Is your relationship going in the right direction?
You may have a strong gut feeling in answer to this:
Yes, absolutely, or no, we’re in trouble…
Or you may have more of a vague uncertainty about how your relationship is doing right now and be trying to get more clarity.
Even if you feel sure about what’s going on, the following is a list of things to look for to know your relationship is growing in a healthy, meaningful and loving direction.
1) You can both say what’s on your mind
Do you feel comfortable telling your partner what’s on your mind and do they seem to feel the same?
This is a key indicator that your relationship is going the right way and helping both of you grow.
Communication is a must, but many outwardly great-looking relationships have deep issues just under the surface:
One or both partners feel pressured not to say what they want to or bring up certain subjects they know might annoy their partner.
If that’s not you, your relationship is doing very well and going in a positive, empowering direction.
2) You respect each other’s beliefs and values
Any solid relationship includes mutual respect for each other’s values and beliefs.
You may be left wing and your boyfriend may lean right.
You may be a vegetarian extrovert who loves working outside and your girlfriend may be a meat-eating introvert who prefers quiet study and time indoors.
But you respect each other’s choices and don’t try to pressure or change each other.
You’re not only OK, but happy, to give your partner respect and appreciation for the ways in which they experience and see the world differently than you.
3) You’re able to agree to disagree on certain issues
Especially when it comes to controversial issues or topics, you may disagree.
It’s not just that you have different values, but that you feel strongly about specific issues and may genuinely be certain your partner is wrong or misguided.
But you love them and you respect that their view may be informed by experiences and insights that you don’t have.
You agree to disagree, and allow genuine disagreement to exist without becoming personal, bitter or corrosive.
“Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to fix every issue. In fact, it’s okay to have a handful of topics that you two will never agree on.”
4) You support and cheer each other on
Supportiveness is a key component of a thriving relationship.
There will be times you’re in a bad mood or simply exhausted, but if your relationship is supportive most of the time it means it’s on the right track.
Do you get the feeling that you and your partner are on the same “team?”
Or does it feel like you’re competing and trying to outdo each other?
A bit of healthy joking rivalry is great, but there should always be that sense that you’re ultimately looking out for each other.
5) You find each other physically attractive
Every one of us goes through many physical evolutions throughout life, from our facial structure shifting slightly to our body changing size and shape.
We all age.
But when you and your partner feel an ongoing physical attraction for one another it’s definitely a good sign that your relationship is heading the right direction.
Couples that go the distance and form a close and unbreakable bond aren’t just in love, they’re also attracted to each other and want to have sex, kiss and be close even once the initial thrill of courting wears off.
If those factors are present your relationship is doing well!
6) You find each other emotionally and intellectually stimulating
The physical component needs to be present as noted, but the intellectual and emotional connection should also be there to some degree.
Do you enjoy talking to your partner and find him or her interesting, engaging and insightful?
Do you feel a heart connection where you truly care for this person’s wellbeing and feel touched, humorous and impacted by their being and presence?
If you’re feeling all of these things then your relationship is definitely growing in the right direction, the question is just whether your partner is feeling all of this too!
7) You respect your partner’s limits and they respect yours
Finding each other interesting, hot and emotionally engaging is a necessity, but that doesn’t mean you’re always on the same page.
Every person has limits, whether that’s time they need alone, time they need to work or sensitive topics or situations that you need to tread a bit carefully around.
In a thriving relationship, you’ll both mutually respect these limits and be mindful of the lines not to cross.
If you don’t know, you’re comfortable asking, which goes back to the first point I made about being comfortable opening up to each other and communicating.
This also leads to the next point…
8) You can open up about problems without venting or blaming
There will be times that you both want to vent, when life is kicking you down.
If you and your partner are able to open up and be honest about struggles without blaming, your relationship is strong.
When interactions become more intense and lead to a full-on fight, we come to the next point…
9) You’re able to have real fights without breaking up
Earlier I spoke about agreeing to disagree, and respecting different values and boundaries of your partner.
But fights still happen, fights that you wish didn’t happen and that get out of hand.
Fights where you already want to say sorry before they’re even over, and the issues aren’t that easy to resolve or let go of.
When this happens and your relationship survives it, and you’re able to talk it over without letting it put a barb of bitterness and poison into the relationship, then you are in a partnership that’s doing very well indeed.
10) You have your own friends and social lives
You and your partner may share friends, and that’s a great thing.
But it’s also a wonderful sign if you have your own friends and social lives that aren’t dependent on each other.
Granting each other this kind of freedom and individuality is a key way to ensure that you don’t get lost in the relationship or feel overwhelmed by it.
We all need our space, even when we’re in love, and having your own social life is a way to ensure that you’re not basing your whole life and every daily decision on one person in an unhealthy way.
Too much of a good thing is still too much.
This ties into the next sign:
11) You’re able to spend time apart and give each other space
When a plant or tree is growing, sometimes it needs to be pruned and tended to.
Smaller cuts let the larger structure keep growing and ensure the roots are feeding the right limbs.
It’s the same in a relationship:
A bit of time apart and giving each other space is a necessary ingredient for getting closer and solidifying your bond.
It also ensures that you won’t get codependent or build a life that’s only dependent on the emotional validation of each other in close quarters all the time.
12) You are able to discuss the future with your partner without pressure
Discussions of the future don’t have to be full of drama and pressure!
They can be a practical and hopeful way to discuss what’s coming next and what both of you have planned.
There may be overlap or divergences in what you want to do, but if you and your partner are comfortable talking it over then your relationship is strong.
If you and your partner can discuss the future without feeling pressured or upset, it’s a sign that your relationship is definitely on the right track.
Being in a relationship vs. being single
Social science data shows that being in a loving relationship (or friendship) is generally better for your physical and mental health than a long-time being single.
Just on the physical side, for example, married men and women live longer on average than unmarried men and women.
That said, research also consistently demonstrates that being single long-term is better for your emotional and mental health than being in a toxic or unhealthy relationship.
Ultimately it’s about what kind of relationship you’re in, not only with somebody else but with yourself.
If the signs above ring true, your relationship is thriving and mutually enriching, but if you find that a lot of the above points aren’t resonating, it may be a time to remain single until (and if) a more fulfilling and healthy opportunity presents itself.
“Being in a high-quality romantic relationship is associated with greater well-being, according to a study from 2019,” explains Migala.
“But being single was far better for someone’s well-being than being in a less happy partnership, the study found.”