What’s your idea of a great relationship? Do you think of an intense romance complete with dramatic gestures, like this one?
Do you fantasize about finding a preordained “soulmate”?
Maybe you know two people who you think of as “the perfect couple” and wish you could have what they appear to have.
But what’s the actual reality of “true love” and strong relationships? This can be especially hard to know when you’re younger and less experienced—though plenty of adults don’t have it figured out either. After all, we often see romantic love portrayed in unrealistic or confusing ways.
In real life, good relationships with strong foundations generally share many basic features. While you may not have thought about these qualities before, you might recognize that couples you admire live and breathe them!
So what behaviors are we talking about? In a healthy relationship, couples…
Can you talk to each other about tough issues and share your real feelings?
If one of you does a great job on something or gets good news, does your partner share in your excitement?
If one of you asks the other not to do something, or if someone is unavailable, does your partner respect that?
When someone chooses to hang out with friends or be with family, is the other partner supportive?
When there’s a problem, can you work things through without screaming, name-calling, threats, or emotional or physical violence?
Do the two of you spend quality time with one another having fun in light-hearted ways?
Does anyone say things like, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t..” or try to forbid the other person from doing certain things or seeing certain people? (If so, that’s a danger sign!)
Do you frequently compliment each other and say loving and positive things to one another?
Do either of you tend to get jealous and upset about the other person talking to or spending time with other people? (Red flag!)
Do you know what your partner’s hopes and dreams are? Do you support one another as you each pursue your interests and goals?
If one of you needs help or support, will the other person be there for them, even when it may be difficult?
Do you feel physically and emotionally at ease with each other, knowing that there is no danger?
Do both of you encourage each other to meet goals and achieve in school, work, and other pursuits?
Of course, not every good relationship will have all these strengths at all times, but that’s usually okay (unless there is abuse). Remember, though, all of us deserve to experience a partnership that embodies most of these qualities. Though it may take time, effort, and patience, it’s definitely worth it.
Looking for more ways to connect and get closer with your partner? Heading for marriage but want to make sure you're as prepared as possible? The SMART Couples project is offering ELEVATE, a fun, FREE, research-backed relationship enhancement class for couples, and Before You Tie the Knot, a fun, FREE, research-backed premarital preparation class, in Florida counties across the state. Sign up today!
By Carol Church, lead writer, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida
Girlshealth.gov. (2015). Healthy relationships. Retrieved from http://www.girlshealth.gov/relationships/healthy/index.html
Harris, V. W. What is a healthy dating or marriage relationship? (2013). Retrieved from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1361
Healthychildren.org. (2015). Expect respect: Healthy relationships. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/Pages/Expect-Respect-Healthy-Relationships.aspx
Loveisrespect.org. (2013). Dating basics: What should I look for in a partner? Retrieved from http://www.loveisrespect.org/dating-basics/what-should-i-look-for-in-partner/
TeensHealth. Am I in a healthy relationship? (2016). Retrieved from http://teenshealth.org/teen/your_mind/relationships/healthy_relationship.html
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