As anyone who has navigated the world of dating well knows, romantic relationships can create some of our greatest happiness and some of our deepest heartache. They make us think, stress us out and bless us abundantly.
Most of us desire to end up as part of a happy couple one day. We want relationships that will last and bring us real joy. And God wants that for us, too. Therefore, it’s important for us to know what a healthy, lasting relationship looks like. We may need to assess the one we’re already in—or we may want to know what to look for in the future.
Below are eight key traits of a healthy relationship that can help create the foundation for long-term, side-by-side growth and happiness as God intended:
1. It Feels Stable
There is a sense of consistency to the right relationship. This doesn’t mean it’s never hard, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re riding a roller coaster where amazingly happy moments are followed by extremely awful ones.
Some people assume a relationship is good because there are good times. But, just as good relationships have hard times, even bad relationships have some good times. The key is recognizing how often the bad times come and how severe they are.
There should also be a stability in your own thinking about the relationship. It’s a problem if you feel like you’re wildly in love on Monday, but on Wednesday, you feel ready to end it.
2. You Like Yourself in It
Like it or not, dating will change you. The more time you spend with someone, the more you pick up their tendencies, speech patterns and habits. Your partner’s personality will bring out different facets of your own.
If you don’t like the person you become around your partner, that is a huge red flag. On the contrary, some personalities will complement yours and help you become a better version of yourself. This can be challenging and hard, but in a way that feels good—like you are growing more and more into who you want to be.
Also, in a healthy relationship, you should feel loved and respected. While we are meant to find our self-worth in God, He also wired us to feel good about ourselves when we are being affirmed and cared for.
3. You Connect on the Deep Stuff
Small variations in habits, likes and personalities are usually not a bad thing. However, as research has shown, there are some areas couples really need to connect on in order to have a rich and lasting relationship.
You and your partner have to be able to agree and dialogue about the big stuff that affects your daily thinking and view of the world. This includes faith, relationships with family and communication.
Many people get into and even stay in relationships because they fall in love with surface stuff like affection and the fun they have together. But these things can only take you so far. The best relationships have depth to them, where the couple can practice faith together and communicate meaningfully.
4. You Feel Close to God
When Adam and Eve sinned, their inclination was to hide from God. We also tend to hide from God and others if we’re ashamed or we’re doing something we know is wrong—even if we don’t want to face it. How do you feel about praying for your relationship? Besides making you feel guilt, an unhealthy relationship will likely distract you and dampen your interest in God.
The right one, however, will help you feel closer to Him, be grateful toward Him and even feel a greater desire for Him.
5. There’s a Mutuality
It can be easy to fall into a place of helping someone when they need it, or relying on someone who feels like all we ever wanted. But it isn’t healthy. It prevents us from growing or respecting ourselves, and it doesn’t form a strong foundation for the future of the relationship.
The healthiest relationships have a “give and take” to them where both people help one another out relatively equally. There may be times when one partner is struggling, but the dynamic over time should be that of a mutual partnership, not a codependent relationship where one person is the caretaker, and the other person is leaning on them totally.
6. You Feel Safe
Obviously, physical safety is paramount in a relationship. But you should also feel safe emotionally. You should feel comfortable around someone; able to be yourself. You should be able to bring up an issue if you’re upset and not worry that your significant other is going to yell and storm off.
A relationship can only be successful if both people can communicate honestly and feel safe express their hurt or fears. They need to feel they will be supported, not judged.
7. God is First for Both of You
God made us for Himself first. There’s only so much satisfaction we can get from another imperfect human being. The best relationships are those where both people completely enjoy each other, yet also recognize their personal relationships with God are immeasurably more important. Only as we lean into Him will we have the resources to grow and give to others.
8. Friends and Family Approve
Let’s face it: Sometimes we just don’t see what’s in front of us when our emotions are involved—or sometimes we just don’t want to see it. That’s where our friends and family come in. These loved ones who know us pretty well, can often recognize if a relationship is good or bad for us.
Of course, they don’t always agree. But be sure to listen if you have a few friends and family members who voice concerns over red flags in your relationship. They are concerned because they love you, so be willing to ask for and heed their advice.
God’s Desires for Us
It’s good to keep in mind the kind of love God has in mind for us. It’s special. It’s a mixture of a comfortable friend and a passionate love (check out Song of Songs). It’s one that will reflect His care for us, bring us closer to Him and to our potential.
Too often, we are tempted to settle for less than what He has planned. Along with asking ourselves about the above signs, our best tactic is to pray. Our thinking can only take us so far, but God can reveal what’s really true about a situation, and if we invite Him to, He can lead us to what is right. He loves us enough—and is powerful enough—to bring the best relationships (romantic and otherwise) into our lives.
[This article initially appeared in 2016.]