Much like visiting the doctor for regular checkups, taking inventory of our relationships from time to time is also important to ensure that everything is working as it should.
After all, healthy relationships are essential to our happiness and keeping track of their fitness can go a long way in preventing problems down the road.
What do good relationships with partners and spouses look like? The answer is tricky given that no two couples are alike so what works for one, may not hold true for another.
That said, there are some universal signs of a healthy relationship including basics like mutual love, trust and respect. Beyond that, we've asked relationship experts to identify other common characteristics.
According to Jaime Bronstein, licensed therapist and author of the book “MAN*ifesting,” a healthy relationship begins with a conversation.
“Collectively, as a couple, talk together, say, ‘What are our most important things?'" Bronstein tells TODAY.com, adding that healthy couples discuss lifestyle and financial goals, including money, children, spirituality, frequency of sex and other core values.
"Some couples are naturally aligned with these things," she explains. "If they're not, they make some compromises [because] they want to see the other person happy."
A healthy relationship also depends on each partner and their individual attachment style, says Julie Menanno, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of "The Secure Relationship."
"We need to feel validated, we need to feel wanted, we need to feel appreciated. We need to feel like our feelings aren’t too much for our partner," Menanno tells TODAY.com.
"But we have to be careful to understand that relationships are never going to be perfect," she adds, saying that it's the overall "climate" of the relationship that matters most.
So what are the signs of a healthy relationship? We asked Menanno and Bronstein to weigh in.
You're genuinely happy for each other
In general, partners in a healthy couple take joy in each other's happiness and success.
"The reason why it's so important is because in so many couples, they're almost in competition or there's jealousy or there's resentment," Bronstein says. "And those are all relationship killers."
Instead, Bronstein says that it's a "game-changer" when two people truly want each other to be happy.
"It does separate them from other couples," she says. "It gives them that 'it' factor."
Your relationship is thriving, not just surviving
A good relationship is one that evolves over time and isn't stuck in the same-old, same-old.
"This means that you are an active participant in the relationship," Bronstein says. "The relationship is growing. It's not just staying stagnant."
If you find yourself just "getting through the day," it could be a sign of trouble. "That's just surviving and that's not really living," Bronstein explains. "You want to be intentional about your relationship and grow together."
You enjoy new experiences together
There's a lot of truth to the old expression, "Couples that play together, stay together."
"Throughout the years, in terms of keeping up the relationship, that's what successful couples have — they experience new experiences together," says Bronstein.
Keeping things fresh can also contribute to a better sex life.
"The doing-new-things-together is so important because novel experiences increase our dopamine, which actually increases our testosterone, and women and men both have testosterone, so it increases your sexual desire for each other," she adds.
You're able to work through conflict
Disagreements happen in every relationship.
When things aren’t going well, Menanno says it's telling if partners make an effort to work things out.
"If someone’s in a relationship where they’re saying, 'Look, the climate of this relationship sucks, most of the time I don’t feel good, and I really don’t have a lot of hope that that’s ever going to change. I’m over here doing my side of the work and my partner really isn’t coming on board,' then that’s the point at which I would say, OK, this is a major, there’s no hope," Menanno says.
Couples willing to try and meet each other's needs as issues crop up, however, have a much better chance at success. But it's a process, which means for every step forward, expect to take a step back.
“This is going to be a back and forth process over the course of time," Menanno says.
You like each other
It's a given that you love each other. But do you like each other, too?
It may sound like a funny question, but it really isn't. Liking someone means that they're your person, friend and soulmate along with being your S.O.
"To me, that means that they enjoy each other's company," Bronstein says. "And not every couple does."
To help identify if someone is your "person," she offers the following checklist:
- You can’t imagine being with anyone else.
- They are your favorite person.
- You feel peace in your heart.
- They feel like “home."
- You feel alive in their presence.
- You love having fun together.
- You miss them when they are gone (for longer than a day or so).
You have a deep connection
Couples in a healthy relationship have a solid connection with one another. It's the sort of thing where you could finish each other's sentences or know what the other person is thinking without having to say it.
"This isn't just a surface level," Bronstein says. "These are people that feel some sort of energetic pull. It sounds cheesy, but it's so true. It's that feeling that you've known each other before and it's comfort, but it's not comfort in a boring way, it's comfort in a 'this feels like home' way."
You're comfortable being vulnerable
Being vulnerable isn't always easy. After all, you're opening yourself up to judgement, shame and other uncomfortable feelings.
Couples in healthy relationships aren't afraid to open up to their partner, according to Bronstein.
"The reason vulnerability is so important is it allows each person to be their authentic self," she says.
Vulnerability also builds empathy and the ability to work through emotions together rather than pushing them aside. In addition, when you're vulnerable, it subconsciously gives your partner permission to do the same, helping them ultimately feel less alone and more heard.
"And it's a sign of courage because you have to be brave to share who you are and how you're feeling," Bronstein says.
You're able to weather tough times
Couples who've been together for any length of time are likely to run into "ruptures," as Menanno calls them.
Some ruptures are normal things like snapping at your partner after a bad day. Some are more detrimental to a relationship.
"What's outside of the acceptable range is major breaches of trust and betrayal. And for each couple that can be different," Menanno says.
"The most common ones are going to be affairs, sometimes major substance abuse problems, major lies, someone's racking up tens of thousands of dollars worth of credit card debit."
In those instances, "it’s bigger stuff that’s going to take a healing process to get through." But Menanno stresses that couples aren't necessarily "doomed" as long as they're working on it.
You don't resent each other
It's normal for couples to get caught up in what Menanno calls "negative cycles" every now and again.
"They get into these feedback loops where the typical pattern is one partner will bring up a concern either in a critical, snarky way and the other partner starts to get either defensive or counter-blaming," Menanno says.
It can lead to the first partner feeling "unheard" or "invalidated," while the other partner feels defensive, escalating until someone essentially quits the argument.
"What happens is, is that’s not a repair. So, the original issue never gets really repaired or resolved because they get stuck in these negative cycles," Menanno explains. Over time, unresolved issues can build contempt or resentment.
According to Menanno, healthy couples work toward having fewer, less-intense negative cycles and are able to repair them more quickly.
"With that said, every couple will continue to have negative cycles from time to time because that’s just part of being human," she says.
You have a healthy sex life
A majority of happy couples have a healthy sex life, according to Bronstein.
"The thing about a healthy sex is that it really is bonding," she explains. "It's not just a physical thing, it's an emotional thing also. And these couples are attracted to each other. They desire each other, they're flirty with each other."
That said, there are plenty of reasons for an inactive sex life including different schedules, work, kids, health problems and other complicators.
"There are sexless marriages and people are in [those] relationships and people are happy in them," Bronstein adds.
Even if that's the case, Bronstein recommends, if possible, trying to "cultivate time for it, even if you have to put it on the schedule."