The right relationship should be smooth sailing from the get go. If it takes a lot of work, that’s a sign it might be time to call it quits. If he or she feels like a friend, it's worth your while to keep working on it. Some people say that when they met their partner, they knew he or she was the one. But for the rest of us, figuring out whether the relationship we’re in is right can be a little bit trickier.
We may be madly in love with our partner but never feel like we can be ourselves around them. Or everything might seem perfect, on paper. Maybe we have common life goals and interests and come from the same backgrounds, but when it comes down to it, the passion just isn’t there.
How do you know if a relationship is worth investing in? Love Matters asked relationship expert Dr Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington. The celebrity professor shared tips from her research on extremely happy couples around the world and advice on how to know if your relationship is a keeper.
LM: What makes adolescents extremely happy in a relationship?
Dr PS: I think the basis of any happiness is liking yourself. And it’s a lot harder to like yourself when you’re young – all you see are your imperfections, all you see is what seems intimidating or better in other people than in yourself. It’s a rare young person who says, “I’m wonderful and I know it.”
LM: What are the most important things happy couples do?
Dr PS: The affectionate behaviours really matter, the small ones, saying, “I love you”, the compliments, saying, “you’re pretty”, “you’re handsome”, the cuddling, putting your arm around, just holding hands, even if you can only do it in private. All those little things are really important in terms of happiness in a good relationship.
And talking about things, feeling free to say what’s really on your mind. The extent that you can talk about your feelings and the other person likes that, even if it’s to say, “I don’t know how I feel about this,” just to be honest like that. I think that’s really, really important.
LM: Do you have any advice on how to keep a relationship going?
Dr PS: I would say if you can’t keep it going easily, it’s not worth it. A relationship shouldn’t feel like you’re pushing it uphill, that you’re always doing a dance of one sort or another. Is this good enough? Is that good enough? Did I say the right thing? The right relationship is pretty easy, that’s why it’s right.
So if somebody is critical of you, or if you never know from one day to another if they care about you, this is a good sign to get out of there. You want somebody who feels just like you do, that it’s a good thing to be with you. So if you are working hard, that’s your signal not to be there.
The lucky people will have a boyfriend or a girlfriend that’s a true friend, and they can talk to them and won’t want to hurt them. If someone doesn’t care about the consequences of their actions towards you, male or female, that’s not your friend.
I think the easy guideline is to ask, “Would I do this to a friend? Would a friend do this to me?” If it doesn’t fit those guidelines, it’s not a good relationship. If it does, that’s one to invest in and to deepen.