Marriage can be tricky and challenging at times. So it's only natural that when you're in one of those funks, you begin to ask, "Did I marry the right person?"
It's the holidays, and naturally emotions will run high and we will all be tested to our breaking points. At least that's how it is with my family at times. I get it.
Before getting too worked up, take a deep breath and look for the following 16 telltale signs that you actually did in fact, marry the Mr. or Mrs. Right, and, most importantly, you can get through this difficult time together.
1. You spend time together doing things you both enjoy
Relationships are full of compromises. Take, for example, going to the movies. You may want to see the latest Marvel movie while your spouse would prefer to watch the Leonardo DiCaprio film. Maybe you agree that it's time to see that Leo flick because you picked out the movie the last time you went to the theater.
Sometimes you do what you like, and other times you do...what the other person likes. That is part of being in a healthy relationship. However, you also need to spend time doing things that you both enjoy doing together. Whether that's hiking, wine tasting, binge watching your favorite TV series, or even working together (my wife and I actually love writing and editing blog posts and articles together), this is one of the most important, and obvious, signs that you are married to the right person.
2. You can also spend time apart
While you enjoy spending time together, you also need to live separate lives. You have no problem if he goes to football games with his best friends. And he doesn't have an issue with you going to concerts with your friends.
Just because you're married doesn't mean that you have to spend 24/7 together and can't have separate interests and hobbies. In a healthy relationship, you both understand, and respect, that you need time apart doing what you want to do.
I found in my marriage that we didn't really start appreciating this till after the honeymoon phase.
3. They're attentive
"Having a partner who notices what you need or want in a given moment and responds accordingly bodes well for the long-term potential of your relationship," says Elizabeth Schoenfeld, director of research and evaluation at LifeWorks.
For example, my wife understands that if I'm bogged down with work, she's not going to make dinner reservations with our friends. At the same time, if she's exhausted because she was up all night with our child who was sick, I'm not going to "surprise" her with tickets (even the best tickets I've ever scored) to the Warriors game.
4. When there's bad news, you go to them first
Let's say you just got a promotion. Who's the first person that you're going to excitedly tell? I'm sure most of us would say our partner, wife, or husband.
But what about bad news, like getting laid off? That's a conversation that you probably don't want to have with your spouse or partner. If you're married to the right person, however, then that is a conversation you'll still want to have -- since they will be there to comfort you and help you figure out ways to move on from this bad situation. I know that was the case with me when one of my businesses failed.
5. You have strong trust
Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship -- whether it's trusting them when they go out with their friends or confiding in them when you're upset. In fact, John Gottman, one of the nation's foremost researchers of marriages and families, says that "trust is essential to healthy relationships and healthy communities."
If you want build trust, one of Goodman's graduate students developed the acronym ATTUNE, which stands for:
- Awareness of your partner's emotion;
- Turning toward the emotion;
- Tolerance of two different viewpoints;
- trying to Understand your partner;
- Non-defensive responses to your partner;
- and responding with Empathy.
6. They're physically affectionate
"Generally speaking, couples who are more physically affectionate with one another tend to be more satisfied with their partners and their relationships -- which makes sense, as individuals tend to feel more cared for and understood when their partner shows physical affection," says Schoenfeld. One study even found that physical affection was a strong predictor of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriages.
Physical affection can also improve trustworthiness, reduce stress, and put most people in a better mood.
7. They don't expect you to change overnight
We all have quirks and bad habits that we need to work on. After all, no one is perfect. For me, a huge change was making exercise a habit. My wife never made me feel guilty if I put off exercising, but she did encourage me by saying things like "It's such a nice day, why don't we go for a bike ride?"
The right spouse won't make you feel ashamed or even expect you to change overnight. They understand that change is a process, and they will support you along the way.
8. You put the other person first
Between things like work and your kids, you don't always have the time to make your spouse a priority. When you're with the right person, though, that's not the case. It could be simply saying "I love you," washing the dishes after dinner, or taking them to that new restaurant they've been wanting to try out.
The point is, no matter how chaotic life can get, you put your spouse first. To some, this is not natural. As with anything in life, it becomes natural through practice.
9. Your fights are productive, not destructive
Even seemingly perfect couples fight behind closed doors. The difference between unhealthy and healthy relationships is that fights shouldn't be about who's right. They need to be more productive. This means listening to each other, understanding and respecting each other's viewpoints, and finding common ground so that you can strengthen your marriage. And please, call it what it is -- a fight. Don't go around saying, "We never have fights, we have discussions." A fight doesn't mean you are hurling insults nor getting physical. No! Sure you are discussing, it's a fight -- but you can and should have a fair fight.
10. They share your values and goals
I think it would be boring if a couple had the exact interests or personalities. Some of the strongest relationships that I know are the ones where the couples balance each other out. One of them may be too spontaneous, but their significant other can reel them in a bit. At the same time, that spontaneous person can make their partner, husband, or wife more outgoing.
However, there are long-term values and goals that you should share. For instance, if you want to have children but your spouse doesn't, that could have serious implications for your marriage.
11. You help each other become more successful
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis discovered that spouses can influence pay raises, promotions, and other measures of career success. The researchers believe this is because the partners or spouses emulate good habits such as diligence and reliability from each other and help each other maintain a productive work-life balance.
From my experience, a spouse is also your biggest advocate in helping you achieve your goals and will do whatever they can to help you overcome obstacles blocking your path to success -- in work and life. And they're genuinely excited when you succeed.
12. You can make each other laugh
"Humor, laughter, and joy have a powerful effect on health and well-being," says John Thurman, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Christian Therapy Services in Albuquerque. "It alleviates tension and stress, boosts the mood, raises creativity, and provides a great, drug-free energy boost. Humor brings people together and helps them manage life better."
Thurman adds that laughter and humor enhance relationships by linking you to others, helping you smooth over differences, develop resilience, increase creativity, reduce stress, and gain new perspectives.
13. They listen more than they talk (and vice versa)
Solid marriages involve asking the right questions and listening closely to the answers without interruption or passing judgment. There's room for discussion and being empathetic to their opinion. This shows that you respect what they're saying and are making an effort to understand where they're coming from.
And they should do the same to you.
14. They seek knowledge
You spouse doesn't "need to be a member of Mensa or a mathematical genius, but look for enough intelligence that you can respect and admire each other," says Tina Tessina. "There are several kinds of intelligence, from school learning to independent education by reading, working, traveling, and life experiences."
Someone who is only perceived as an "airhead," or one "who looks good and may be fun to play with, will not keep you interested for long," she says. The right person is someone who is interested in learning and growing intellectually by constantly seeking knowledge.
15. You never hesitate to ask for help
Asking for help is by no means a sign of weakness. When you ask your spouse for advice or help you're respecting and admitting the fact that they have more experience or skills in an area that you're not that familiar with.
16. You share the same financial goals
Even the greatest of relationship can end in a break up due to financial differences and concerns. You should both be on the same page when it comes to your financial goals, such as how much money you need to live a happy and stress-free life and how you're going to save for retirement.
Strong couples create and share budgets, as well as generate financial challenges for themselves in order to put their finances in order.
What telltale signs do you notice in your marriage that let you know you married the right person?