1. You adapt to each other’s shifting sexual needs.
No one’s sex drive is static, and we’re all susceptible to different outside factors that can impact our desire to make love during any given phase in life. For instance, while one person might be in their groove at work, returning home every night eager to bang, the other might be struggling to manage the demands of a difficult boss and feel too stressed out to get aroused. No matter how well matched your libidos seem from the outset, you can’t expect to be sensually aligned forever. So it’s important to check in with each other regularly. Meeting each other’s sexual needs doesn’t mean having sex with a person whenever they want (although it’s a good idea to cave in on occasion). What it means, above all, is that you’re open to regular, honest discussions about sex that provide guidance about how you can service the person you love better.
2. You can disagree about important issues without hating each other.
It’s unlikely for two people to agree on all the big stuff, like the death penalty, stop and frisk, or the relative hotness of the Kardashian sisters. But egalitarian couples respect each other’s values and opinions. There may be no sign that the other person in the relationship will ever abandon his or her (obviously misguided!) outlook, but if your bond is balanced you should be able to argue without letting your different views erode your fondness for each other.
3. You put the same amount of effort into forgiveness.
Of course, things are bound to get nasty once in a while—usually when a seemingly insignificant debate erupts unexpectedly. But no matter how ugly things get, you both set aside your egos at a certain point and try your best to see things from the other’s perspective. Over time, you get better at accepting constructive criticism—maybe not in the immediate aftermath of a battle, but once you’ve given your significant other’s feedback some thought and allowed things to sink in. This might take a day or two, but you get there. The main point is that you share the same goal: You want it to become second nature to put yourself in your significant other’s proverbial shoes so that forgiveness comes quickly.
4. You’re both seriously committed to small gestures.
You each understand and appreciate the value of routine, tiny gestures, like writing a note on the bathroom mirror for your partner to discover, surprising them with their favorite takeout dinner, or offering to run an annoying errand on their behalf. In response to your significant other’s tiny kindnesses, you always say thank you, even if it seems like you’ve said it a million times before and you know they know you’re grateful. Saying “thanks” out loud always counts.
5. You know and accept each other’s personalities, flaws and all.
Even identical twins are unique individuals so you can’t count on your soulmate being exactly like you. Luckily, it doesn’t matter if you’re total opposites. As long as you each remain aware of the personality differences in play and make a conscious effort to accommodate each other, things can work out beautifully. For instance, if one of you is an extrovert prone to FOMO while the other is an introvert with a tendency towards JOMO, there should be an equal number of evenings devoted to activities favored by each type (concerts and parties for the former, and cozy at-home dinners for the latter, maybe).
When it comes to each other’s physical and emotional flaws, you don’t just accept them. You fully embrace them. We’re all a little deficient in some ways, and by loving each other not just in spite of but also because of the idiosyncrasies and weirdnesses, you permit each other to be authentically human.
6. You take turns choosing vacations.
Some of us prefer an exotic beach getaway while others want nothing more than to spend a weekend at a bed and breakfast in upstate New York and still others are only ever interested in culture heavy excursions to Europe or Asia. Balance rests in alternating who gets to select a destination, no matter who’s footing the bill.
7. You let each other’s best habits rub off on each other.
When two people are committed to becoming better people through knowing and loving each other, they absorb the best of each other. That might mean adopting someone’s approach to eating, exercising, reading, etiquette, or time management. It doesn’t matter how you improve, as long as the process is reciprocal.
8. You agree to divide household labor—not necessarily equally, but fairly.
It goes without saying that chores should be allotted according to what an individual is best at (or least annoyed by), and not according to traditional gender specific roles. (I assure you women are just as capable of taking out the trash as men are of folding laundry.) More than that, however, equal partners go with the flow. They know that there are weeks when their significant other’s schedule is less conducive to household upkeep and they pick up the slack willingly, without complaint.
9. You run expensive purchases by each other.
Even if you’re not yet married and you have separate bank accounts, if you’re serious about someone and thus considering a future together, how you spend probably matters to them on some level. Whether you’re in the same tax bracket or there’s a giant salary gap between you, you should feel comfortable sharing financial details without inviting judgment. It’s not about asking permission to make a big purchase, but showing someone respect by letting them know about it in advance.
10. You follow the lead in dealing with each other’s families.
A person’s relatives might live a few miles away, or across an entire ocean, and some people are blessed with far more tolerable kin than others. Whatever the case, equality on this front entails trusting your partner’s approach to his or her family and devoting the amount of time and energy they see fit towards those ties.