wellness

"You keep your identities separate." 8 signs you're in the right relationship.

When it comes to relationships, we spend a whole lotta time talking about red flags, don't we? Those kind of intuitive indicators you should never ignore when it comes to dating someone.

But how often do we talk about *checks notes*... green flags? You know - the good stuff that means you're with the right kinda person?

Approximately NEVER, you guys. Why is that?

Watch: Watch Kylie Jenner quiz Travis Scott about their relationship. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Whether you've been in a relationship for yonks or in the midst of a pandemic love story and about to enter the world together IRL - there really couldn't be a better time to check in with yourself. 

To stop and reflect on how certain behaviours in your relationship impact you and make you feel. If the person you're dating really is... ✨the one✨.

So, we hit up psychotherapist and couples counsellor Lissy Abrahams and asked her to tell us the most common signs of a healthy relationship.

Get your notepad out, friend. We're doing a big ol' listicle.

1. You balance each other's needs.

Whether or not you and your partner share the same goals and interests, Abrahams said couples that balance each other's individual needs and see the relationship as a team, are in the green zone. 

"In less happy relationships, partners lose a sense of being a team and become competitors in their day-to-day lives, especially if there is a lot of conflict," she shares.

"Happy couples have a secure sense that they are both working in the best interests of the team." 

This means that both teammates will support each other to be as individually happy, well and fulfilled as possible, said Abrahams.

"They understand that for the team to be happy, the two individuals in it need to be happy too. They celebrate each other’s wins and are generous with time, empathy, and attention," she says.

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Image: Getty

"At the same time, they work together for the greater good of their team, such as keeping their eye on how much money they spend and how much time they have together as a couple."

Which team player are you?

It's important to remember that when working as part of a group, everyone often has different strengths and abilities - something a happy couple will use to their advantage in order to flourish. 

Think of it like a sport - you can't play every position at once.

"They work with the tension that is always there in couple relationships – balancing couple needs and desires with those of both partner's individual needs and desires.

"They understand that these three entities (two partners and one couple relationship) all need to flourish to be happy together."

2. You communicate respectfully.

If there's one thing we know, it's how important communication is to developing a healthy relationship.

"Happy couples understand their partner is different from them and will have different opinions, thoughts, behaviours, or viewpoints," Abrahams says.

"They see their partner as interesting, and they are often curious about their partner’s ideas. They listen (as opposed to pretending to listen) and are non-judgmental. They are grateful to their partner for their contributions and helpful or kind gestures they make and thank each other for them." 

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It's critical that both parties feel like they can be super open and honest in this area, and be able to feel comfortable discussing all kinds of matters.

"Happy couples are not critical or rejecting. They apologise when they are out of line or have hurt their partner. All of this allows the partners to safely speak their minds, unlike less happy couples who shoot each other’s ideas down, don’t listen as it feels threatening, or are judgmental."

3. You can bounce off each other.

If you regularly take innocent jabs at one another, join the club. But there is a difference between playfulness and dismissiveness.

"Unhappy couples show each other how displeased, hurt, resentful or frustrated they are with their relationship and each other quite frequently," Abrahams says.

"They use strategies to cut the links between them, such as they push back, dismiss or reject their partner’s ideas." 

Abrahams said to picture this as a pair of scissors cutting the link between two minds. 

Not good.

"Happy couples allow their partner’s ideas, opinions, and suggestions to be considered. They share ideas and bounce them back and forth between them."

"They love discussing, creating projects, and even planning things in the future together. They can join their partner with a full range of experiences from laughter and playfulness to being empathic when needed."

4. You have boundaries.

All healthy relationships will understand that boundaries are important in order to keep each other protected.

According to Abrahams, boundaries can be divided into two important parts:

  1. Happy couples don’t need to tell everyone the ins and outs of their lives.
    "They are more private as they understand the difference between private and public information. They also keep their partner’s vulnerabilities and more fragile parts protected from others."

  2. They have sexual boundaries.
    "They are faithful, don’t flirt or step over a line that would be disrespectful for their partner and the relationship."

5. You say "yes" to each other more than "no".

In the early days of a relationship, you're usually both "yes" people - doing everything you can to make it clear you're both pretty into each other.

However, like other things, this level of effort can fall to the wayside as things progress. More often than not, couples can end up wondering if the other person really... cares.

"Happy couples understand that when a partner invites them for lunch or a walk or to have sex, that these are gifts in the relationship. Their partner is offering the relationship opportunities to connect and have a space just for two."

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"Happy couples understand that when they say yes to these opportunities, it creates space for emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy. They understand that such intimacy is a special glue that holds them together and offers a buffer to protect against harder times," explains Abrahams. 

"When couples I see in therapy say 'no' to each other frequently, I encourage them to watch Jim Carrey’s film Yes Man to show how life-enhancing a yes position is. Frequently saying 'no' to our partner destroys links between us and the opportunity for connection."

6. You can depend on each other.

The importance of trust is huge. Major. Without this, a relationship can't function - you really can't be comfortable if you don't have faith in your SO.

"Happy couples offer each other care, protection and the ability to depend on each other," says Abrahams.

She adds that both partners should be able to move between feeling strong, dependable and containing positions for their partner, to being more vulnerable and seeking support from their partner. It really needs to be a balancing act.

"Neither partner is locked permanently into 'the carer' role or 'the cared for' role. They move flexibly between these positions when needed."

7. You keep your identities separate.

This is a big one. Abrahams said one of the most critical things in a healthy relationship is that a couple keeps their individuality.

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"Way back when we met our partner, they had their own identity and engaged in many aspects of their life. We liked this about them and were attracted to who they were as a stand-alone individual.

"They were interesting, funny, clever, sexy, or had life experience in ways that we enjoyed. We chose to remain with this individual because out of all the other possible people on the planet to partner with, we believed this individual was the best for us."

Remember those days?

Abrahams said as we start dating, we obviously start to make room for each other in our lives and prioritise this. 

Read: That friend who gets into a relationship and you feel like you never see them again.

"We gave up aspects of our individual identities for this relationship, like not seeing certain friends anymore, less time for hobbies, ditching plans to live overseas, or delaying a career choice," she says.

"When we committed even more and lived together, maybe even had children, the stakes got higher, and we had less time for our individual desires to flourish. We all become more responsible to the couple or family unit, with more demands on our minds, time and freedom."

And in the process, you kinda just... lose yourself.

"In relationships we often lose sight of our own identity and what makes us happy as an individual. I see many clients where they feel flat or even depressed at this loss.

"We need to keep finding time and space for both our own and our partner’s individual identity to be expressed. We can easily lose sight of what makes our heart sing. We may think it is selfish. It’s not, it’s life enhancing. We may not be able to engage in everything we used to, but we all have individual hopes and desires for our time on earth."

Abrahams said that for some it can be reconnecting with old friends, picking up an instrument again, pursuing further study, picking up other hobbies, and more. 

"We need to make time in our relationships for, 'I'm doing more of me' and 'you do more of you'. Relationships are a marathon not a sprint. We need to refuel and hydrate ourselves in a way that is meaningful for each of us along the way."

Hear, hear.

8. You work through difficulties together.

"Happy couples know that when there are difficulties, they need to work through them and not sweep issues under the rug," says Abrahams.

"They know that life is not all rosy and there will be happier times and other times where life will be stressful. They are resourceful in how they work through difficulties."

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Two people who are in a healthy relationship should be able to have those difficult conversations about difficult things and be able to work through them - even if it means bringing in an extra mind or a set of ears.

"They may look for help online (courses, blogs, chat groups), read books, or even go seek help from wise family, friends, or a therapist. I see these couples who only need a few sessions to sort out an issue. They don't let things fester," she says.

Image: Getty

"Less happy couples take longer to seek help and many end up living with upset and anxiety for years before seeking help. Couples take on average six years to see a couples therapist."

Six. Years.

"That’s soul destroying for many couples, as well as any children at home. Take a leaf out of the happy couples experience and get help as soon as possible."

If you're looking for help in improving your communication with your partner, Abrahams has a free e-book available here.

Could you relate to any of the above? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Feature Image: Getty.

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