1. How do they treat you?
I know, it feels a bit kindergarten to ask yourself this, but how your partner (or partners, I don’t judge) treat you is one of the most important aspects of a relationship. Playful teasing, in my opinion, definitely gives a relationship some of that zest it needs to stay fun and engaging. However, when the “teasing” starts to confuse and hurt you, then you’re in dangerous waters. You should never have to wonder if your partner actually loves and cares about you—if you do, there’s probably some thinking to be done.
It’s also beneficial to look at how they treat others, especially customer service workers. A generally good rule of thumb is to stay away from people who are outright rude to others around them. Just because they’re nice to you now, doesn’t mean they’ll be nice to you forever. After all, before you started dating, you were one of those others.
2. Are you comfortable being yourself around them?
Do you have to hide your stuffed animals in the closet? Have you had to change the way you look or the music you listen to in order to impress them? Have you had to think of any excuse as to why you chose your liberal arts major? If you answered yes to any of these ask yourself if you’ll be able to share these parts of yourself with them soon—or even eventually.
If you won’t be able to, then ask yourself why that is. If it’s because they’re judgmental and cruel, it’s time to go. If it’s because you, yourself, are worried—without any outside reason—then work on reminding yourself that they’re with you because they want to be and that your stuffed bear won’t scare them away!
On a more serious note, if you’re afraid to tell your partner about your sexual or gender identity or orientation out of fear how they’ll react (especially if you’re worried about anger or violence) then this is not the relationship for you.
3. Do they support your goals for the future?
The way I see it is that you had your goals before you met your partner. While I firmly believe that goals can change and that there is no right or wrong way to step into the future, I do believe that there are certain, individual goals that we all set that we would never, reasonably step down from.
This could mean career plans, travel aspirations, or a book you want to write. For me, it’s where I want to get married and the dog I want to have. They may seem silly and unimportant to some, but I know that I want these two things and to back down on them because of someone else would be wrong.
My right person will also want these things, the same way yours will never make you compromise on the things you want for yourself. Relationships are a give and take but they shouldn’t change your entire life.
4. Are your needs being met?
We all need different things in order for our emotions to be satisfied. That could mean extra space, little to no space, certain love languages being acted on, the avoidance of specific holidays, or even just a certain side of the bed. Honestly, if it doesn’t hurt anyone then it doesn’t matter what your emotional needs are. What matters is whether or not your partner is capable of meeting those needs.
A partner can never realistically fill all of your emotional needs (they’re human, too) but it is healthy to have reasonable expectations, including deal-breakers. It doesn’t always mean they’re a bad person if they can’t handle them, it just means that they’re not right for you. For me, personally, I need a lot of verbal reassurance when I’m in a relationship and sometimes that’s not everyone’s strong suit.
It goes without saying that if you believe they can grow to meet your needs, then hanging around a little to let them fall into the groove won’t hurt. If you’re always tired, confused, and feel unheard, however, then that’s a red flag.
5. When it arises, how is conflict handled?
No relationship is without its disturbances. I just watched my best friend and their boyfriend argue about which song should be queued next. She almost pulled over the car just to prove a point. However, when I made a joke, they laughed and said they only fight about the little things and that’s the key. I believe them—I don’t think they’re going to go home and continue to argue about whether or not it Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift should have been next—it’s about what you’re fighting about and how it’s resolved.
I don’t think you should be falling into an argument every other second, but if you can’t at least comfortably and safely communicate after a fight in order to repair the relationship, or even just reassure your confidence in it, then what’s the point?
6. Are you comfortable saying no?
I saved the most important for last. Saying no—and feeling safe and heard while doing so—is not only beneficial but crucial to a healthy and happy relationship. I don’t mean saying no to doing the dishes or making the bed, but rather to sex or any activity requiring emotional or physical boundaries. Consent is always needed when in a relationship and it may be revoked at any moment—no matter how far along the sex has proceeded or if you have done it before and changed your mind.
If you are in a position where you feel coerced or pressured into sex and are uncomfortable with saying no out of fear of how your partner may react, then it’s time to leave.