Toxic romances are all too common. For every woman in a healthy relationship, it seems like there are three others stuck in dysfunctional patterns with partners, dating, and sex. It’s harder than you might think to steer clear of relationship killers like cheating, emotional abuse, or sexual issues. Considering these challenges, it’s no wonder we sometimes lose sight of some of the basic qualities everyone deserves in a happy, healthy relationship.
Regardless of your personal history or preferences, there are a few things every woman deserves in a positive partnership—especially if you’re hoping to go the distance with him or her. Here’s a quick reminder of nine such building blocks.
Sadly, love just isn’t enough when you’re on the other end of an emotionally stonewalling partner. Every relationship needs good, consistent communication. If you can’t learn how to share and communicate your feelings and needs effectively, don’t expect this relationship to survive, let alone thrive.
Even if you’re in an open relationship, you can and should expect your partner to show you emotional loyalty, and vice versa. For instance, if your S.O.’s family or friends make you uncomfortable at any point, he or she should stand up for you and make you feel safe and protected. Sexual faithfulness is also part of this, provided you’ve talked about and agreed to monogamy.
Of course, some of the physical fire might dissipate over time, but if you’re in a long-term committed relationship, it’s important to find ways to keep the spark alive. And if your relationship is less than a year old and you can already feel things dulling in the bedroom, that’s a huge red flag. This is the honeymoon period; if you’re not dying to jump each other’s bones right now, you can bet you won’t be in five or 10 years—so get out now and find someone you do feel that way about.
A partnership that’s riddled with anxiety about cheating, fears of disloyalty, or other accusations is hardly a relationship at all. If you find that you’re always questioning things your S.O. says, fighting the urge to snoop (almost always a no-no), or constantly fending off his or her paranoia, it’s time to get therapy or move on. Healthy partnerships mean giving your S.O. the benefit of the doubt 99 percent of the time—your motto should be “innocent until proven guilty,” and not the reverse.
When the chips are down, you want to know that you can rely on your partner to be there for you, both physically and emotionally. On an everyday basis, you want to know that you can reach your S.O., that he or she isn’t playing games or creating unnecessary drama. Functional relationships mean being able to count on each other: It’s called healthy interdependence (versus codependence).
Of course, while you want a relationship that’s dependable and stable, you also want plenty of lightness and laughter to even out life’s many heavy moments. The best relationships include a balance of fun and seriousness, and allow each partner to tap into both sides of his or her personality. This ensures you’re bringing out the best in each other—and yourself.
Choosing to see the good in your partner has been proven to make relationships happier and longer-lasting. Negative, difficult moments will happen; fights are inevitable and necessary; and you won’t always be able to celebrate each others’ strengths—but that should be something you make a conscious effort to do on a daily basis. Thank each other for small gestures, express your appreciation and love for your partner, and chances are, you’ll get through the tough times a lot easier, and feeling stronger and closer.
Long-term relationships can’t exist in a vacuum. Just as you aren’t the same person you were five years ago, your relationship won’t be the same five years from now, and that’s a good thing. Change is inevitable, whether it means moving in together, getting married, having a kid, or dealing with one of life’s many other major moments and challenges. As long as you and your partner are both growing in the same direction, your relationship will evolve in a positive, productive way, too.
No matter what changes or challenges you and your partner face over the course of your relationship, one of the most important keys to staying together happily is how much you both care about and pitch in to maintain your connection. Putting in time to have honest talks, date nights, and hot sex is surprisingly hard as life goes on and gets busier—but it’s non-negotiable if you want to keep your relationship alive. If one person does this and the other doesn’t, it won’t work. You both need to do the work, pitching in equally, and the same applies to other areas outside your relationship: Household chores, childcare duties, financial responsibilities, and other unsexy logistics of life—both partners need to participate equally for things to work.