HOWTO TELL IF A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP IS ‘GOOD’
It’s a question adults can often ask and answer for themselves and as parents help a teenage child, who may be starting to get romantically involved, also address: "How does a person tell if a romantic relationship is a good relationship?"
Of course there’s love, infatuation, and feelings of attraction, but these are not enough. Judgment must also be consulted, but that requires knowing what kinds of questions to ask – questions about treatment in the relationship. To begin, consider four general kinds of treatment questions to ask to which you must be able to honestly answer "Yes" for the relationship to be good, or at least good enough.
FOUR GENERAL TREATMENT QUESTIONS TO ASK IN A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP
Do I like how I treat myself in the relationship?
For example: Do I act like I consider my needs as important and my opinions as valid as the other person’s?
Do I like how I treat the other person?
For example: Do I respect the other person’s right to see things differently from me?
Do I like how I am treated by the other person?
For example: Do I like how the other person doesn’t criticize me for my opinion when we disagree?
Do I like how the other person treats himself or herself?
For example: Do I like how the other person keeps good spirits up during hard times?
In a "good" or "good enough" romantic relationship, people treat themselves and each other well.
TEN SPECIFIC SIGNS OF GOOD TREATMENT IN A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP
Each person makes a continual effort to show each other the most consideration they can give, never the least.
Each person feels free to speak up about matters of concern and feels listened to when those concerns are expressed.
Neither person pushes or threatens to get their way, and both people feel that limits they set are respected.
Conflict over differences is safely conducted, neither person saying or doing anything hurtful in the frustration over disagreement.
Both parties keep their word and honor agreements, promises, and commitments made.
Both parties can trust the other person to tell the truth, and neither party lies.
Neither party is so possessive that the other is expected to give up spending some time apart -- alone, with friends, or with family.
Both parties manage anger without doing each other verbal or physical harm.
There is equality of sharing in the relationship such that neither party does most of the giving or most of the getting.
Neither party uses criticism, teasing, ridicule, or sarcasm to put the other person down.
The reason love is blind is that it is so often deluded by hope – denying or discounting the bad way things are in the expectation that somehow things will change for the better. So even if some of the 10 signs of good treatment are missing, love and particularly "in-love," can engage in wishful thinking instead of realistic appraisal.
Better to "look at the data." The best predictor of treatment you will receive is the record of treatment you have received. If you have objected to past treatment, if the other person has apologized for past treatment and promised not to do it again but the behavior has continued, then that person has voted with their actions. What you have is what you’ve got and will continue to get.
This is the "bottom line": you must love yourself well enough not to let love for another person cause you to accept mistreatment in a romantic relationship.
© Carl Pickhardt Ph.D. For permission to use, contact the author.