Let me preface by saying that I am no relationship expert. I’ve made terrible choices in dating. I’ve stayed with partners well past the expiration date. I fell in love with potential more often than the actual person. I’ve regularly chased men that wanted nothing to do with me. I’ve let people walk all over me. And I’ve ignored every red flag in the book because, hey, people can change if you love them hard enough, right?
WRONG. It never works that way. Cut your losses and move on, my friend.
But through my ups and downs and trials and tribulations, I’ve learned some invaluable stuff along the way. And between me and all my girlfriends who are on a similar journey, I think we have enough data collected to finally make some well-informed good decisions on what actually matters in a partner.
I recently entered into a new relationship, and it’s been a dream. Since then, we went on our first trip together, we’ve spent time with each other’s families, and we dropped the L word. Things continue to get better as the days go on and sometimes I can’t even believe a person like this exists and is choosing me too.
We all know the basics of what makes a good relationship—trust, respect, communication, etc.—so I’m not going to spend time there. Instead, here are a few things I came to realize about what makes this relationship so different from any of the others and some questions you can ask yourself if you’re entering into something new or figuring things out with your current S.O.
1. Do I not only respect and trust them but also admire them?
I think this one is big. The first time I went out with my now-boyfriend . The first time I went out with him, I couldn’t help but love his story. He did a 180 with his career and left Corporate America to start his own business and is doing really well. He’s ambitious and driven and self-motivated and I love the life he created and continues to build for himself. Beyond that, he’s one of the kindest, most caring, most empathetic souls I’ve ever met. There’s that whole saying that you become a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. Do you want to be like your partner? Because if not, you should probably break up.
2. Do I genuinely enjoy spending time with their family and friends? And vice versa?
This one might seem obvious, but there’s a difference between tolerating your partner’s friends and family and genuinely enjoying their company. The more your relationship progresses, the more involved and important these connections become. Ask yourself where you fall on this spectrum and be honest. Life gets richer when you love each other’s people.
3. Does my heart melt a little every time I see them smile?
They say eyes are the window to the soul. Well I think a smile is the window to the heart. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about someone very, very quickly.
4. Do I like making out with them?
Sex is great, but there’s something almost more intimate about simply kissing and enjoying that form of connection. I love having sex with my boyfriend, but I LOVE making out with him… to the point where I mak eout with him in public, even though I was never a PDA girl. If you don’t love making out with your partner, I think you’re missing out … and you should probably break up.
5. What is my energetic state not only during, but also after, our interactions?
This was another big one for me. As a yoga instructor, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of vibes. After each date, take a beat to reflect on how your body feels. Are you lethargic and unmotivated? Do you feel a little anxious and stressed out? Do you feel like you need a day to unwind? Do you feel like something is off? I felt this way a lot with my ex and I would imagine he felt the same way about me. It’s weird how we get all these signals but still choose to ignore them. Your body knows if something is right or wrong for you, you just have to listen to it—and trust it.
6. Would they not only be there for me if I needed something, but would they be there for my best friend?
I remember having dinner with one of my girlfriends shortly after getting back from a trip with my boyfriend. I was filling her in on all the events from the week and how things were going more broadly and she said to me “I feel like if I had a problem, I could call your boyfriend and he’d handle it.” That meant everything to me. Choose someone who is loving and generous, not only towards you, but also with your most important people too.
7. Do I like myself when I’m with this person? Do my best qualities come out?
In a relationship, we’re often so focused on the other person and what THEY are doing that we often forget about what the relationship is doing for us. Take some time to think about how you’ve been showing up in the world since this person showed up in your’s. Are you kinder? Warmer? More considerate? Do you like who you are more or less with this person in your life than without? And again, be honest.
8. Could I be in a car with this person for 8 hours and actually enjoy it?
Because if the answer is no, you should probably break up.
9. How do they deal with stress? Their stress, your stress, and/or your dog’s stress?
A month into dating, my boyfriend and I drove about two hours outside of Denver to go on his favorite hike. We took Eve (my dog) with us, and for the entirety of the ride, she whined. And not like a soft, subtle, cute whine—I’m talking a loud, piercing, horrifying yelp that made you want to either throw her out of the car or roll into traffic yourself. I probably apologized 1,000 times during that car ride, and all my boyfriend kept saying was “It’s totally fine. I don’t even notice it.” He HAD to have been lying—it was awful—but I loved how patient he remained. Moral of the story: Find someone who knows how to stay calm and grounded in moments of stress. It’ll make life so much easier to navigate.
10. Have our conflicts, arguments, or misunderstandings brought us closer or driven us further apart?
My Godfather once said that every challenge can be looked at as a problem or an opportunity, and I couldn’t agree more, especially in this instance. Conflicts/arguments/off-days/misunderstandings are one of the best opportunities to strengthen connection. Think about the last challenge you and your S.O. faced, and think about what happened the days after. Was there an uneasiness that lingered on? Or did you find yourself loving that person even more?
Wherever you are in your journey, I hope these questions help!