Ask most people how they knew their long-time partner was “the one” and they’ll give a half-shrug. “I don’t know, something just clicked,” they might say, or, “At some point early on, I just knew.”
That’s lovely for them, but not entirely helpful to you if you’re single and looking for pointers.
But while your friends might not get specific, there are a few qualities that good partners and relationships tend to have in common, right from the start. Below, people who work with couples and singles (matchmakers, therapists, psychologists) share eight subtle signs that you’ve found your person.
1. You love being together but encourage your partner to have a separate life outside your relationship.
In her work as a matchmaker, Alyssa Park hears a lot of men and women griping about past relationships in which their partners spent too much time with their friends. She tells clients that they’re looking at it wrong: In a solid relationship ― one that goes the distance ― time spent apart isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.
“The best pairings are the ones where both partners feel secure enough with each other to support their partner’s passions outside of the relationship,” Park, who works at Three Day Rule Matchmaking, told HuffPost. “Whether you’re picking up a new hobby or hanging out with friends and family, you’re growing as an individual and bring that sense of self and growth back into your relationship.”
2. They care about your opinions, and you care about theirs.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about politics, that day’s horoscope, or what your weird uncle Joe said after one too many drinks at Christmas, when you share your thoughts, your S.O. really wants to hear them. The same is true for you ― you’re genuinely interested in your partner’s opinion. (Even if you disagree, you like having an exchange of ideas.)
“A person who asks for and listens to your opinions and feelings ― and better yet, who remembers what you say and builds on it later ― is someone you know you can communicate with,” said Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and co-author of “How To Be A Couple And Still Be Free.” “You want someone who responds with empathy, sincerity and caring.”
3. There’s a near-instant feeling of familiarity.
Yes, the concept of soulmates and feeling an instant bond with someone is a bit corny. But people who’ve meet their match do often report having felt an uncanny sense of closeness right from the start, said Carmen Harra, a psychologist and author of “The Karma Queens’ Guide to Relationships.”
“You experience a sense of familiarity right away,” she said. “His or her touch, scent, taste, comportment, language ― will be comforting and recognizable to you. You may even feel an odd sense of déjà vu, as if the moment in time has already taken place, perhaps a long time ago in a different setting.”
4. You’re comfortable being vulnerable around them.
In therapy, Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City and the co-host of “Marriage Therapy Radio,” has a phrase she likes to use with clients who are single and dating. A person who’s worth your time will be gentle with your “enduring vulnerability,” she tells them. Enduring vulnerability, she says, is made up of the sensitive “little known, soft places we keep hidden from outsiders but can often be the source of great emotional pain when activated.”
You know you’ve found a keeper when you’re vulnerable enough to share your hidden hurts and pains and they handle that information with care and empathy. Once they’re privy to that information, they don’t use it against you; they use their words to build you back up.
“I think of a client who fell madly in love with her husband because he went above and beyond to point out all the ways she was smart, creative and inventive in her everyday life,” she said. “He knew that she carried an old, hurtful story that she was slow from years of struggling in school with dyslexia. That’s what it like when you’re with someone who respects your enduring vulnerability.”
5. You’re OK with being bored in each other’s company.
This one might sound like a weird outlier, but you know you’ve met the one when you both feel comfortable doing absolutely nothing together, Park said.
“It’s easy to feel chemistry in the early phases of dating because you’re always doing something exciting or different together,” she said. “The true test of compatibility is if you’re happy doing the simple things together like grocery shopping or folding laundry.”
6. You fight fair.
The myth of a conflict-less relationship is just that: a total myth. A true sign of a lasting relationship isn’t a lack of arguments, it’s knowing how to resolve those inevitable clashes.
“Relationships aren’t always going to be in the honeymoon phase,” Park said. “The difference between a failed relationship and your forever relationship is how you handle conflict together: The minute you start to blame each other is the moment you stop operating as a team. On the other hand, discussing different perspectives in a way that is open and healthy can bring you closer together.”
7. They’re affectionate — and not just because they’re angling for sex.
Affection ― sweet compliments out of nowhere or little taps on the bum when no one is looking ― is the special sauce of long-term relationships. Being able to express positive feelings toward each other helps you get past awkward moments, recover from spats, and reassure each other that your love is still strong, Tessina said. Your forever person should feel comfortable being affectionate toward you ― and not just because they’re looking to have sex.
“While sex is important and both of you deserve to have your sexual needs met, a person who pouts if affection doesn’t lead to sex is emotionally immature,” Tessina said. “A good partner isn’t reluctant to touch you, to say loving things, or to be close to you in non-sexual situations, too.”
8. You’d describe your relationship as “easy.”
You often hear longtime couples say that a relationship is “hard work.” While there’s absolutely truth to that, it shouldn’t be backbreaking, I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this-anymore hard work. With the right partner, there are bumpy moments here and there, but overall, your relationship is relatively easy.
“When couples describe their courtship as ‘easy,’ I know that they found their match,” Heck said. “Toxic relationships can be exciting, consuming, enticing and hard to quit. But it’s a friendship that quietly grows into a deep, meaningful love that is the goal.”
In other words, don’t toss out a relationship because it’s not full of drama; embrace it because it’s more or less drama-free.
“Easy relationships can be discarded before given the chance because there doesn’t seem to be ‘heat’ ... but believe me, the heat is in the friendship, not in the makeup sex,” she said.