As a mediator and collaborative divorce practitioner, I’ve unfortunately seen more than my fair share of unhealthy relationships. Perhaps that’s why it always mystifies me that relationship advice more often focuses on negatives like spotting the red flags when simply the absence of them doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found Mr./Ms. Right. So instead, let’s focus on positives like how to know if you are in a healthy relationship. Here are my ‘green flags’ to help you decide this summer.
Green Flags for Healthy Relationships
For most of us, a major life goal is to be in a happy, healthy relationship. So, it seems counterintuitive to focus on red flags. Not to say you should ignore them – at all – but the negative mindset that may come from always being on the lookout for them could do more harm than good. In my experience, these ‘green flags’ are a better way to determine if you’re on the right path:
- You’re Comfortable Expressing Yourself – About anything and everything. Sure, some topics may give you more pause before opening the discussion, but you should never have to fear your significant other’s response. If you respect each other’s opinions, even when they differ, that’s key.
- You’re Still Able to Be You – Becoming a ‘couple’ doesn’t mean you have to morph into one entity. Being comfortable giving each other the space to grow as individuals, to have your own space and to pursue different interests without feeling the need to change yourself to suit the other person is a wonderful thing. It can actually bring you closer.
- You Trust Each Other – This goes without saying, but trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. Yes, each person may bring baggage and/or trauma into the relationship that could cause the trust to take longer to earn, but once it’s there; you can each enjoy the vulnerability and freedom you deserve.
- You Meet in the Middle – This is really twofold. First, you and your significant other share common interests, values and goals (again not to the point where you diminish your own identity). Second, in those areas in which you differ, you are able to compromise with each other in a way that’s mindful of both your needs.
- You Can Let It Go – Cue Elsa’s beautiful rendition, but it’s true, sometimes you just have to pick your battles. There’s no reason to be a pushover, but not feeling compelled to hang on to every grievance to use to your advantage later is a great sign. As is the fact that you enjoy each other’s company more than you enjoy arguing with each other.
- You Support Each Other – This is similar to number two, but beyond just giving each other the space to pursue your dreams, you actively support and encourage each other to do so. No matter how boring you might find your significant other’s pursuits to be (we won’t tell)! What’s more, you’re not threatened by each other’s success.
- You Accept Each Other – Everyone has a past and it’s really hard to build a relationship in the present, and for the future, if you can’t accept the one your significant other has. Yes, it may be different from your experience or the decisions you would have made, but it’s what made them who they are today.
- You Make the Effort – Or more specifically, both of you do. And it doesn’t have to be a big romantic gesture (although every now and then wouldn’t hurt), but rather making time for each other, doing little things to show you care; and keep flirting with each other for goodness sake! It makes a huge difference in keeping the connection strong.
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