jokes to playing video games to kissing goodbye in the morning. You’re happy to learn everything about your significant other, like the name of their childhood pet or their favorite place to order a Chimichanga. My boyfriend has a weird obsession with clouds, can’t make a sunny-side-up egg to save his life, and likes to sleep on the left side of the bed. These seemingly insignificant details are intimate parts of his past that embody who he is. In a healthy relationship, you take the time to really get to know each other, learning about yourself along the way. For me, that means being with a person who appreciates art and music as much as I do and understands the need to talk about everything, including emotions. If you’re not happy with yourself and confident in the way you express love, you’re not in the right relationship.
Most people have unrealistic expectations for a relationship. Books and movies tell us that opposites attract and sparks have to be flying 24/7, but that’s just not the reality of life. Sometimes you’ll be bored, frustrated, angry, or downright miserable. The real question is whether or not you value each other enough to make the relationship work regardless of hardship and change. There’s always a reason to end things, but if you’re with someone who treats and understands you like a genuine friend would, you’ll want the best for each other. This is a relationship worth holding onto.