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How to Know Your Relationship Is Working

I study emotional responses in relationships and write about them to help others enhance self-awareness and improve their contentment.

How are you perceiving your relationship?

How are you perceiving your relationship?

What Do You Expect From Your Relationship?

  • Are you questioning the quality of your relationship?
  • Do you have good experiences with your partner?
  • Do you feel comfortable with them?
  • Are you sure it's everything you expect?

Read on to determine if your relationship is working as you would like.

Concentrate on Growth Potential

Your future can be pleasant and rewarding, but you need to be sure that your relationship is going in the right direction.

It may be possible to look beyond the feelings of concern by focusing on the positive. Consider the future together. Think it through in your mind. Do you see growth potential?

Can you agree with any of the following statements about your relationship?

  1. You feel it could result in a lifetime of happiness.
  2. You have good and rewarding experiences with your partner.
  3. Your relationship with your partner usually does meet your needs.
  4. Your rapport with your partner is generally warm and comfortable.

If you agree with these four statements, then your relationship has strong potential. Good relationships with a pleasant partner are hard to come by.

A healthy relationship that continues to grow requires emotional intimacy to be successful. You’ll want to achieve a closeness that allows insightful communication, an understanding of expectations, appreciation for different preferences and priorities, and a willingness to find common ground. Let’s examine each of these ideas in more detail.

Figure Out if You're Looking for Perfection

If you're not sure your relationship has potential, you might be a perfection hunter.

Perfection hunters will never find a perfect mate. So it would help to soul-search and determine the facts. Does your partner have imperfections that you can't accept? Or are you looking for more than you'll ever find?

You can avoid relationship setbacks by learning how to recognize its lifelong potential for happiness. Read on to know how to do that.

Communicate Effectively With Your Partner

If your relationship is stagnant with no plans for a future, something might be wrong. In most cases, it’s due to miscommunication—or lack of communication altogether.

If something is bothering you, don’t hold it in. Discuss it with your partner. He or she may not have been aware they were doing something that was troubling you.

You only have problems if your partner does not wish to listen or discuss the issue. If you find yourself in an argument, try to determine if you are not explaining yourself well.

If your partner is a non-listener, an effective method to overcome that is to give examples of how they might feel if it were the other way around.

Make productive statements, not condescending remarks. Focus on solving a problem rather than trying to win an argument. Sometimes you may have to compromise.

You both need to be on equal ground. Discuss things with fairness and a good understanding of where the other is coming from with their feelings. Remember that you are in this together as a team.

Predetermine Realistic Expectations

When you have too many expectations, you might envision much more than your partner can offer. Furthermore, you might become disappointed if things don’t turn out the way you had hoped.

Start by thinking about what you want from the relationship. Was it based on things you already saw possible? If not, was it based on dreams you’ve had all your life­—of a future you wanted to have?

The next step is to come to terms with reality. Try to adjust your thinking to the way things are and not about the way you thought it ought to be.

Having realistic expectations might be difficult to do. But try to go with the flow. You may never have it so good again. Once you're focused on what you have, rather than what you want, you may find yourself appreciating your partner more.

Learn to Grow With Your Partner

Everything that happens in a relationship is valuable for growth. Even though differences can sometimes cause problems in a relationship, it can enhance it too. Those differences can be the ingredients for growth since one’s partner can introduce new viewpoints to consider.

Each of you may have different priorities and values. For that reason, you need to talk about it and find some common ground.

It’s vital to pay attention to your partner’s reaction while having these discussions. Their reaction will help isolate problem areas that need more consideration. You both need to do that, to find a mutual understanding.

  • Discuss differences.
  • Examine conflicting opinions.
  • Share your fears.

In addition, body language is useful since smiles or frowns can indicate more than words will ever say.1

These discussions can be the most meaningful communication you may ever have with your partner and can lead to significant relationship growth.

Be Aware of Your Relationship's Identity

Your relationship develops its own identity. Besides each partner's personality, a relationship has its own character. It's based on the combination of both of you.

That means two things:

  1. Learning from one another and teaching each other new ideas can be gratifying and even pleasurable.
  2. Sharing different ways of looking at things and considering one another’s views of life can enhance awareness.

To achieve those two points, work on the following missions:

Work on a Common Goal

Joining forces to build a relationship with excellent communication and fairness can reinforce trust and mutual respect. These are elements of a healthy relationship.2

When partners work on a common goal, they feel more involved with one another as a team. They each learn how dependable their partner is while working on their relationship.

The act of sharing mutual interests will also give them something to focus on. Making a plan they both work on together can be a game-changer.

Be Mindful of Your Partner’s Needs

You have your own needs, and it’s okay to expect your partner to appreciate what they are. However, never forget that your partner has needs too. For example, your partner may prefer doing things together a lot while you feel the need for “alone time” more often.

You can’t always have it your way. When you detect that there are different preferences with needs not being met, work on an acceptable compromise.3

Go back to the section on communicating effectively with your partner. Put it to good use. I know from my own experience with failed relationships that the culprit was always a failure to communicate.

Pursue a Team Player Attitude

Disappointments are a normal part of life. We can’t expect every day to be perfect. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know we have a partner who is on our side, someone who is there for us in our time of need, and someone interested in our happiness and takes pride in being in the relationship as a team player.

To be a team player in a relationship, you need to share and appreciate one another’s priorities, values, and goals. These may change over time, but being conscious of it and discussing these things is the key to an everlasting relationship.

Final Thoughts

The thing that draws two people together is having shared views of what they both want in life. Their values and dreams are in line with one another. And they understand and agree on what life is all about.

Perfection is a fallacy. You can search your entire life for it. But when you have a wonderful person in your life, and you're considering a permanent relationship, don't be a perfection hunter. Your hunting days are over.

If you're wondering if your relationship has the potential for a lifetime of love and respect, you most likely already know the answer.


  1. Darren Gergle (2013). "Using Visual Information for Grounding and Awareness in Collaborative Tasks". HCI Journal: 1–43.
  2. "Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships". University of Washington. (Accessed on Oct 2, 2020).
  3. Ann Smith. (January 7, 2013). "I Want More From Our Relationship!" Psychology Today

© 2018 Glenn Stok