9 Healthy Relationship Characteristics That Can Mean You'll Last The Test Of Time
What makes a relationship work for the long-term can seem pretty elusive, as though some couples get sprinkled with a magic "forever' dust, while others have a more rough go of standing the test of time. And if a long-term partnership is what you're looking for, having an idea of the traits of a lasting relationship is an important foundation in finding that. In reality, a relationship is more daily work, choice, and commitment than it is magic. Or at least equal parts, you know?
"An enduring relationship will ebb and flow over the years," Dea Dean, licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor tells Bustle. That means that within a lasting partnership, you will realize that it's not always going to be smooth sailing.
"Healthy partners expect issues, misunderstandings, anger, fear, and sadness," Dean says. "But they commit to challenging themselves and their loved one to be better, and continue growing. They work together through wounds from the past that can play out within their own relationship and dynamic."
Dean says it's important not to buy into the "fairy tale" of constant passion or infatuation. That's not what love is really about.
"Good long-term partners value finding their part in problems and working hard to better themselves and deepening their relationship," Dean says.
Below, take a look at which relationship traits are the ones that make a partnership go the distance.
1. Reciprocal Respect And Love
The love and energy you give to a relationship should be reciprocal.
"A relationship that will endure is built from a foundation of partnership," Dean says, and this means that partners both give and receive influence from one another and it is not one-sided.
That entails things like emotional support, and paying attention to the other person's needs. While there are certainly times when one partner might be needing more than the other, the playing field should remain fairly level.
"When one party believes they are contributing more than the other, they can easily become resentful, critical and withdrawn," Dean says. "When the other party believes they aren’t contributing equally, they can feel 'less-than' and their shame can be triggered and result in viewing the other as 'controlling or self righteous.'"
Dean says that partners can frequently “check-in” with one another and give non-judgmental feedback about how they can better help one another and find balance in negotiating responsibilities with finances, housework, and possibly children.
"The basic assumptions healthy partners choose to believe about one another are that they are inherently worthy of love, worthy of respect and worthy of being known," Dean says.
2. Giving Attention To Each Other's Daily Lives
Knowing what is going on in each other's lives is another sign of a relationship that is involved, committed, and full of respect. Whether it's your partner's moods, their projects at work, or what they are dreaming about for their future, be on top of what's going on. Ask, talk about it, and show up for the things that are important to them.
"Lasting love requires attention and connection and partners who prioritize time for one another feel more deeply known, and cared for," Dean says. "With the many stressors or work, family, friends and interests pulling on our daily time and attention, it can be easy to slide into 'autopilot.'"
But making time to show interest in your partners’ life demonstrates their importance and priority. Typically, you then receive it in return.
3. Treating Each Other With Kindness
So simple but so important. You want to be kind to each other above all else. It is the quality around which everything else in your relationship can operate.
"Kindness is more important than having your way, being in control, or being right," psychologist Dr. Margaret Paul, a bestselling author, and relationship expert, tells Bustle. The practice of being kind, patient, and caring with each other on the day-to-day is something you can both find joy in and is a basic necessity in a healthy, long-term union.
"Being kind rather than controlling with each other is essential for a healthy relationship," Paul says.
4. Spontaneous Warmth And Affection
In lasting partnerships you want to feel the love on a regular basis. So hug each other, say "I love you" often, cuddle, and smile at your partner from across the room.
Giving each other affection, and expressing warmth or "fullness of heart" for each other, Paul says, is an important pillar in maintaining a solid connection that really feels good to you both.
Paul says it is vital for a healthy relationship to express affection, and requires you to always be looking for the beauty in one another rather than the faults or what you feel might be lacking.
5. Having Fun Together
When the day is done, your partnership should be as much about having fun together as it is anything else. Because why commit so much time to someone if you can't have as many good times in an elevator as you can at Disneyland or a rock concert?
Paul says that you want to be able to laugh and play together, appreciate and enjoy each other's sense of humor, and in the midst of difficulties, help each other to lighten up playfully.
"Laughter and fun play a huge role in a healthy relationship," Paul says. Part of a solid adult partnership is actually letting yourself be kids together.
6. Enjoying Time Apart
A huge part of being in a lasting partnership? Being your own person. "It is important in a healthy relationship for each person to have friends and interests, so that they are not dependent on each other," Paul says. "Dependency is not healthy in a relationship."
You want to be fine and be able to enjoy your time and your interests when you are not together, even if you are each other's favorite person to be around. It makes you even more motivated to find time to spend with one another.
"Some couples spend a lot of time together because they really enjoy it, while others spend a lot of time together out of fear of being alone," Paul says. Having an independent life full of other friends and interests will only make your relationship deeper.
7. A Method For Conflict Resolution
Fights will happen. So it's important to learn how the two of you are best able to work through it when issues arise. Do you need to take time alone before you talk? Do you need to write out what's going on in a journal, or see a counselor together? Whatever works for you is great.
"All relationships have some conflict," Paul says. "It is not the conflict that is the issue, but how you deal with it."
Having a method for resolving conflict means that issues don't keep getting swept aside, Paul says. So learn together how each of you approaches issues, and how you can walk back from them together.
"In healthy relationships, both partners are able to quickly move on, back into kindness and affection," Paul says, especially when it comes to the small stuff that can sometimes seem to add up. The more you can practice putting conflict resolution in place, the more easily you can weather whatever it is that comes up.
8. Feeling The Freedom To Be Yourself
"While some people may naturally be open, kind, affectionate, accepting, and emotionally responsible for themselves, most people need to heal the fears and false beliefs they learned in their families," Paul says.
It can be hard to feel like you're able to be your authentic, vulnerable, unedited self around someone else. That is going to be a work in progress, but a good relationship will help support you in doing that work. It provides a safe space for you to feel free.
"Healthy relationships evolve as each person evolves in [their] ability to be loving to themselves and each other," Paul says.
9. Being Friends Above All Else
Being good friends is always going to be the baseline of your relationship, even when everything else seems like it's not working, counselor Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, LPCS, tells Bustle.
"It's all about communication, being able to laugh with and at each other, and allowing each other space to breathe," Holland-Kornegay says.
While it might seem like a lot to ask for or consider, taking your love day by day, and keeping each other's best interests at heart will always prove successful.
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