As anyone living in the age of depressing divorce rates knows, a happy long-term couple is almost like a unicorn: If by some miracle you encounter it, you can't stop staring, and you have a feeling no one will ever believe you when you tell them you saw it. At some point a corner of your brain dares register the thought: Could this be one of those? That includes exes, cheating, debt, STDs, chronic illness, felonies, whether you want a marriage and/or children, genetic abnormalities (if you both want kids), a strong desire to live somewhere else, professional failures and successes, doubts about your sexual orientation, a strong preference for un-vanilla sex. Going through your significant other's email, phone, Facebook account, or journal strongly indicates that you don't trust the person you're with. In general, if you have a good thing going, you can't wait for him or her to meet your friends, siblings, parents, the guy at the deli, and you wouldn't have any qualms about presenting this person to professional acquaintances, people you knew in college, family friends, even your ex.The Internet is filled with articles on how to decide when to end it, how to recognize when your relationship is toxic, codependent, one-sided, stagnant, asexual, manipulative. If you feel that your significant other is your inferior in any way you know matters to you in a mate -- morally, intellectually, socially, financially or professionally -- you're never going to respect him or her as much as you hope to be respected.As tempting as it is to never leave the house (maybe never leave the bed), you keep doing the work, exercise, volunteering, socializing, networking, and daughtering you were doing before. You want to prove yourself worthy of his or her confidence. Not because you're angry with each other but because you can be quiet together.Remember, these things made you the person Your Person fell in love with. You know you can't hide your flaws for long, so you don't try. When you find yourself with silences you don't need to fill, when you find you can just walk along or lie about or work side by side and feel together without needing to verbally affirm that, you've got a good thing going.You'll wonder if one of the bigger mistakes is the one that will end it, and you'll have to prove to one another that the relationship transcends that. Most couples don't instinctively know all of the ways to please each other. The same things you're not supposed to talk about on a blind date -- religion, money, politics, kids -- are things you should discuss with someone you're serious about. Someone is better with money, someone is more creative. If you each play to your strengths, you in all likelihood remember a gift (possibly an inspired one), your home(s) look(s) great, the bills get paid on time, sex is endlessly fun, and you leave everyone at the party thoroughly charmed.In a good relationship, you quit (or refuse to ever engage in) the one-upmanship.When something the other person does annoys you or turns you off, you don't push it to the back of your mind and hope it will go away, because it won't.
But we don't talk all that often about what defines a happy relationship. You're waiting to feel the toxic stagnant codependency. Professional jealousy can be as poisonous to a relationship as constantly thinking he or she is flirting with your best friend.
It also suggests that you're spending a lot of time comparing yourself to a person you supposedly adore, rather than sitting back and marveling at how amazing he or she is.
You recognize that this person is going to have to take you as you are, as foolish or charitable (or both) as that may seem to make him or her. You're not identical, thank god, which probably means you have certain strengths and he or she has others.
You know you're both going to mess up endless times and have to apologize and be forgiven and forgive. Someone is more organized, someone is more outgoing, someone is a born listener.
You can't be everything to your significant other, and why would you want to be? Friends enrich your life, will accompany you to do things that your significant other may not enjoy, and keep you from getting tired of the person you're seeing. You don't have to love them, but you should think they are honest and moral and have integrity. Look to the people he or she thinks are good people.
This is easier said than done, especially when the relationship is going really well. A good relationship is galvanizing, not in the oh-my-god-I-met-this-amazing-person-I'd-better-hurry-up-and-fix-myself sense (thought there's probably a little of that when you first start seeing anyone amazing) but in the way that knowing someone else believes in you makes you believe in yourself that much more.