‘Do you believe in soulmates’ is a commonly asked question. While, the answer is subjective, when Chandler asks this question to Monica in FRIENDS she replies, “No, I don’t think we were destined to end up together. I think we fell in love and we work hard at our relationship”. And whether you share her sentiment or not, the fact of the matter is that no relationship is easy. They all require trust, communication and consistency. But it’s possible that your red flag of an ex made you believe that it would be easy if you just listened to everything they said and did everything they asked. Here’s the thing about (all kinds of) toxic relationships—often you don’t know you’re in one until reality slaps you in the face.
On the other hand, though, healthy relationships look and feel very different. Boundaries are respected, responsibility is taken, fights are resolved easily, and you never go to bed wondering whether you are really loved. Of course, there is no one-set formula and the definition of a healthy relationship is open-ended and customisable but the way they make you feel doesn’t change. Dr Maitri Chand, a psychologist, says, “A healthy relationship, at the foundation, is a strong friendship bond and there are several characteristics of it that pertain to trust, respect, intimacy, honesty, and open communication. There is a sense of commitment not only to each other but also to the relationship as an entity.”
So, if you're wondering what it feels like to be in a healthy and secure relationship look out for these signs!
You feel comfortable and safe
One of the biggest signs of healthy love is when you don’t feel the need to be in alert mode all the time. You can just hold their hand and follow them around blindly knowing they will never steer you in the wrong direction or let harm befall you. You feel comfortable enough to be your silly and goofy self (whatever that is to you) around your partner without the fear of judgment or rejection. You can openly pull their leg or make fun of them (in a joking way while being respectful and mindful of boundaries) and they will laugh along with you.
Dr Chand says, “For the most part, there is a sense of freedom and lightness. You feel safe to be yourself. You feel respected, loved, and you’re not afraid to make mistakes. You know your partner has your back and they will never belittle you. There is a sense of equality and a sense of honesty with kindness.”
A study conducted in 2013 found that partners who trust each other are more likely to feel satisfied in their relationship. They measured trust using three categories— predictability, dependability, and faith in your partner. But this doesn’t seem like knowledge we need a study to tell us, right? The foundation of every relationship is trust. When you’re confident that they won’t keep secrets from you, won’t betray you or wouldn’t do anything to hurt you (emotionally, physically or mentally), it’s a sign that you’re in a healthy relationship. But trust is not something that is built overnight. It’s a slow and steady development that requires consistency, open communication and follow-through. In a healthy relationship, your partner has shown you can rely on them to be there, defend you, and even hold you accountable when you’re wrong or unreasonable.
You have sizzling physical intimacy
Sex, touch, and physical intimacy are critical aspects of a healthy relationship. It’s simple things like them putting their arm around you or you showing them simple forms of affection like cheek kisses. Of course, there are no rules. No set amount of snuggles or how many times a week you should have sex. Sizzling physical intimacy means different things to different people. The important part is that both of you feel heard and have your needs met.
You have your own space
In a healthy relationship, you have your own space. You and your partner know that it’s not crucial to do everything together and go everywhere as a unit. When you go out with your friends without them, they aren’t jealous or petty about it. They want you to be safe and have fun. And of course, this goes both ways. You also know when to give them space and let them unwind without you. It’s like Sherene Aftab, the founder of Serene Hour Counselling, says, “Allowing a person to come home and give them their space, their downtime, is a characteristic of a healthy relationship. And when they’re away, you’re not worrying about them or doubting that they’re doing something behind your back. You’re encouraging them to do what they love.”
If you think healthy relationships are ones where there are no fights, think again. Disagreements should not make you feel like your relationship is in trouble. If it does, you’re doing it wrong. But if you are respectful, feel heard and keep in mind that it’s not about winning or losing, fighting is healthy. Dr Chand says, “A good fight is when you don’t annihilate your partner. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s when both people hear and feel heard.”
Aftab adds, “Being able to resolve conflict without yelling, blaming, and taunting and having a healthy debate. Find ways together on how to deal with a problem.”