Rosemary Donahue
March 04, 2016 9:45 am
NBC

When I met my boyfriend, I’d come off of a string of bad relationships and I was hesitant to dip my toe back in the dating waters so soon. However, we were friends first, and our connection was too good to pass up. We knew we communicated well, and communication is key in any good relationship, so we decided to give it a try. Now, a year later, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create a healthy, balanced relationship. Here are some of the signs that you’re on the right track:

You address things as they happen, but aren’t afraid to give space when necessary.

When something is bothering you, you don’t let it fester — you address your worries immediately, and squash your issues. Often, when grievances build up, they come out all at once, and someone not taking the trash out can turn into a blowout wherein you’re arguing over months of hurts. On the flipside, I’ve never really been a fan of that phrase, “Don’t go to bed angry.” Sometimes, that advice just leads to sleepless nights, arguing until the sun comes up. It’s often better to let things breathe and talk over your differences when you’ve had some distance — I used to employ this tactic with an ex, simply because I was so scared he would leave in the middle of the night if we hadn’t resolved things. That’s not super healthy, either. When it comes to disagreements and tension, it’s always best to read yourself and your partner, and try to assess how much you two can handle for the time being — if all else fails, you can just ask.

You enjoy spending time together and share common interests, but you also have hobbies you enjoy independently.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that you and your partner should want to spend time together. Likely, what brought you together is a love of some shared interests and activities, either that the two of you do together or with a group of friends. But at the same time, you also need separate lives and hobbies that you can enjoy independently. It’s so much fun to come back to your partner and talk about your day, or tell them about something new you discovered that you can either share with them or that they might never understand. It’s even fun for them to have something new to roll their eyes at you about — trust me.

You make each other want to become better people, but only because you love each other — not because you feel you wouldn’t be loved if you didn’t change.

Often, you hear people say that their partner makes them become a “better person.” This is great and wonderful — it often means that they feel they want to do good things for the person they love, that they want to make them proud. It can be a double-edged sword, though, if it tips into the territory where you’re trying to change who you are to please your partner. It’s great to want to grow together, but it shouldn’t be because you feel the other person will leave you if you don’t.

You think highly of each other and build confidence, but your identity isn’t found solely in the other person’s opinion of you.

I’ll admit that in past relationships, I felt like I’d be completely lost if my significant other broke up with me. It wasn’t because these relationships were particularly special, rather it was because we had bought into “other half” rhetoric. We had melded identities, and moving forward, I promised myself I’d never do that again. While I’d be very sad to lose the partnership I’m currently in, my life as I know it wouldn’t be devastated, and neither would his — that’s not because I’m not deeply in love, it’s because we’ve built each other up in such a way that we know we’re both smart, capable people. We think the world of each other and tell each other so all the time, but those opinions are not dependent on our relationship status; we’d think the same thing about each other even if we were just friends, and in fact, we did. Your relationship should ideally build you up in such a way that you become your own formidable structure — not in a way that you would crumble without it.

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