Think Your Relationship Is Healthy? Let's See What the Experts Say
Plus, learn about the red flags to watch out for.
You've think you've finally found the one who will listen to you vent about your obnoxious boss or will rub your feet after you've had a long, exhausting day. But even when your relationship looks pretty on point from the outside (and inside), science says it may not be all it's choked up to be…or it could be even more than you bargained for.
According to Wendi L. Dumbroff, a licensed professional counselor, there is no "one truth" about what makes a healthy relationship. "What is good for Sue and Joe, may not be what works for Ashley and Sean, or Kevin and Phil, or Shannon and Jasmine," she says. "Every couple needs to negotiate the boundaries of their relationship." That being said, there are clear red flags that a relationship may be headed for its demise, like constant fighting and disrespecting one another. Studies also help experts determine which behaviors may be surprisingly beneficial for a relationship. We took to the experts to find out which signs say that your relationship is happy, healthy, and ready for the long haul, plus any signals that could be red flags for the future.
Healthy sign: You're both positive.
A group of researchers from the University of Chicago found analyzed couples and found that when just one partner has a positive outlook, there's less conflict in the relationship. In other words, pick your battles wisely. Another study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the way couples react to each other's good news is crucial in forming lasting and strong bonds. In other words, if your partner responds with mean jabs or sarcasm when you're excited about something, it could be a sign that you're not meant to last.
Unhealthy sign: You're glued to your smartphones.
In this day and age, it can be hard to unplug-especially when our work and social lives feel contained inside your phone. But research shows that heavy texting is a reason why many men and women feel unsatisfied in their relationships. A study from Brigham Young University surveyed 276 young men and women in committed relationships and had them fill out relationship assessments that included a section about how technology. Sixty percent of those surveyed reported that texting had caused issues in their relationship. "Texting tends to be less about how you feel and more about what you're doing," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship. "Also, people have different availabilities in their day so the person who doesn't get as many replies might take it very personally if they don't get them. If the expectation is not matched by the reality, it can lead to disappointment and a feeling of disconnection."
Healthy sign: You show your love physically.
Sex shouldn't be the only occasion where the two of you exchange intimate physical touches. In fact, a study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy found that individuals who exchanged romantic gestures with their partner, like holding hands, cuddling, and kissing, are more satisfied in their romantic relationships than those who do not touch frequently. Bottom line: Even though life's daily stressors will get in the way, don't let them mask the love you have for each other.
Unhealthy sign: You threaten your relationship to get your way.
Fighting fair is so important for the survival of your relationship. "A partner who threatens divorce when he or she doesn't get their way, or walks out of the house after a fight threatens safety and commitment," explains Kathy McMahon, Psy.D. a clinical psychologist and President of Couples Therapy Inc. "Happy couples give each other the message that they are 'in it for the long haul' and that things like financial security or loss are secondary to the values their partner has inherently."
Healthy sign: You share many of the same values.
You might not agree on the same kind of music and you might not cheer for the same football team, but sharing the same core values is key to long-term relationship survival. Values such as your religion, lifestyle, and closeness with family matter in the long run, according to research. "This doesn't mean you and your partner are going to agree about everything (that probably never happens!), but it does mean you will listen and understand each other's thoughts and feelings about things, and be willing to make compromises," says Dumbroff.