If you could describe your relationship in one word, what would it be? In the early stages of a relationship, you're probably more likely to use adjectives like "fun", "sexy", or "exciting". In the worst case scenarios, it's probably "dramatic". But the happiest couples will describe their relationship in a similar way. In a study of 200 couples, most happy couples would describe their relationship as "comfortable".
After covering love and relationships for years, Ellen McCarthy, a Washington Post features writer, put together everything she's learned in The Real Thing: Lessons on Love And Life from A Wedding Reporter's Notebook. For one particular insight, McCarthy interviewed 200 couples and found that about 70 to 80 percent of them mentioned how comfortable they were with each other. Some even used words like "easy," "effortless," and "natural" to essentially describe the same idea.
But McCarthy found "comfortable" may be a common way to describe a relationship, but many don't really like to use it. In fact, many times when people used the word, they'd immediately apologize for sounding like they're settling.
Now I totally get that "comfortable" doesn't exactly have the same effect as "passionate" or "sexy." But is comfort really settling? Here's what experts think:
No, Comfort Is NOT Settling
"There is a direct correlation between your level of comfort and your intuition about a person," Megan Weks, international dating and relationship expert tells Bustle. "If there is merely attraction, it can be triggered by the lack of comfort. There needs to be a certain level of comfort and a level of attraction for the relationship to succeed over time."
Comfort can actually be interpreted in different ways, Weks says. "When you're with a person where you feel fully accepted and seen, there is a level of comfort frequently described as feeling at home," she says. "It’s effortless when your values are so in-line that you simply agree on many things from political issues to food choices. This is effortless. Opposites might attract but they may drive each other crazy in the long run."
Comfort And Attraction Are Not Mutually Exclusive
Just because you're comfortable with your partner., it doesn't mean your relationship is boring. You can feel comfortable with someone and be super attracted to them. In fact, Welks says some of the most exciting sex occurs when the relationship has a high level of both attraction and comfort.
"The secret to keeping things spicy in the relationship is to maintain a level of sexual tension or what I call 'sexual velocity,'" she says. "One way this can be done is by remaining curious and playful with one another."
How To Know When You're Comfortable
Welks says a good test to know if you feel comfortable with your partner is this: Can you sit in silence together without filling up space with meaningless or nervous talk? "Do you feel safe and understood? If so, there is a good level of comfort established," she says. "It’s ideal if this is naturally present or built early into the relationship."
Comfort tends to be one of those underrated qualities we look for in a relationship. It's actually something many don't look for until they realize it's missing — it's not settling. It's that feeling of 'home.' So if you want a good, meaningful relationship, you should look for that feeling of home.