You’re in a relationship, but are they ~the one~? It’s a loaded question, and figuring out whether or not a person is right for you isn’t always easy. Relationships involve a lot of (sometimes conflicting) emotions. And although there are occasionally obvious red flags — like anyone who can straight-up say “my boyfriend doesn’t make me feel special” or “my girlfriend insults me” — it’s usually less black and white.
In romantic relationships, feelings are often all we really have to go by — but they can still be tricky to decode. For example, a new relationship can feel perfect in the beginning, but as life with your SO continues, that honeymoon phase may subside.
“The honeymoon phase can be deceiving,” Amica Graber, relationship expert for TruthFinder, told Bustle. "When you first meet someone, lust and attraction can scramble your judgment. Calling someone 'The One' early on in a relationship may be putting too much pressure on the relationship before it’s truly developed. So it’s wise to take a step back and see how things develop over time.”
Paying close attention to your evolving feelings can give you a clearer picture of your connection as a couple and your potential future together. Love requires more than just feelings, but your emotions can be useful reference points as long as you understand how to interpret them. TBH, the person you want to end up with is the person who makes you feel a certain way. But how should your partner make you feel, exactly? I spoke to relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter to find out exactly which feelings mean your love story is as real as it gets.
1. You’re Happy.
Happiness is the most sought-after feeling in a relationship. Although every couple will have their good and bad times together, the question of whether or not your partner contributes to your joy should never be overlooked. A healthy relationship can often be summed up in one sentence: He makes me happy. Another contender: She makes me laugh. One more: They know just how to make you smile. If your SO brightens your day more often than not, you’re probably on the right track.
Throughout your relationship, it’s important to check in and make sure that basic feeling is still there. “In some people … having a partner does inspire a sense of confidence and achievement,” Winter says. But she also points out that it’s more than that.
Your partner should add to your happiness, but they should not be your only source of it. “I would urge you not to tie your happiness to your partner,” Winter adds. “Having a partner may make you feel more positively about life, but happiness is indeed an inside job.”
2. You Feel Respected.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like your wants and needs don’t matter. And, in a committed relationship, that kind of disrespect could (and probably should) mean it’s over. The right person will make you feel like your words matter just as much as theirs — and that you’re in a partnership with a level playing field. Winter explains, “What you say and what you think are important and carry weight in your relationship decisions."
In a healthy partnership, you should always feel comfortable enough to voice those opinions, and the boundaries you set should always be respected.
3. You’re Excited About Life.
There’s nothing like counting down the hours or days before you see your significant other again. But being with your SO should not only make you excited about your future together. It should also make you more excited also about life in general, even the little things.
When you’re in love, your SO elevates your overall mood and can even make you look forward to things that never excited you before. “You now have someone with whom to share your experiences,” Winter says. Simply knowing that you’ll go through these moments together makes them more exciting.
4. You Feel Peaceful.
Feeling nervous during the beginning stages of your relationship is normal. But once things settle down, a healthy relationship should make you feel at peace. Like happiness, inner tranquility should not depend on another person. However, it is important that your partner adds to that feeling and does not make you question it.
In a relationship with true love, "you feel at peace with your partner, and secure in the love you share,” Winter explains. “You can exhale.” There’s nothing worse than a relationship that shakes up this feeling of calm. If that happens, chances are they are not the one for you.
5. You Feel Secure.
Feeling secure is arguably the most important part of a relationship. Everyone’s lives are filled with uncertainty, and the last thing you want is to feel that way with your partner. It’s hard for a relationship built on insecurity to last — and why would you want it to?
Instead of dedicating your time to someone who makes you question where you stand, look out for a partner who makes you feel loved and secure. According to Winter, feeling secure with your SO “is how we know that we are (both) in real love.” So sweet.
6. You Feel Grateful.
Feeling grateful for your partner is a good sign that you found a keeper. It doesn’t have to be during big moments, either. (Although the occasional bouquet definitely doesn’t hurt.) Sometimes, simply being around your SO will spark this contented feeling. If you’re lucky, that feeling of appreciation will spill out into other parts of your life. There’s nothing like knowing such a wonderful person chooses to be with you all the while helping you become the best version of yourself.
7. You Feel Optimistic About The Future.
Being in a steady, committed relationship often gives you a new sense of optimism and hope. If things are going well, your partner will make you hopeful of your future together and all the possibilities that future might hold.
“You can plan a life together. Perhaps you want a family, a home, or a business partner and lover,” Winter explains. “Now, you have that hope fueled by reality.” Being romantic and realistic never felt so good.
8. You Feel Brave.
“If your partner gives you a sense of protection and security, you may indeed feel more courageous than previously,” says Winter. It makes sense, considering the growing feelings of happiness and peace that come in a healthy relationship. Plus, being with your partner may give you the courage to take risks you otherwise would never have taken. Sometimes, it’s nice to know that you don’t have to go it alone.
9. You Feel Safe.
In a loving relationship, feeling safe is important and it can be a sign that you’re right for each other. When you’re not constantly questioning if your SO is going to call it quits, you have time to focus on the exciting parts of the relationship, like dates, milestones, and enjoying time with each other’s family and friends.
According to Winter, in a good relationship, “[y]ou're not worried that the 'other shoe will drop,' or that it's 'too good to be true.' You trust your partner's love for you as being real and solid.” Once that trust is established, your relationship will only continue to grow.
10. You’re Confident Being Yourself.
Feeling comfortable enough to be yourself, so-called “flaws” and all, in front of your partner is one mark of a healthy relationship. The right person will make you feel proud to be you and vice versa. “This goes back to the security aspect of being in love with a partner who is also in love with us,” Winter explains. “[W]e have the inherent feeling that we are [OK]; accepted for who and what we are.” That kind of total acceptance is rare, but so worth it,
11. You Feel Appreciated.
Similar to respect, you’ll find true love if your partner makes you feel valued. A partner can do this in a multitude of ways, whether it’s committing to a weekly date night or gushing about you on IG. Whatever their method, you’ll recognize this dedication when you see it.
“You know you're a priority in your partner's life because you have their time and attention,” Winter explains. “Because your needs are important, your partner makes an effort to ensure your happiness."
It can be difficult to sift through all of the emotions that come with a relationship. And although every romance will have its highs and lows, at the end of the day, if your partner helps you have more good days than bad, they just might be the one.
Amica Graber, relationship expert for TruthFinder
Susan Winter, relationship expert and love coach
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