In the age of information overload, it’s common to want to evaluate a relationship with a long list of pros and cons, or do online research about “signs of the right relationship” instead of simply trusting your intuition, or inner compass when it comes to evaluating the health of your romantic partnerships.
Because you have so many tools at your fingertips, it’s easy to be paralyzed evaluating relationship wish lists, and judging your partners in light of these lists, or missing opportunities to meet good people due to them. Another common experience is over-thinking the quality of your relationship, or experiencing a fear of missing out (FOMO), which can sometimes be a mask for a true fear of commitment.
In my years as a psychologist specializing in dating and relationship therapy with individuals, I’ve witnessed hundreds of clients experience these challenges. In fact, one of my clients recently shared a powerful, yet simple tactic to evaluate the health and potential of a relationship, which I now use to help clients zero in on the important stuff in a relationship.
His philosophy was that there are only two questions you must answer to really determine the potential of a relationship:
Is my partner good to me?
Is my partner good for me?
Read on to fully understand these simple decision criteria.
Is my partner good to me?
What truly makes a partner “good” nowadays? This answer has shifted dramatically in the past century with the collapse of gender roles and responsibilities. It’s more unclear today what criteria makes a good partner than it might have been when your parents grew up.
Above all else, a partner who is good to you is respectful of you - the whole you - your friends and family, and what is important to you in your life. They honor your wishes and dreams and encourage you to be your best self. They also respect healthy boundaries and are comfortable with personal space.
A partner who is good to you is also consistent - in his or her behavior and their acts of affection are ongoing, nurturing, and predictable. This disposition is related to a partner having a secure attachment behaviors. In other words, this person is reliable and follows through on his or her commitments.
The Good to Me Gut Check: Would this person show up at your door with chicken soup when you are sick, take you to the doctor if you were ill, or perhaps, someday be by your side with all the crazy moments bearing and raising children throws your way? I know, these are some big questions and may take awhile to really know. However, if you really look closely, you can tell through how consistently present they are in the little and big ways what you may expect when the going gets tough.
Is my partner good for me?
The second criteria pertains to how your partner makes you feel and how they make you and your life better. Notice how you feel when you are together as much as how you feel when you are apart. It’s the latter that really provides insight into dynamics like trust and sustainable boundaries. If you find yourself anxious in the absence of your partner, perhaps second guessing his or her commitment, note whether you might experience some traits consistent with an anxious attachment style, or if your partner is truly inconsistent or secretive when you are apart, giving you cause for concern. Feeling clear about where you stand in the relationship is essential to stability. Note whether you spend excessive time thinking about the relationship or questioning his or her feelings toward you. These are usually relationship red flags. Having confidence in his or her feelings toward you is essential to confirming the health of your relationship.
Other important questions to ask yourself include “does my partner make me a better person” or “am I happier with him or her in my life”? Confirming that you are living a happier, healthier, and fuller life is important to confirming the overall potential of the relationship. Being motivated to be a better person, both zp indicates that the relationship will continue to provide the necessary secure base from which both of you will explore your world, goals, and desires, as well as be an experience in self-actualization, a basic human desire.
In a more straightforward way, when evaluating a relationship, it’s also important to look at the basics. Does your partner exhibit healthy habits that are also good for you? Does he or she engage in unrestrained drinking, drug use, or have poor eating habits? Is excessive spending, working, or socializing common in his or her life? Or, is he or she too sedentary? Is your partner aware of balance, wellness, and a conscious lifestyle? Alignment in activity levels, social preferences, eating and drinking habits, and other key lifestyle indicators are helpful for a long-term fit.
Keep it Simple
How does this simple approach help? As mentioned in the beginning of this article, you are living in a time of information overload. It’s so easy to turn to the internet before turning to your own intuition. This approach keeps you grounded in the immediate and most essential aspects of decisions, rather than getting lost in the details, pros/cons, and online forums filled with relationship advice. This approach is especially good if you have relationship anxiety and need to be grounded in a concrete way.
In summary, when feeling overwhelmed in evaluating a relationship, try this two-step simple approach. If you find yourself evaluating your romantic relationship too much, that might be a red flag for your own expectations or for the health of the relationship. Relationship anxiety is a common condition and you may recognize your tendency to have anxious thoughts around the health of your relationship as you dive into the details of how you feel. Lastly, if you have an avoidant attachment style, you might easily find things wrong with a good relationship and this two-question process can help if you tend to look for what is wrong and reasons to leave.
If you are still questioning the health and potential of your relationship, work with a psychologist to identify and overcome your hesitations. A neutral third party can help you sort through your feelings and self-talk to understand the real promise of the primary relationship in your life. Contact the team at Center for Shared Insight, specialists in attachment therapy, to learn more.