(NEW BOOK ALERT: This post is a direct excerpt from the Boundaries & Expectations section of our forthcoming book, “1000 Little Habits of Happy, Successful Relationships“.)
It’s not always where you are in life, but who you have by your side that matters.
“How do I know if I’m in the right relationship or not?”
This is one of the most common questions our coaching clients ask us. And after Marc and I listen to the specifics of their situation, we often toss a question back at them to further clarify their thoughts and expectations. For instance:
“What do you think a “right relationship” should provide for the people in it?”
Although the answer here is obviously subjective, in all relationships, romantic and platonic alike, there are some clear signs that things are going well. So today, let’s take a look at some signs you’re in the “right relationship,” along with corresponding tips that could potentially help you make a “wrong relationship” right:
1. No games are being played.
Far too often, we make our relationships harder than they have to be. The difficulties started when… conversations became texting, feelings became subliminal, sex became a game, the word “love” fell out of context, trust faded as honesty waned, insecurities became a way of living, jealously became a habit, being hurt started to feel natural, and running away from it all became our solution. Stop running! Face these issues, fix the problems, communicate, appreciate, forgive and LOVE the people in your life who deserve it. And of course, if you feel like someone is playing games with you, speak up and establish some boundaries.
2. Everyone is on the same page.
If a woman starts out all casual with a man and she doesn’t tell him that she wants a committed relationship, it will likely never become a committed relationship. If you give someone the impression that casual, or whatever, is okay with you, that’s what will be assumed going forward. The bottom line is that you have to be straight from the start, or at least as soon as you know what you want. Don’t beat around the bush. If someone gets scared and runs away because you were honest and set boundaries, that person wasn’t right for you anyway.
3. The line of communication is open, honest, and clear.
It’s better to talk and find out the truth, than to keep going and get nowhere. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t expect the important people in your life to read your mind, and don’t play foolish games with their heads and hearts. Don’t tell half-truths and expect them to trust you when the full truth comes out – half-truths are no better than lies.
Listen without defending and speak without offending. Communication isn’t just an important part of a relationship, it is the relationship. Relationships often fail because of trust issues, commitment issues, and above all, communication issues. So be honest, commit, be clear about your expectations, and COMMUNICATE always.
4. Loving deeds consistently reinforce loving words.
Nurture your important relationships so that when you tell the people you love that you love them, it’s merely a ritualistic validation of what you have already shown them by how you treat them on a daily basis. Do little things every day to show your loved ones you care. Knowing that the person you’re thinking of has you on their mind, too, means a lot.
Truth be told, you can say “sorry” a thousand times, or say “I love you” as much as you want, but if you’re not going to prove that the things you say are true, they aren’t. If you can’t show it, your words are not sincere. It’s as simple as that. And there’s no such thing as a “right” relationship that isn’t sincere at both ends.
5. Expectations of perfection are strictly forbidden.
Any relationship that’s real will not be perfect, but if you’re willing to work at it and open up, it could be everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
Your best friends and your soul mate may be far from perfect, but they are a perfect fit for you. Give them a chance to show you. When you stop expecting the people you love to be a certain way, you can start to enjoy and appreciate them for who they are. It’s important to remember that every relationship has its problems, but what makes it perfect in the end is when you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, even when times are tough.
6. Honesty, vulnerability, and presence are held sacred.
Although it may sound risky, the strongest type of love is the one that makes you the most vulnerable. It’s about daring to reveal yourself honestly, and daring to be open and transparent over the long term. It’s about sticking by each other’s side through thick and thin, and truly being there in the flesh and spirit when you’re needed most.
So open yourself up. Truly be with the person you love. Allow yourself to experience them authentically. Tear down any emotional brick walls you have built around yourself and feel every exquisite emotion, both good and bad. This is real life. This is how you welcome a sincere connection with another human being.
7. There is a healthy blend of freedom and teamwork.
Keep in mind that we can’t force anyone to be with us or love us. We shouldn’t beg someone to stay when they want to leave. And likewise, we should never feel trapped in a relationship. In fact, if either person feels trapped, the relationship doesn’t really exist. Because that’s what relationships are all about: freedom.
Relationships are also built on a solid foundation of teamwork. And since relationships are one of the greatest vehicles of personal growth and happiness, the most important trip you will ever take in life is meeting someone else halfway. You will achieve far more by working with them, rather than by working alone or against them. It really is a full circle. The strength of a relationship depends on the strength of its two members, and the strength of each member in the long run depends on the quality of the relationship.
And remember, relationships are rarely fifty-fifty at any given instant in time. You can’t always feel 100%, or a full 50% of a relationship’s whole – life is simply too unpredictable for that. So on the days when you can give only 20 percent, the other person must give 80 percent, and vice versa. It’s never been about balancing steady in the middle; healthy relationships are about two people who are willing to make adjustments for each other in real time as needed, and give more when the other person can’t help but give a little less.
8. Personal growth is embraced, celebrated, and shared.
It’s not about finding someone to lose yourself in; it’s about meeting someone to find yourself in. When you connect with someone special, a best friend or a lifelong partner, this person helps you find the best in yourself. In this way, neither of you actually meet the best in each other; you both grow into your best selves by spending time together and nurturing each other’s growth.
When you honestly think about what you and your closest confidants add to each other’s lives, you will often find that instead of giving or taking things from each other (advice, answers, material gifts, etc.), you have chosen rather to share in each other’s joy and pain, and experience life together through good times and bad. No matter what, you two are there for each other, growing and learning as one.
9. Outsiders aren’t calling the shots.
Relationships don’t always make sense, especially from the outside. So don’t let outsiders run your relationships for you. If you’re having a relationship issue with someone, work it out with THEM and no one else.
You have to live your own life your own way; that’s all there is to it. Each of us has a unique fire in our heart for certain people. It’s your duty, and yours alone, to decide if a relationship is right for you. You’ve got to stop caring so much about what everyone else wants for you, and start actually living and deciding for yourself.
Continue Reading 1,000 Little Habits
If you appreciated the above excerpt from “1,000 Little Habits of Happy, Successful Relationships“, I guarantee you will appreciate the rest of the book…
Sometimes we need to be reminded to actually practice the little habits that allow us to better understand and nurture the bonds that make our lives whole. We need to be reminded to be selective in our battles, too. Oftentimes peace and love in our relationships are both better than being right. We simply don’t need to attend every argument we’re invited to.
Yes, we can do better! Take this to heart. Because as you age, you’ll learn to value your time, genuine relationships and peace of mind, much more. Little else will matter from one day to the next.
And that’s why Marc and I are publishing “1,000 Little Habits of Happy, Successful Relationships” – to be that daily reminder for anyone who’s struggling to change their relationship situation for the better. It’s an inspiring touchstone filled with our best advice on overcoming relationship setbacks, letting go of anger, fostering intimacy and trust, expressing our needs, showing gratitude, and more. Pre-order “1,000 Little Habits” now and read it with a partner, with a friend, or solo.
Now, the floor is yours…
In your experience, what are some good signs you’re in the right relationship?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Photo by: Snaps
Just ordered the new book! Can’t wait!
And to answer your question, I love to be around people who are comfortable being who they are regardless of how different they are from others in the crowd; people who are effective communicators, who are positive and encouraging. In relationships, I look for integrity, loyalty, honesty, and consistency. These are the things the “right relationships” are made of. And they all take a little work for two willing people to create and nurture.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from your older 1,000 Little Things book that I think best sums up my feelings about healthy relationships:
“All successful relationships require some work. They don’t just happen, or maintain themselves. They exist and thrive when the parties involved take the risk of sharing what it is that’s going on in their minds and hearts. Open communication and honesty is the key, always.”
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for the extra kindness. And thanks so much for quoting our books and supporting our work, Devon.
Great post! I used to allow my parents to run my marriage! HUGE MISTAKE! It was a lesson for me to learn the hard way! I wish I would have read this YEARS ago! Needless to say, having OTHER people run your life and let them put their two cents in about YOUR life and marriage or relationship is a joke! Keep it simple stupid (KISS) I keep my marriage communication open and we are now 12 years going strong with two kiddos AND my parents have NOTHING to do with our marriage anymore! PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION! Thanks for all your posts! I love them so much! Keep them coming!!!
Only recently entered one after staying away from relationships for the longest time. Too early to tell now, but things are going well. Honeymoon stage and all that. But this post gives me some insight that we’re on the right track.
However, I will say that I’m not as much of the “perfect boyfriend” that I thought I’d be. Vain of me to even think I would be, I know, but I thought I had grown so much from my last relationship. Truth is, I’m still struggling with some of the same things I did last time, only this time around I catch myself and fix them before I take action. That’s growth to me and I’m happy with it for the most part.
I’ll pre-order the new book now, too, M&A. To show my appreciation for your work on this blog and beyond.
Marc Chernoff says
That is huge improvement! Remember, there’s never an end to growth, we are constantly growing and learning. Sounds like you’re on the right path.
Shanthy Thangavelu says
I think this is good advice overall, and I appreciate it. My extra two cents though: In today’s world where a woman has to go out and work, what she needs from her husband is implicit trust especially when the husband knows that she is honest. If she is admired by other men, take it as a compliment. She’s working for the family. Respect her and don’t let your insecurities make it harder for her. More than love, my emphasis would be on respect in a relationship. A woman who is respected will do anything for her family.
Amen. Thank you so much. And vice versa. Women don’t mistrust a good man. Husband or not a husband yet. Trust his actions. If they are sincere, then keep trusting that man. Sometimes people can be tough around the edges with what they say, (sorry but usually men!) but their actions and tenderness in those actions speak so much more loudly. They may be gruff but their actions are sweet. Enjoy the persons sweet actions.
Honestly speaking, this article is an eye opener for me! My relationship with my girl was going through a rough patch, but after reading this I think I can change it and take the relationship in a positive direction. Our relationship is right, it just has some wrong tendencies.
Also, I just purchased your book for my girl, to help us get on the same page together. =) Thank you so much for everything.
Marc Chernoff says
Way to take responsibility and know when to take action. Progress! =)
Hopefully the book is not just for your girl. If you’re in it together then I hope you intend to make some changes also. Takes two. Perhaps she is the one who needs to make changes. You two know best about your relationship. But I hope you still intend to do your work as well. ?
Sandra Pawula says
As you suggest, authenticity is really at the core of a good relationship in my eyes.. It can take time to learn how to be honest with yourself and then with your partner, but it’s so worth it when you do. Far better to be loved for who you truly are than for an image your project out of fear and insecurity.
Melissa Webster says
I love this. The timing is unreal. I was just thinking about this exact same topic when I reconnected with some old friends today. Using this as a checklist for my relationships from now on.
I can’t even pick a favorite because they’re all so important. If I had to add something, I’d add a healthy dose of appreciation and gratitude. Being taken for granted or taken advantage of can damage an otherwise good relationship in long-lasting ways.
Also, knowing when to walk away and actually doing it. That’s something I struggle with. Or used to, I should say. Sometimes all the wanting to work it out in the world isn’t going to repair a broken relationship, or make you feel what is no longer there. Sometimes relationships really do simply run their course. But I guess maybe that falls in the ‘feeling trapped’ category?
Great list! Thank you.
Karen Clendenin says
I’d like to add that if you are in the right relationship you will know because you make yourself accessible to your significant other and they to you. Wanting to touch base often with each other is a great barometer for a relationship.
Well said. Amen. Thank you for the light bulb on this one for me. Yes I’ve got a good man. I knew that but thank you for the aha moment as well. So true.
Should have found this article at least a few weeks earlier, maybe I’d have been able to realize my mistakes before it was too late. Just got broken up with on Valentine’s Day, because I violated several of the principles here.
Life’s hard when you lose a relationship that could’ve been saved if only she wasn’t the only one working on her problems. Maybe you can write a post about how to recognize when you’re mistaken about not making any mistakes – how to recognize and stop the holier-than-thou in me.
Tom, all is not lost yet. I think if you talk with that girl and add some valentines roses to that that all will not be lost at all. I think your lightbulb moment will strengthen and regain that relationship. Just showing that you realized and are willing to admit you need change and are willing to change may make that woman’s heart melt and tears of joy that she is so important that you are realizing this and willing to work at your relationship. There’s a lot of love coming through in your comments and I’m sure although she’s hurting that she loves you. Now Channel that love that you both have for each other. I think this is a major turning point for good in your relationship. Do not forget the roses. They show respect. Not weakness. Good luck and God Bless You Both and your relationship.
Margie Shynk says
After 15 years with a great “coach” and dismantling a bad family/relationship belief I met a great guy and we were together for 10 yrs; then he passed away. Today, 4 years after losing Steve, I’ve been able to move forward with an open heart. Reading the above has been and continues to be the road map for true love. Dating has given me the opportunity to find those values and they have changed since I was 25… or even 32. Dignity, respect and being accountable for my own actions and words are paramount. I want to make everyday better for my sweet boyfriend and am proud to be his girlfriend… if we remember to honor ourselves first we have the love to give. I don’t know what the future holds but today there’s hope and faith that tomorrow will just as sweet.
Trust, honesty and always communicating – as you’ve so eloquently written in your post already. Most importantly, is to never have expectations of your partner to change – for to love them as they are and for all the joy they bring to your life, is at the core of what it takes a genuine relationship to work at it’s best. Gonna go pre-order out your new book now too. Congrats! And happy Valentine’s Day to all.
Michelle Angel says
“In your experience, what are some good signs you’re in the right relationship?”
I think that my experience has shown that you are in the right relationship when you can be at one with yourself. Fully accepting of who you really are deep down and knowing that your partner would never judge you for such and love you despite your imperfections all while laughing along the way and having fun. I think sometimes we get hung up in the serious stuff and forget to make time to enjoy the fun things in life. Simple things like snuggling with your dogs in the morning or taking a long walk at night just enjoying togetherness. Sleeping in on a weekend and holding that person that you love in your arms and thinking that there is nowhere else you would rather be than in their arms.
Love, Faithfulness, Stability, togetherness, partnership, and above all just being. I think that to be in the right relationship you must have that balance of trust which is something that can only be earned over time and that it is also built on truth not lies and deceit.
When you are in the right relationship you want to give of yourself fully expecting nothing but love in return. You do things for the other person because you feel a love and passion for that person in which you would go to the ends of the earth to support them, build them, guide them when they need it, and most of all be a team. Of course I have always been a firm believer that no relationship is possible without GOD. Every relationship will have its ups and downs and struggles and without a solid faith in God the struggles can break you.
In the end I think it is about having that person by your side in your last moments of life and looking back knowing that together you accomplished dreams, hopes, and fears that you never would have been able to on your own and yet you did with your best friend by your side…
I always go back to my ALL TIME favorite Marc and Angel post (below and worth EVERYONE reading again and again!!) In this post there were two things that have always stuck with me…..And I tend to remind myself of them frequently:
“Someone continuously breaks your trust. – Love means giving someone the chance to hurt you, but trusting them not to.”
“If someone truly loves you, they will never give you a reason to doubt it. Anyone can come into your life and say how much they love you, but it takes someone really special to stay in your life and prove how much they love you.”
Here is the link – 10 Signs it’s Time to Let Go
And Happy Valentine’s Day!
WOW! AMEN. YES. GOD BLESS YOU. THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME OF THIS COMMENT AND FOR YOUR COMMENT. THANK YOU. YES GOD HAS TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RELATIONSHIP. I AM BLESSED. THANK YOU FOR YOUR.
One thing I have noticed is that when starting a relationship it is always best to be upfront about what you want and are expecting within reason. Another thing is that men seem to think that when a woman says no to something that a challenge has been created. When I say no that is what I mean. There isn’t a yes in there anywhere. Another thing is that a man should never expect nor demand kissing or holding hands during the first through the third date. Especially the first one. Show some respect for the person you are beginning to see. Not all of us are easy.
#1 “No Games are Being Played” And If they cheat at Monopoly or are a poor sport with any boardgame, this says a lot about how they handle the ups and downs of life! Seriously, I am exploring little signs that depict good character in my own life. This was an excellent list and very timely for this Valentine’s Day, of course. But the mind game playing has ruined many a relationship, that’s for sure. Love this blog… I always share it on my Facebook.
Dave Nordella says
Be there with her/him.
What a wonderful gift for Valentine’s Day.
After 36 years of being married, and a widow for 2 1/2 years, I am ready to be with someone. I don’t want to be alone anymore, and I know your different posts say that being alone is ok, but I feel the need to be with someone. I want to share things, do things, live again. I have so much love still to give, and worry that I will never find that again. I don’t want to compare, I want to start over. My own insecurities are holding me back.
@Dave Nordella, thank you. Really liked how you used a few words to say such a meaningful message.
Thank you Marc and Angel. So glad to be part of your little community here.
jo allebach says
Nearly 20 years into this relationship is amazing because I went through 4 marriages that were obviously not right. I am not saying they were bad people but they certainly weren’t right for me.
I appreciate my significant other and he in turn appreciates me. There is love and closeness but not in a suffocation way. As a matter of fact we were just discussing some of this the other day and here it comes up in your blog. It just makes me more sure that I am on the right path with the right partner. Thank you.
Excellent points. Excited about 1000 Little Habits!
Above all else, I think 2 things are needed to know the relationship is right.
1. You can share a relationship of authenticity.
2. You don’t have to compromise on any major values.
It seems like an impossible set of standards for many but with 7+ billion people, your person is out there if you look.
Lisa Whitlock says
This is a great article Angel, especially when compared with other love-related writings that cruise the internet around Valentine’s Day.
In relationships, we tend to forget about some things and we do so more often than we should. These pieces of advice are spot on, taking your partner for granted especially hits home for me. Even when I’m not in a relationship or willing to date, I find these kinds of articles very useful for introspection. This was a great read, please keep on writing!
If I could add one more I guess mostly for married couples. The bucks gotta stop somewhere. My husband and I would fight a lot when we were first married because I was raised in a women’s lib atmosphere. He wanted his way and, I wanted mine! When I bacame a Christian I read about God make the man the head of the household unless he’s unable or unqualified such as drugs or injury in a way that hinders his mental ability. I stopped having to have my way and, let him have the last say, it was hard; very hard. Something amazing happened though, we stopped fighting. Now don’t get me wrong every now and, then we fuss but, hardly ever. He respects me and I him. We work together and, it’s wonderful, peaceful and, most of all loving.
Ps. Looking forward to the new book. Your last two I still re-read and reference pretty frequently.
For me, if the relationship with the person helps me grow and shine, it is the right relationship. I have chosen to surround myself with people that build me up and help me reach my full potential.
I had fallen deep in love with a boy, soon to find out his mindset is far from what I want to surround myself with. It was extremely hard but I had to set a boundary to take care of myself and say goodbye. I was so emotionally attached to him, but my heart was telling me that I needed to get away from him.
I chose to listen to my heart.
I think that every relationship has an expiration date. Just like a credit card or a magazine subscription, if you want to keep getting the rewards then you have to renew your subscription. You have to continually renew your relationships to reap the benefits of the rewards.
Marc Chernoff says
Julie Clayville says
This was a wonderful column. I agree with all the points. After two failed marriages, I now have been with the most wonderful man for me and here is another point I’d add to your list: You are with the right partner when you already know that you want to truly be with them in sickness and in health and would consider it a sacred priviledge to care for them should they ever come to failing health. I watched my father care for my very ill and infirm mother for a decade – with complete love and tenderness and NOW I understand how he was so able and joyful to do this – he loved her completely and was happy to care for her in all her suffering and dependance.
I initially clicked on this link to see if my relationship ticked any of the boxes. I have been married for 25 years and after just completing a horrendous year of surgery, chemo and radiotherapy for breast cancer my Husband announced a month ago that he was leaving me. This has come as a complete shock as I had no idea it was coming. I love him and I am in love with him still and I am truly heartbroken and in shock.
Of all the comments on here, the 2 that have given me a light bulb moment are just above mine – Dee’s analogy of the credit card expiration date and Julie Clayville’s sickness and health post. Firstly, Dee I could hug you. You have made the penny drop for me. Only one of us wants to renew our relationship subscription and it will only work if we both did. I can’t make him or force him to want me and I am going to stop beating myself up about it. The old me would be tempted to say ” your loss Mr” and I know that one day when I’m stronger the new me will be saying that. Thank you Dee. You have no idea how you have changed my day and my way of thinking.
Secondly, Julies post has made me realize that whilst my husband was amazing during my breast cancer and treatment and I couldn’t fault the care and love he gave me, if he truly loved me then he would still be here at the end. In sickness and in health.
Thank you all for your honest posts and I wish you all love and true happiness X
May God surround you with loving care and comfort. You have been through so much. Be kind with the things you say to yourself, and above all, trust that you are forever cherished and loved beyond anything or anyone you have known. What courage you have! Humble thanks for sharing your journey, which is NOT over.
David - Calgary ALB says
Have been in a few relationships that didn’t work out as we just meshed gears and not connected thus they didn’t last. Am now with the right person for the past 6 years. We do this list and more importantly talk with each other not ‘to each other’. Nice to see you twp have thought enough to put what I feel in a list such as this. Thanks. Will have to check out the new book too.
I use to think that love was all about the words and constant reassurance but that’s just because I didn’t really love myself enough and expected others to fill something only I could fix. When you can accept your faults and love yourself enough to stay true to who you are without wanting to please your partner then you are ready to share yourself and all your beauty with someone who appreciates it.
I love your article and agree with every point. I am in love with someone who I think has commitment issues but he shows me everyday that he loves me and has taught me that I dont have to hear it but I can see it in him. We want the same thing, to be happy and share life with each other, help each other grow and be the best we can be and its not perfect but its those imperfect moments that we cherish when we together and still want to be together even when things go wrong.
I think our need to be loved sometimes takes us in the wrong direction but even when we go wrong, it helps us to see ourselves better and find out what it is we really want. Sometimes we find the right people at the wrong time and its just a case of taking what you got from it and moving on, life it too short to harp on all the reasons why things never worked out but rather all the reasons why it should the next time. And at the same time not forcing it either…
When someone really loves you, you know…
Steve says he can see the love in my eyes. I tell him often that I love him but he says without the words, he sees the love in my eyes. Recently I snuck some walnuts and rice cakes in his lunch. That’s love!
I benefit from thinking of a relationship as a separate entity from “myself” and “my friend/partner.” In this way, when I need to modify my behavior for the sake of peaceful coexistence, I think of it as accommodating “our relationship” rather than accommodating “him” or “her.” This helps lessen/eliminate resentment. For instance, my husband doesn’t like the smell of candles burning in our home. Much as I enjoy their scent, I don’t burn them, in order to enrich out relationship. There is something in it for me as well as for him. It builds closeness.
Marc Chernoff says
Good perspective. Thanks for sharing, Geena.
Candice Arthur says
Hello and Thank You for your wisdom and excellent advice. I would like to add that being an engaged active listener is important. Watching TV, staring at your phone and interrupting while “listening” makes your partner feel like their thoughts and feelings are unimportant no matter how trivial it might seem. If you need support or are celebrating what a great price these shoes were you should show some compassion or congratulate a sale well done. That’s what friends do and the person I give my heart to is my best friend 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
Great addition to the list, Candice. Being present and actually looking and listening, without distractions, is vital to healthy relationships.