Every relationship reaches the point where that person you were convinced you couldn’t live without becomes the person you live with. That’s when you really find out if you married the right person.
By no means are the following the only important aspects of a relationship: physical attraction, intimacy, trust…the list goes on and on.
But other qualities definitely matter, too. And those qualities are definite signs you are with the right person, because the right person supports and helps you personally, professionally… and to make your dreams come true.
(Since I’m a heterosexual male I wrote this from my perspective; the following is neither gender nor sexual orientation specific.)
1. You only have to think about what you want to say, not how you need to say it.
We all manage up, or sideways, or down, choosing our words carefully in order to frame an idea, or a suggestion, or feedback, or constructive criticism…. Oftentimes, in professional or personal settings, we feel we need to think more about how we want to say something than the essence of what we need to say.
When you’re with the right person, you don’t think about how you want to say something. You just say it, partly because you know they will understand…but also because you trust that you can work through any initial misunderstandings.
2. When you have bad news, your spouse is the first person you want to tell — not the person you most dread telling.
When good things happen, plenty of people can’t wait to tell their partner.
But what about when something bad happens–and especially if that “something bad” is in some way your fault?
That’s a much harder conversation to have.
If you’re with the right person, though, that is the first conversation you want to have: You know she’ll listen, commiserate, empathize…and then help you find ways to make a bad situation better.
3. Your partner understands the relationship between money and time together.
According to at least one study, if one spouse commutes longer than 45 minutes, a couple is 40 percent more likely to get divorced.
So say you or your significant other is offered a new job with a 20 percent bump in salary… but the commute is an hour longer. According to another study, economists determined that a 40 percent increase in pay is necessary to make an additional hour of commuting time worthwhile in terms of personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
In simple terms, a couple of dollars an hour more in pay won’t make you happy if you have to drive an extra hour every day to earn it. And it definitely won’t help your relationship.
4. Your partner doesn’t expect you to change overnight.
I have a really bad habit I’m trying to overcome. (Actually I have plenty of bad habits; this is just one.)
I often agree to do something way off in the future…only to want to back out when it gets close to the day. (A therapist could probably have a field day figuring out why I do that.)
So invariably I’ll say something like, “You know, I don’t think I want to go [somewhere] after all….”
Instead of saying something that I already know, like, “You always do this. Just suck it up and go,” or, “People are going to be disappointed if you don’t go,” my wife smiles and says, “I really hope you go. You’ll have fun. You always learn things and meet cool people. And later, you’re always glad when you do [that]. What can I do to help you get ready?”
In short, she doesn’t make me feel bad for wanting to back out. She knows that’s how I am, and instead of criticizing me, she’s supportive and helps me work through it.
The right person knows there are things about you that you want to change, but they don’t expect them to change overnight. They’re willing, for as long as it takes, to help you work through your quirks.
5. Your partner never lets you give up on yourself.
Showing patience is an under-appreciated way to show genuine confidence in your partner — because it shows that, no matter the current struggles or issues, you truly believe in him.
When I first changed careers, I really struggled. I worked impossible hours just to scratch out a semblance of the income I once generated. But every time I talked about giving up, my wife kept me centered by gently reminding me that all the work I was doing would pay off if I stayed the course. “I have all the faith in the world in you,” she said. “I know that if you give it time, you will figure this out.”
I still work long hours, but the reward is much greater–and I’ve figured out how to have a lot of fun doing what I do.
No success is overnight. That’s why, when your partner is patient with you — while also encouraging you to work hard — you can sometimes achieve things you never imagined possible.
And speaking of success…
6. Your significant other helps you be more successful.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.
That’s true for men and women: “Partner conscientiousness” predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion, even after factoring in the participants’ level of conscientiousness. (Check this out for more on how a good partner sets a good example and makes it possible for you to become a better you.)
7. Your partner doesn’t talk about you; they talk about the cool things you do.
We all know people who openly badmouth their significant others: complaining about what their partner does (or doesn’t do), criticizing their partner’s decisions, questioning their partner’s judgment, or work ethic, or manners, or…it’s almost as if they wear their partner’s failings like a badge of honor.
When you love — and respect — the person you’re with, you don’t gossip about their personal failings. You talk about their great qualities because you’re happy for them…which is also a sign you’re happy with yourself.
Or, more likely, you don’t say anything at all, unless asked, because quiet pride is the best pride of all.
8. Your partner knows you well enough to have the ideas you should have had.
Some years ago I was in Nashville for Inc.’s GrowCo event. The day Mark Cuban appeared, one young man spent the entire day manning the green room door. I started to feel sorry for him; here he was at this cool conference and yet he was stuck in a chair guarding a door in a lonely hallway.
So I stopped to talk. He was surprisingly happy about doing that job but mentioned that he would love to meet Mark Cuban. I didn’t say so, but I knew that would never happen: Cuban’s time was tightly scheduled, plus local and national media were angling for time. The constant crowd of people wanting something from him would make that impossible.
A little later I called my wife and mentioned that the volunteer hoped to meet Mark. She said, “You can make that happen. Why don’t you try?”
She was right. I could make that happen.
So I did.
When you’re with the wrong person, you both care more about who had the idea than the idea itself.
The right person knows enough about your work, your goals, your dreams, and the kind of person you want to be to offer ideas you haven’t considered.
And when they do, you never feel like they’re telling you what to do or meddling in your business…you’re just glad. You just appreciate that they care enough to want to help you.
9. You feel your partner listens more than they talk (and they feel the same way about you).
Some people are masters of Social Jiujitsu, the ancient art of getting you to talk about yourself without you ever knowing it happened.
It’s easy. They ask the right questions, staying open-ended and allowing room for description and introspection. Asking the right questions, and then listening closely, shows they respect your thoughts, your opinions…and, by extension, you.
And you do the same for them.
10. Your partner cares more about doing something with you than whatever you actually do.
If you don’t know there’s a difference — and you don’t feel the same way about your significant other — then you aren’t with the right person.
11. Your partner cares a lot more about determining what is right than about being right.
Oftentimes, people in a relationship take a position and then proclaim, bluster, and totally disregard their partner’s opinions or points of view. They know they’re right — and they want (actually, they need) their spouse to know it, too.
Those discussions are more about power than about making great decisions.
The right person doesn’t mind being proven wrong. They feel finding out what is right is a lot more important than being right. And if they feel your point of view is better, they’re secure enough to back down graciously…because ultimately they feel you’re in it together.