Famous Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote that the best definition of humans is the “ungrateful biped.”
It’s a characteristically gloomy assessment from a writer with plenty of personal demons, but there’s certainly some truth to it. The human ability to take things for granted can be astonishing.
That’s as true of our romantic relationships as it is of everything else.
Like houseplants, relationships need constant nurturing, but it’s easy to forget what you have when you see it every day.
That’s why you may not even realize just how strong your relationship is.
Still, some subtle signs can show your relationship is strong. Here are some of the telltale hallmarks of a good relationship.
1) You cheer for each other
Even the strongest and most independent of us can benefit from having a cheer squad. And people in strong relationships take genuine joy in their partner’s achievements.
A 2006 study found that sharing news of successes with a partner and having them respond positively was a good predictor of relationship well-being and longevity.
Think about it..
If someone is genuinely happy when you succeed, they see your success as being as important as their own. If your partner genuinely enjoys seeing you achieve goals, it’s a good sign they are a keeper.
2) You support each other
In some relationships, partners support one another financially, but that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about here.
Instead, this is linked to the point above about cheering for each other’s success.
A good partner in a strong relationship will support you in what you want to do.
That doesn’t mean they will agree with everything, but it does mean that they have your back no matter what.
Whether it’s encouraging you to go after that promotion or start a business, defending you from the criticisms of family and friends, or just being there to listen to your vent after a bad day, being supported by your partner is one of the best feelings a relationship has to offer.
3) You are capable of spending time apart
On the other hand, no one can be everything for anyone. While a loving and supportive partner is a huge factor in living a happy life, you need to remember that you are still separate people.
If you rely on your partner for all your emotional needs, you may be in a dangerously codependent relationship.
A strong relationship is one where both partners feel able to spend some time alone. Like when my wife travels back to the country she was born in every year to visit family, often leaving me behind. Or when I go hiking while she stays at home.
Ultimately, none of us want to be with someone because they need us or we need them. Instead, a strong relationship is based on people wanting to be together, not needing to be.
4) You spend time together
Alone time is important, especially for introverts.
At the same time, if you don’t enjoy spending time with your significant other, it’s a sign your relationship isn’t as strong as it should be.
Spending time with your partner should be a pleasure, not a chore.
People in strong relationships continue to strengthen their bond by sharing their time together, whether it’s watching a film at night or going on vacation in the summer.
5) You make each other laugh
A sense of humor is often listed as one of the top things people look for in a romantic partner.
There’s a good reason for that.
According to professor of communication studies Jeffrey Hall, “shared laughter is an important indicator of romantic attraction between potential mates.”
It’s also a good indicator of a relationship that is going to last.
You don’t need to constantly crack jokes to keep your partner happy. It’s enough that the two of you have a similar sense of humor so that you can find laughter in the same things.
6) You try new things
One way to guard against the tendency to take one another for granted is to try new things together.
This doesn’t necessarily mean in the bedroom – though it can, if you’re into that.
But seeking out new experiences to share with your partner is a powerful way to keep your relationship strong.
If you and your partner often try new things together, whether it’s a dance class, a trip somewhere you’ve never been, or a new recipe, it’s a good sign you have an unusually strong relationship.
7) You share household chores
As much as it pains me to admit it, I’m talking primarily to the guys here.
That’s because studies show that women continue to do more housework than men, although the gap has been closing for decades.
You don’t have to track every minute you spend doing housework and ensure it’s completely equal. After all, we all have different skills and preferences when it comes to chores.
What’s important is to make sure that no one partner feels that they do far more work than the other.
I almost never cook, because I’m not great at it. And I never grocery shop because I hate it. My wife handles those chores almost completely by herself.
On the other hand, I do all the dishes, and we split the laundry 50-50. I also do all the DIY work around the house. I do all the vacuuming, and she does all the dusting.
It’s an arrangement that works for us. Your skills may be different.
What’s important is to make sure that all parties are happy with the amount of work they are doing.
If you have that, it’s a good sign you’re in a strong relationship.
8) You fight fair – and always make up
Fights happen. But when they do, it’s important to make sure you fight fair.
- you don’t hold a grudge afterward
- you don’t attack your partner’s character
- you keep the argument to the issues at hand
- you don’t try to ‘win’ the argument
- you don’t put words in their mouth
- you attack the problem, not the person
Following these rules can keep the fight from sprawling into something much uglier.
And it’s equally important to make sure you make up after your fight. If you make sure your partner knows you still love them even after a disagreement, it’s a good sign you have a strong relationship.
9) You share similar goals
A relationship is a journey that may last the rest of your life. That’s why it’s important to make sure the two of you are on the same page with what you want out of life.
Do you want to live on a farm or in the city? Do you want a big family with lots of kids, or would you rather stay childless? Do you want pets, and if so, what kind? What do you want to do for a living?
It may not be possible to agree with your partner on everything. But it’s important that you both have similar or least compatible goals.
If you do, you probably have a strong relationship, too.
10) You appreciate each other
Feeling appreciated is a key part of feeling good. As Dr. John Amodeo writes, feeling appreciated in a relationship helps us:
- feel valued
- feel seen
- feel liked
- feel connected
- have a sense of meaning in our lives
If you and your partner take the trouble to make sure you each feel appreciated – whether it’s praising them for a major success at work or something small like thanking them for dinner – chances are good your relationship is a strong one.
11) You accept each other
We all have our flaws. And living in the world never fails to remind us of them.
Our romantic relationships provide a safe place where we can be accepted for who we are, with all our flaws and faults.
That doesn’t mean you pretend each other is perfect or don’t encourage one another to grow.
It just means that you don’t demand perfection.
12) You are intimate
Intimacy is crucial to a romantic relationship. And it can take many different forms.
Sexual intimacy is key to a fulfilling relationship. But it should also be accompanied by emotional and intellectual intimacy.
If you share everything you are with your partner, and they do the same for you, you almost certainly have a strong relationship.
The power of a strong relationship
There’s an old joke about fish not knowing what water is because they swim in it all the time.
The same is true of a strong relationship. When you are in one, especially if you have been for years, you forget what it’s like to be any other way.
But if you have these signs in your relationship, chances are it’s a strong one.
Keep up the good work!