I’ve always envied those people who seem so deeply in love.
The way they talk about their other half as “the love of their life” or how they knew from the first moment they set eyes on them.
It all sounds so incredibly romantic, and all so, well…certain.
That’s never been me in relationships.
For years I wondered if maybe I hadn’t met “the one” yet. But I came to realize that I’m probably never going to feel that way because it’s just not who I am.
I’m not a person who idealizes life. I’m a realistic person, and that’s reflected in the connections I make.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt the butterflies and I’ve experienced the lovey-dovey highs. But I’ve also had plenty of questions and doubts too.
I think that’s perfectly normal in any long-term relationship. No matter how much we wish love was like in the fairy tales, that’s just not how it works in real life.
That’s why some uncertainty doesn’t mean you’re with the wrong person. As we’re about to see, being with the right person runs much deeper.
1) They bring far more good to your life than bad
Generally speaking, does your partner enrich your life?
That’s the question that we have to ask ourselves regularly.
We cannot expect every day to feel magical. There are always going to be difficult times in any relationship.
When you’re going through a hard time it can be all too easy to forget about all the good times.
Of course, we can’t reduce love to a mathematical equation. But I’m about to try.
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule of relationships?
It says that we shouldn’t expect to be happy or fulfilled 100% of the time in our relationships. Because we can’t get all our needs and wants met all of the time.
But if you feel content around 80% of the time, you’re probably in a healthy relationship.
As relationship expert Sloan Sheridan Williams explains:
“Anything that encourages balance in a relationship is always a positive step forward. The key to a healthy relationship is to raise your standards and lower your expectations. Lowering your expectations for 20% of the relationship will create enough flexibility to allow a relationship to continue and grow.”
The point is that sometimes we make ourselves unsatisfied from expecting far too much.
The problem isn’t the relationship, it’s that we demand too much from it.
2) You share a common vision for the future
Here’s a mistake I’ve made one too many times:
Ignoring important differences and hoping we would one day get on the same page.
Yet this wishful thinking never worked out.
If you want the same things in life, it’s so much easier to pull together.
Of course, that’s going to be difficult if one (or both) of you doesn’t really know what you want out of life yet.
I think that’s why many of my younger-year relationships didn’t make it. We were still evolving too much as individuals to commit to someone else.
Timing can certainly play a part.
When there is a big divide in your needs and wants, it’s much harder for both of you to get them met. So one person ends up sacrificing too much.
If you want marriage and kids, and they want to solo trek around the world, it’s going to cause a lot of friction eventually.
But if you share a vision for the future you can build that together. It provides motivation and common goals to work towards.
3) You are compatible and share similar values and beliefs about life
Maybe opposites do occasionally attract, but overwhelmingly the research suggests we like people who are similar to us.
You don’t have to be exactly alike. But it comes down to the ways in which you are different.
For example, my partner and I have many different qualities and tastes, but our deepest values and beliefs about the world are aligned.
This is the compatibility that counts.
So it doesn’t matter if you love Disney and they love horror. But it probably is going to matter if you value adventure above all else, whilst they value security more than anything.
You’re with the right person if overall you like, and even admire, who they are. Yet significantly, that doesn’t mean they have to be the “perfect” package.
As couples and sex therapist Kyle Benson highlights, we have to accept the bad with the good, no matter who we choose:
“Compatibility is really simple: All of us have imperfections. Every person we date has their own imperfections. The quality of a relationship is determined by people who have complementary imperfections or are willing to tolerate (even appreciate) those imperfections that cause incompatibilities.”
4) You’re able to open up to one another and say how you really feel
Whether you go the distance or not often rests on if you can communicate in effective ways.
Despite considering myself a communicative person, this has been yet another pitfall in previous relationships for me.
It’s tempting to sweep relationship problems under the rug, hoping that out of sight is out of mind. We can be weary of rocking the boat.
Or sometimes we lack the skills to be able to practice honest communication in healthy ways. We get defensive and angry, so it descends into a screaming match.
Unresolved issues silently turn to resentment behind the scenes.
No matter how much love exists, if you can’t find constructive ways to talk to one another, sooner or later it becomes impossible to live together.
Let’s face it, you’re not always going to get it right. None of us do.
But if at the very least you are both trying to welcome open and honest expression in your relationship, that’s key.
5) You treat one another with kindness and respect
With every passing year, the following quote feels more and more true to me:
“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
In many ways, kindness isn’t as sexy as some other qualities we may look for in a partner.
It’s humble and unassuming. All too often it can even be mistaken for weakness.
But whilst a bad boy can feel alluring in the short term, I know that in the long run, I want a kind man to spend my life with.
If you and your partner treat each other with decency, compassion, and respect you are already doing much better than a lot of couples out there.
These are the qualities that will nurture a stable and healthy connection over the years.
But if all of this so far sounds a bit boring, it isn’t. The final ingredient helps to keep those romantic feelings for one another alive.
6) You have fun together
You’re with the right person if you can still laugh, play, and enjoy each other’s company.
This helps to foster intimacy and brings you closer.
Sometimes couples stop having fun together, not because they’re incompatible but just because life got in the way.
Complacency can set in and we stop making an effort. We don’t invest the time and energy into our relationships and so they start to suffer as a consequence.
It’s a common problem and it can make you wonder where the spark went. But as we all know, any unattended fire is always going to go out. It’s down to us to fuel it.
That’s why it’s important to:
- Spend quality time together to reconnect
- Try out new experiences together
- Go to different places
Feeling a bit bored and restless doesn’t mean there is a fundamental problem with who you’re with.
It could be that you just need to devote more time to having fun together.
Love and relationships are choices we make
…And whenever we have a choice, we may have doubts.
I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m never going to be one of those people who feel 100% sure all the time. It’s just not part of my DNA. I’m a questioning person.
I can’t imagine there is anyone out there who would never annoy me at least some of the time. Because the truth is that I annoy myself a lot of the time.
Part of who we end up with comes down to factors out of our control. It is the chance encounters that put one person in front of us and not another.
Yet accepting our doubts means accepting that some things we may never know.
Could there be a fictional person out there in the world that is “more right” for you?
Maybe. In fact, statistically speaking, probably. But I also believe that thinking like that will only drive you crazy.
Instead, it’s important to look at what is already in front of us and appreciate what we have. That certainly doesn’t mean accepting a substandard relationship because it’s all you’ve got.
But if your relationship is ticking plenty of boxes and overall feels fulfilling, then we don’t need to sweat the doubts.
Because we don’t just find the right relationship for us by finding the right person.
We ultimately have to choose someone who is good for us and then create the right relationship by investing energy and effort into it.