Being in a strong relationship is about so much more than spending time together. It's about being able to open up and really play together without feeling self-conscious. Having the ability to relax and be as carefree as a child will bring you closer to your partner.
"Couples who play together manage stress better as a team," says Alexandra Jamieson, a holistic women's health counselor. "When adults play more, they report lower levels of perceived stress, use more adaptive coping strategies, and are less likely to use negative, escapist strategies."
I'm not talking about sex games here (although those are important too); I'm talking about real-ass games: tossing a ball around, playing Frisbee, or having a pillow fight. Allowing yourself to really let go with the person you love is a sign that you're built to last.
They perform sweet acts of service
By no means should your partner become your slave, or act like a doormat to your every obnoxious whim. There is a big difference between doing a sweet and loving service for your partner and being a miserable wuss.
For example, my partner brings me coffee every single morning in bed. It's the most lovely part of my day and helps me start my morning off on the right foot. It isn't something he needs to do, it's something he wants to do. When you're in a solid partnership, you do things for each other that are little reminders of your adoration. It helps to keep the romance alive.
They have strong communities
Strong couples have strong friend groups and people they can depend on outside of their relationship.
"They know that even in blissfully monogamous relationships, one person cannot and should not meet all your needs," says relationship educator Kate McCombs. "Strong couples nurture healthy friendships, they practice self-care, and they recognize that it isn't appropriate or realistic to expect your partner to be your 'everything.'"
Being with a person forever means that person is your best friend. You can tell them anything.
But that doesn't mean they should be the only person you lean on. If you become so transfixed on one person that you allow your other relationships to crumble, you begin to tow the line of codependence rather operating within a healthy, stable partnership.
They check in
Strong couples don't just make assumptions; they actually make an effort to check in with each other. Too often we get wrapped up inside of our own heads and forget that we need to consider the feelings of another person. "Assumptions about time, expectations, obligations, and behavior can lead to hurt feelings and worse," Jamieson says.
In healthy relationships, the desire to keep your partner's needs and happiness in mind is a must. Strong couples send each other regular text updates, inform each other about plans with friends ahead of time, and aren't sketchy about providing basic information. It's not about keeping a watchful eye on your partner like some psycho jealous nutcase; it's about wanting to keep each other in the loop like goddamn adults.
They offer empathy over straight-up advice
Being in a solid relationship means being able to tell your partner the truth. Yet, communication is not all about weathering the storm of dubious honesty. Sometimes, it's about offering empathy when your partner desperately needs it. "Strong couples get curious about and engaged with each other's emotional worlds," McCombs says. "They listen deeply without trying to fix them."
Sometimes it isn't the harsh truths that your partner needs to hear, but rather that you understand and support them and are willing to help them find a solution to the obstacles in their path.
They share their hopes and desires about the future, regularly
Strong couples have no qualms about discussing the future because they know that future is going to be one they share. When you're on the same page, you take no issue talking about "when we get married" or "when we have children." When you're truly in love with someone, you don't leave them in the dark. It would never occur to you to do so.
But it's important to communicate your feelings about everyday happenings, as well. Strong couples stay in constant contact, sharing everything they're feeling on any given day. When you keep each other's mood in check, you're building a strong foundation upon which everything else rests.