A lot of individuals seeking therapy start with this question. Staying with or leaving a partner can be an incredibly complicated and painful decision, and a lot of people are looking for someone to tell them what to do.
In reality, though, a therapist is never going to tell you to break up with your partner or stay with them. A therapist can help you to come to a decision yourself by being an ear and helping you to think through all of the good and bad things within your relationship.
But whether or not you visit a therapist for help making this decision, there are a good number of things to consider — things that make a good and healthy relationship — that you can consider when asking yourself this question.
Characteristics of a Healthy and Secure Relationship
All relationships are going to have their ups and downs, their fair share of arguments, and probably unpleasant conversations. But there are a few characteristics that differentiate a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one.
The first sign of a healthy relationship is open and honest communication. In a healthy partnership, both you and your partner should feel comfortable sharing your feelings with each other.
Neither of you should feel afraid to speak up — even (and especially) when you do not agree with each other. No two people are going to have the exact same opinions on everything, and feeling safe, heard, and not judged in these situations is a great sign of a healthy relationship.
Trust is important for any relationship — romantic or otherwise. However, for romantic relationships, trust is more than just important. In a romantic relationship especially, you are allowing yourself to be honest, vulnerable, and authentic with another person — all of which are incredibly difficult to do without trust.
A 2017 study found that distrust was associated with higher levels of jealous behaviors as well as both types of partner abuse — psychological and physical. This brings us to our next point.
Abuse is never ok. A healthy relationship should not have any abuse whatsoever — not emotional, not physical, none.
A healthy relationship should not have the dynamic of power and control that abuse exploits. In a healthy relationship, you and your partner are equals — neither one of you has power over the other.
Supportive of One Another
Whether you are talking about emotional support during a period of grief, emotional support as you navigate a new job or promotion, or anything else, in a healthy relationship both of you should feel supported.
And if you are not feeling supported in a situation the way you would like to be, discuss it with your partner — it is very possible that they simply were not providing the exact support you wanted in that situation but were still supporting you in their own way.
What is important is that when you think about your relationship, you feel like you are supported by your partner (and that they feel supported by you!).
Fun for Both Partners
The fun shouldn’t stop after the “honeymoon phase” wears off. In a healthy relationship, both of you should be having fun no matter how long you’ve been together — even if it’s been 30 years.
If one or both of you aren’t feeling excited or having fun in your relationship, try spicing it up. Maybe you’ll go out for a date night or plan a trip together.
Feeling Secure and Confident
A healthy relationship should help you to feel supported in all aspects of life. Being in a supportive and secure relationship should help you to feel more secure and confident in your life — whether you are with your partner or in another part of your life, like work or hobbies.
In a healthy relationship, both you and your partner should feel confident and comfortable in your own skins.
Facing and Accepting Differences
No two people are the same — honestly think about how boring the world would be if we all had the same thoughts and opinions.
Being able to face and accept those differences is what marks a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one. If you or your partner ignore your differences or avoid them whenever they come up, that is 1) not allowing for honest and open communication (which we addressed earlier) and 2) not going to help you to better understand each other and build a stronger relationship.
Knowing Each Other’s Love Languages
Whether you believe in Gary Chapman’s “love languages” concept or not, the important point here is knowing what your partner likes. Knowing how they express their love to you and them knowing how you express it to them.
For example, maybe one of you doesn’t exactly like saying “I love you” out loud all the time, but they always hold the door open for you and order your meal when you go out. Regardless of what it is — whether it is “love languages” or simply understanding your partner’s shows of affection — recognizing and appreciating the unique ways your partner tells you they love you is a great sign of a healthy relationship.
Enjoying Your Time
When you are in a relationship you are making a commitment to your partner. But, that commitment does not mean that you have to be with them every second of the day.
In a healthy relationship, both you and your partner should be enjoying your time together as well as apart. It is important for both of you to maintain independent interests and friends so that you do not feel like you are only enjoying life when you are together.
Respect of Boundaries
A healthy relationship should have boundaries that your partner and you have discussed. Whether these boundaries have to do with physical intimacy, finances, religious beliefs, or anything in between, the important thing is that they are honored and respected.
A partner who continually ignores these boundaries is not honoring what you value — which can quickly lead to an unhealthy and non-supportive relationship.
Feeling Fulfilled within the Relationship
In a healthy relationship, both you and your partner should feel fulfilled. This means both emotionally and physically. Both of you should feel that you are getting the support and interaction that you need from your partner.
This should mean that both of you should be feeling fulfilled in both emotional and physical intimacy. If you or your partner are not getting the fulfillment that you need or want from the other, then this should be discussed so that you can be sure you are both providing the support and care that you both need.
It is completely natural to question your relationship after time has passed — especially if a lot of time has passed. As we continue to deepen our relationship with another person it is bound to change — maybe you don’t feel the butterflies in your stomach that you had on your first date or maybe you find yourself wishing your partner would do something frequently.
But just because you don’t feel that same feeling you felt when you started dating doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. So if you are questioning whether or not you should break up with your partner, think about how you feel in your relationship. Are you getting the love and support you need?
And know, this is not a question you need to answer alone. If you want some guidance, or simply an ear to listen, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow. We are here to help you through this incredibly difficult decision and beyond.