Built to Last: 5 Signs You're in a Stable Relationship
Even couples in relationships that look idyllic from the outside have made their way through rough patches. Life's ups and downs are bound to impact even the happiest couples—but how you handle the low points separates a stable relationship from a toxic one.
Being in a stable, healthy relationship doesn't mean you always manage to stay positive through life's challenges. Rather, it means prioritizing your romantic relationship, spending time together, communicating and working through challenges as opposed to avoiding them or blaming your partner.
Wondering whether you're in a stable relationship? Keep reading to figure out whether your partnership is built to last or riddled with red flags.
What Is a Stable Relationship?
As with any relationship advice, it's important to remember that every situation is unique. If you'd like advice on your specific relationship, it's best to speak with a professional. But there are some commonalities most stable relationships will share.
Erene Hadjiioannou, an integrative psychotherapist and founder of Therapy Leeds in England, explains that a stable relationship is characterized by knowing that there is a mutually influenced baseline of how you are with each other and what your relationship looks like. If you ever move away from this baseline, you'll both work together to repair and reestablish your healthy foundation.
Laura Hugill, a personal and professional coach based in San Francisco, adds that stable relationships are founded on strong communication that leads to a deeper connection between the two partners. "Expectations are clear and agreed upon, and—especially in conflict—there is a mutual trust that the intention of the other is always in service of the strength of the partnership," she says.
If you're feeling a lack of stability in your relationship, experts agree that the best way to make your way back to equilibrium is by clearly communicating your expectations, needs and desires with your partner. These may change over time, but strong communication is the foundation of a stable relationship.
Five Signs of a Stable Relationship
The strongest sign of a stable relationship is feeling like you're in one. This means you feel safe and comfortable being honest both with yourself and your partner.
There are a handful of other signs to look out for, too. Here's what the relationship experts have to say.
1. You're Not Afraid to Have Tough Conversations
Even in healthy long-term relationships, couples are bound to experience difficult times that call for tough conversations. It's easy to shy away from these as they require vulnerability and trust. But the healthy way to navigate tough times is by communicating your feelings and always seeking to understand your partner's emotional needs.
"In any relationship, there will be moments of conflict—misunderstandings, misaligned expectations, mistakes," Hugill says. "But in a stable relationship, tough conversations are faced rather than avoided. When both partners embody openness and curiosity, tough conversations become an opportunity to learn more about our partners and ourselves."
2. You're Kind to Each Other
One of the simplest signs you're in a stable, healthy relationship is that you're kind to one another. Regularly saying "I love you," making time for date nights, and always avoiding name-calling (even when you're in a fight) are signs you treat each other with kindness and respect.
You take the time to truly understand your partner's point of view and remember that you're on the same team. Even when you go through a rough patch (and even happy couples do) and you feel things like anger and resentment, you always remember to treat one another with respect, love and kindness.
3. You Have Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are crucial for any relationship—romantic or platonic—to thrive. Boundaries can be guardrails around daily routines, such as needing an hour of time apart every day. Or, boundaries can be larger, such as how and when you interact with members of your extended family. These boundaries may take more time, effort and compromise to establish.
Hadjiioannou says stable partnerships have mutually understood agreements on each individual's personal and interpersonal boundaries. "This allows for respect and affirmation for each other, as well as appropriate amounts of time together or apart," she says. "These agreements can be established and respected in implicit and explicit ways, including being negotiated as the relationship evolves."
4. You Both Engage in Self-Reflection
Even though you're not the only person in your relationship, some of the work toward building a stable relationship must be done alone. It's crucial to reflect on what is—and is not—working for you. Your partner must do the same.
"In a stable relationship, both partners engage in regular self-reflection," Hugill says. "Relationships are a giant mirror, with our partners often triggering parts of us we may have forgotten about or ignored. It can be easy to assume our partner is to blame for every issue that comes up."
However, she says, the truth is that relationships are impacted by both partners. Being able to look inward at our own behaviors increases our self-awareness, which allows us to respond more empathetically to our partner.
5. You Trust Each Other
This one is easier said than done, especially when you and your partner are going through a tough time. But trust is critical for the foundation of any stable relationship.
Hadjiioannou says stable relationships have an internal sense that you'll both be a part of each other's lives without needing constant reassurance. If one partner has unsubstantiated worries that the other partner will leave them, this could be a sign that your relationship isn't built on a solid foundation of trust.