Throughout our lives, we experience all different types of relationships — happy and unhappy, healthy and unhealthy.
When relationships end, men and women alike tend to ask themselves all kinds of questions about what went wrong and what they could have done differently. But there are so many reasons things don't work out romantically with a certain individual, it can be hard to know what to watch out for the next time.
I know, for me, I haven’t always been able to figure out an exact reason why some of my relationships didn't last. Instead of obsessing over finding an answer, I firmly believe the key to understanding how to have a happy, healthy relationship lies in focusing on the future.
Learning which signs to look for early on that indicate you're in a healthy relationship is more beneficial than dwelling on the past.
You can’t change the past, but you can change your approach to future relationships. Instead of thinking about the shouldve's, couldve's, and wouldve's, think about the little changes you can make that will strengthen and enhance whatever will be next. This serves a better purpose and makes for happier couples than overthinking things you can never go back and change.
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Shifting your mindset and approach in small ways can make a world of difference in your love life. In fact, some of the best relationship advice is so simple you’ll ask yourself why you never thought of it before!
Here are some signs of a healthy relationship to look for in your current love life — or the next time potential true love comes along.
15 Signs of a Healthy Relationship
1. You both see opportunities where others see challenges.
People are likely going to doubt your relationship and give you reasons why the relationship is bound to fail. This is often true for people entering a new relationship, it is difficult to see if the hard work of a relationship is going to be with the struggle. Every couple goes through ups and downs and has to overcome challenges.
Instead of thinking, worrying, and being pessimistic, why not consider the possibility the relationship will work out, and all there is to gain? That's how people in happy relationships learn to shift their focus to see challenges as chances.
2. You're both secure knowing there's no reason to envy or be jealous.
You are not in a competition with your partner to see who’s better at what. Don’t play that game. You’ll lose every time. Instead, embrace each other’s strengths and assist with their areas of growth. Also, share in the joy each other's accomplishments.
Research in a study published in 2020 concluded that being actively constructive contributes to "a sense of couple identity, which over the long turn, is associated with partners' relational well-being."
3. You don't feel constrained by tradition.
Celebrate the customary traditions you each cherish, but leave some room available to create new traditions together.
4. You both know the past is neither the present nor the future.
Don’t allow your past to creep up and make your present and future difficult. Deal with the past and let it rest where it belongs … in the past. It's a key strategy that happy couples have mastered.
5. You see and acknowledge the love around you.
Things happen in life that make us lose focus on the love and joy that surrounds us. Take a few moments together each day to recognize and be grateful for that love and joy.
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6. You both realize that doing nothing is not an option — you have to put in the work to move forward.
If you do nothing instead of addressing things, the relationship will not work. Communicate with each other.
While couples may have different ways of communicating commitment, a study on communication in romantic relationships explained that "people are more likely to engage in this type of communication when they believe they and their partners share the same degree of commitment," which deals directly with emotions connected to what's known as mutuality.
So, through communication alone, you are building commitment with your partner. While this requires other elements as well, communication is among the most significant ones.
7. You both go for what you want and need to succeed in life.
This applies to the long-term, as well as today and tomorrow. Sure, we all want instant gratification at some point in our lives, but we need to focus more on what we need ahead rather than what's immediately in front of us, because those things take planning, work, strategy, and dedication — and they're well worth it.
In fact, researchers who published a study in 2017 on the 14 core principles of close relationships noted, "Depending on how efficiently partners coordinate their goals and pursuits, goal interdependence can either bolster or undermine each person’s goal success." By coordinating their goals, they were able to achieve better success than if they had attempted to pursue them alone or with partners with whom they were less compatible.
8. You both remember and appreciate the little things.
Everyone can remember the big things like when they got engaged or big holiday parties. But it’s the small things, like your partner getting you a crossword puzzle book that you love on a random Sunday morning or an encouraging love note tucked into your lunch for work on a day you're especially stressed out about because of a big presentation.
These smaller tokens of affection are what make day-to-day life extra special and fulfilling by sharing it with your partner because they make constant efforts to remind you they're thinking of you on days other than just your birthday and anniversary. However small, these reminders deserve to be cherished, too.
9. You both know love is not a fairy tale.
Obviously, fiery tales are not the reality of life. Real life has ups and downs we have to deal with and, at times, it may be overwhelming and feel almost impossible to cope. You will probably lose your temper, things will get tense, and, at times, will test you in ways you never imagined.
Remember, fairy tales are fiction. However, you can still have happy endings where you stay together, in love, and conquer these obstacles.
10. You both stay aware of your emotions and maintain a sense of control.
Don’t act impulsively based solely on emotion. You may say or do something you will regret. Make sure you think things through, remain vigilant and self-aware, and learn each other's conflict styles. In addition to learning how the other person operates under emotionally-charged situations. This way, you can do your best to work through challenges together and support each other through difficult times.
In fact, scientists this confirmed in their 2021 published review. In reaction to a threat, relationships with "secure patterns are characterized by partner support and acceptance, more effective emotional regulation and communication skills, the ability to identify and discuss negative experiences and resolve conflicts, with relationships being enjoyed with greater harmony, commitment, trust, and satisfaction."
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11. You both know that no one is a mind reader.
You can't read your partner's mind, and your partner can't read yours. Happy, healthy couples know verbal communication is key.
12. You're both careful not to rush into anything or pressure each other.
If your relationship is strong and committed, you can rest assured you have time. Don’t rush into something you’re not 100 percent sure about. Think things through from all sides, consider how it will impact your lives, and be mindful and intentional before jointly making any big life decisions.
13. You maintain the friendship at the core of your relationship.
Be your partner’s best friend and continue to cultivate that friendship, it's one of the most fundamental aspects of a solid relationship. It keeps the fire burning and the foundation strong.
14. You both emphasize quality over quantity.
Quality time means putting phones and other electronics or distractions away so you can be fully present with your partner. Quality time allows you to address and periodically check in to reassess your shared vision of life goals, your current work situation, possible career moves, family life, and so on. It gives you time for intimacy, even if it's just holding hands while taking a walk together on a beautiful autumn day.
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Coming home every night, shoveling a quick dinner into your mouth, hopping hopping into bed to watch television while both of you are on your smartphones doesn't qualify as quality time. It may be your nightly routine and happen in close proximity, but it falls short of genuine connection.
15. You're both are willing to make a plan to deal with outside interference in your relationship.
Discuss this with your partner before someone attempts to interfere in your relationship. You both need to agree about how you feel about possible interference and can jointly devise a plan for when any of outside interference takes place.
The thing is, interference is inevitable in almost every relationship, whether it be your parents, your partner’s parents, an ex, or others who are (or were) close to either one — or both — of you. If possible, make sure to discuss outside interference earlier on, so there’s a common understanding of how you both want to handle any potential disruptions and have a solid plan for how to keep a united front.
Final thoughts on how to keep a healthy relationship
As mentioned above and woven throughout all of the other signs listed, there is a common theme: communication.
Communication is the key to making a relationship work and making it last.
The things listed above are simple, as far as values and common sense go, but they do require time and a little reminding, here and there. Make a commitment to them to strengthen your commitment to each other, and you won’t regret it. Your relationship will be more fulfilling, resilient, and meaningful if you take these little secrets to heart and into careful consideration.
Stop focusing on why it didn’t work out with someone in the past.
Focus on the now and your future. You can have great relationships if you can learn from your history, then put it aside, and remain mindful and open. I guarantee it!
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Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.