All relationships go through rocky patches. Even marriage therapists go through periods of tension. At the time of this writing, I’m living in a house divided. I’m an Eagles fan, my husband is a Vikings fan, and we will be cheering against one another in the NFC Championship. We both have high hopes and neither of us can support the other’s Superbowl dreams at the moment. We’ve accepted that this game will be rough, it’ll test our marriage, and that we can move past this (after trash-talking is checked and wounds are licked).
It’s important to note that relationships are fluid.
So where your relationship is at right now doesn’t determine where it’ll be in a month or a year from now. If your relationship is struggling, you’ll want to address the underlying issues to get back on track. If it’s doing well, you’ll want to keep investing in and prioritizing it to keep it on track. Just know, even unhappy marriages can rebound and become happy again with the right kind of help.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what stability even looks like in relationships. Especially when things get rocky. And if you’re wondering what a stable relationship looks like, you’re not alone. Bustle magazine recently ran an article about it and, even though I contributed, I wanted to write a blog post that went deeper and gave my clients and readers more support.
What does a stable relationship even look like?
Healthy relationships are created. We aren’t born knowing how to have healthy relationships. It’s something we learn by a lot of trial and error. So if you’re struggling with it, you’re in good company. No one is perfect in marriage (even marriage therapists!).
There are three components to a stable relationship. First, stable relationships strike a balance between the “us” and “ me” (and “you” and “I”). Couples spend time together and consider each other’s feelings but are not all-consumed by their partner and the relationship. Secondly, these relationships have high levels of mutual love, trust, and respect. These couples are confident that there partner has their back (even if they’re rooting AGAINST their beloved sports team). Thirdly, both partners’ emotional needs are being met.
5 Signs that your Relationship is Stable
1. Your partner is your best (but not only!) friend.
A solid friendship is the foundation of a stable relationship. In the beginning, couples tend to have long conversations about everything and anything. But, as the relationship evolves, couples don’t always stay on top of it. And sometimes they can lose sight of one another and the basis for their relationship. I often encourage couples to revisit conversations about interests, leisure activities, work, family, and friends if the relationship has gotten rocky.
The best way to smooth things out is to strengthen the foundation. But, in order to have a strong friendship, you need to have other friends. Relying on your partner for everything is a sign of codependence not relationship stability.
2. You’re able to rebound quickly during and after a fight.
All couples fight. In fact, most arguments are unresolvable (like my husband is never going to root against the Vikings and I’ll never root against the Eagles). But people in stable relationships handle conflict differently than those in unstable relationships. Stable couples have more positive interactions than negative ones, even during arguments. They avoid name-calling, finger pointing, and blaming and insert humor and touch to diffuse conflict.
Unstable relationships are plagued by criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stone-walling during arguments. If this is you, don’t wait to take action! Those are the four biggest predictors of divorce! Go ahead and click here to learn the antidotes to these toxic behaviors and get yourself back on track!
3. There’s a give and take.
In stable relationships, neither person runs the show. Fair is not always equal and people in stable relationships are not caught up in tit-for-tat. Instead, they focus on finding solutions that work for the couple (as well as the individuals). In addition, both partners’ emotional needs are prioritized and they accept the influence of the other when making decisions.
4. You have a positive perspective
Couples who are in stable relationships focus on the positive things about their partner far more than the negative things. The might get annoyed by things that their partner does but they find a way to move on. On the flip side, couples in unstable relationships dwell on the negative things. Besides making them more miserable in their marriage, focusing on the negative puts these couples at a high risk for infidelity and divorce.
5. You share fondness and admiration
Stability in relationships is marked by feeling loved, supported, and valued. Conveying fondness and admiration helps with this. But just showing it isn’t enough. You need to share fondness and appreciation in your partner’s love language. This way you can ensure that your partner is picking up what you are putting down. There is nothing more demoralizing than having your partner say that you don’t show them love when you go out of your way to do so.