I am in the enviable position of being in a healthy marriage—but it didn’t come easy.
Part of my secret is luck.
When my husband found me I was basically a shell of a woman—still involved with my ex, who was one of the cruelest people I have ever personally known. Most men would have run fast and far from me and my situation—and they would have been justified—but my husband offered me kindness, and from that a deep love began to grow.
The good thing about having been in a long series of sh*tty relationships was that when something different came along, I could appreciate it.
Sadly, I was so used to dysfunction and fear and sadness that it took me a long time to feel comfortable with being treated well.
Looking back now, I wish someone had told me not just what a healthy partnership is, but what it isn’t.
If they had, I might have been able to understand that simply being in love doesn’t mean we have to accept being treated poorly or unfairly—even if it is unintentional.
We will have many opportunities to love in our lifetime, but we should only fully invest in and honor those that serve our greatest good.
To figure out if we are in a good-for-us relationship, we can ask ourselves these questions. If the answer to even one of them is yes, it might be time to try something new.
1) Do I spend more time thinking about my relationship than anything else in my life?
One consistent hallmark of all my bad relationships was that I spent an inordinate time thinking about them. It really shouldn’t be that complicated.
When we are in a healthy relationship, we are often able and willing to turn our attention to other things. When we do choose to focus on our partnership, it is not with a sense of all consuming angst, but with calm, good humor and hopefulness.
2) Do I feel trapped in my relationship?
Bad relationships make us feel like there is no escape. Everything in our lives is constricted by our interactions with our partner, and we become drained and desperate.
Healthy relationships, on the other hand, provide us with personal freedom. Knowing we have a solid home base, and loving support for exactly who we are, allows us to be brave in unprecedented ways.
3) Do I feel sad, angry or confused most of the time when I consider my relationship?
The me of 20 years ago would have been very surprised to discover that relationships should not cause inordinate sadness, anger or confusion!
Indeed, they should provide large doses of comfort, happiness and even joy.
4) Do I wonder if this is really all there is for me when it comes to love?
If our relationship seems grey instead of filled with vibrant color, and our instincts tell us there is something more to life than this, we are probably right.
We can give ourselves permission to find it.
5) Is it rare that I feel heard or understood?
Above all, a relationship is where we should feel our true self is known and cherished. If we constantly defend ourselves or have to justify our desires or needs, we are not in the presence of someone who accepts us as we are.
6) Am I concerned that my partner doesn’t trust me, or that I don’t trust him?
In my youth, I grossly underestimated how important trust is. Without it, nothing else has anywhere to stick.
Once trust is broken, it is almost impossible to put back together, and the effort of doing so may outweigh all the other positives a relationship can offer.
7) Do I constantly feel the need to defend my relationship to other people in my life?
If everyone we know seems to think our relationship isn’t working, it will serve us well to consider their viewpoint.
Oftentimes, our friends and family can have insights that may perpetually elude us. It isn’t always easy to swallow our pride and think about what other people have to say, but it will usually yield wisdom in some form or another.
No relationship is perfect—and perfection is not what we should seek—but the good should significantly outweigh the bad. If it doesn’t, we can always make the choice to walk another path and try to find the love we all deserve.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Toby Israel