7 Telltale Signs of a Healthy Relationship That Only Apply to Modern Couples
Romance today gets a bad rap. We're told that young people don't know what love is, or that we're so busy with our iPhones that we couldn't find romance if we tried.
But whereas 20 years ago we might have shown our partner love by buying him or her flowers, today we can convey the same sentiment by sending a kissy-face emoji or a heartfelt GIF. How we show our admiration for each other has evolved. But amid all the change, the characteristics of healthy relationships have remained the same.
Here are seven signs that your modern relationship is on the right track, according to the experts who know.
You're both counting down the days until House of Cards premieres.
A shared passion for the Netflix juggernaut points to compatibility. The old adage "opposites attract" may be true on a superficial level: When you're in a relationship that likely has no future, one 2005 study found, the attraction to someone completely dissimilar from yourself can make the relationships seem exciting. But when it comes to finding a long-term partner, similar values and dreams are key.
"It is okay to have different interests or movie likes, but similarity in key life values (e.g., views on money, the importance of religion or how you raise children) is what keeps people together over the long-term," says Terri Orbuch, relationship expert and author.
A similarity between partners validates their shared view of the world, and can lead to less major conflicts. You may argue over the small things, but you agree on the major issues (like House of Cards).
You're totally down to see Fifty Shades of Grey together.
It can be awkward, watching sex on the big screen (especially for those couples who aren't into the joint-porn thing). But feeling comfortable dealing with sex, and specifically talking about it, is key for a good relationship.
A 2012 study found that sexual communication was directly linked to sexual satisfaction: More communication during sex was linked to less anxiety and higher self-esteem, which led to better sex. That comfort talking about the topic can also increase emotional intimacy, as a study of long-distance couples found. Long-distance couples are more likely to talk about sex and have the types of conversations that lead to greater intimacy.
And when we feel safe and comfortable with an S.O., we are far more likely to be a little more adventurous in the bedroom. The specific experimentation and fantasies will differ for every couple, of course. But being able to talk about what's on the screen can only mean good things in bed — even if you're not adventuring at Christian Grey levels.
Your friends and family "like" your photos on Facebook and Instagram.
Dating someone disliked by your social circle may seem rebellious, perhaps in a romantic, us-against-the-world sort of way. But the approval of family and friends is an important part of any relationship. People close to us have our best interests at heart, and they often have an objective view of the people we date.
Moreover, feeling supported in your relationship by those around you actually strengthens the relationship. "If you meet where there's a supportive social network, you receive encouragement to continue and deepen the relationship – especially when friends or colleagues say: 'We knew you guys were right for each other,'" explained Cornell's Sharon Sassler, author of a study that found that couples who received more social support were more likely to get engaged and married.
Consider that next time your mom "likes" your relationship status on Facebook and comments on your photos. Stop cringing; it's a good thing.
You can't help but send a Snapchat or 10 when you're not together.
Independence is key in any partnership – it helps to foster an interdependent rather than co-dependent relationship. But missing your S.O. when they're away is actually healthy.
A 2010 study by Benjamin Le on interdependance found that missing a partner who is geographically distant can actually lead us to act in a way that will maintain the relationship. Namely, it causes committed people to avoid behaviors that would put their relationship in jeopardy.
"[If] you have an emotional response to him or her being away, it's a signal that you really want to be with him or her," Le says. Plus, distance from a partner can lead you to behaviors that strengthen the relationship, studies of long-distance couples have shown.
Sending those longing snaps, WhatsApps and texts are a good sign and should definitely keep up as long as your battery allows for it.
Your S.O. orders you Seamless after a particularly bad day at work.
So you've had a bad day. You've obviously texted your partner to tell them. If their reaction is to order you a great meal from your favorite Seamless restaurant, you may just have a keeper. That's because kindness and generosity are the key to any happy relationship, according to research published by psychologists (and spouses) John and Julie Gottman.
In their "Love Lab," the couple studied newlyweds' interactions. They then predicted whether the couples would be "masters" or "disasters" — and followed up six years later. Those who ended up being masters over that period were the ones who paid close attention to each other and performed small acts of kindness for each other on a regular basis. As Emily Esfahani Smith noted, "Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood and validated — feel loved."
That small act could be a thoughtful Seamless order, or getting you that book from your Amazon wishlist. But hey, enough small acts and you could find yourself working your way up to an iPhone 7.
And then he or she waits patiently so you can Instagram it before you eat.
Not only does your S.O. order your favorite meal; they also facilitate your food porn habit before digging in. This might seem like the behavior of an enabler, but it could also be real love.
What this means (besides you needing to rethink your Instagram habits) is that your significant other appreciates and respects your passions and needs. "Accepting and being grateful for character differences," write therapists Jon and Beverly Meyerson, is fundamental to a lasting relationship.
Moreover, it's crucial to understand how those character differences lead to distinct needs. "You know you are with the right person when they tell you what makes them feel loved and you are happy to generously lather them with whatever they need. And they do the same for you," sex and relationship expert Tammy Nelson told the Huffington Post.
Your S.O. may wait for you to Instagram your food, and you may need to humor them with a certain bad movie or an entire Saturday playing Call of Duty. Either way, if you're patiently addressing each other's needs, your modern relationship may just make it into the 2020s.
You have both finally deleted your Tinder profiles.
The bizarre nature of modern dating is that even when you're "off the market," all the tools of dating — from Tinder and OkCupid to simple social media like Facebook — remain right at your fingertips. But you know you're in something really solid when you each delete the apps.
It's not just about avoiding temptation or jealousy. According research into cognitive processes, being in a happy, committed relationship activates an implicit attentional block against alternative partners. Plainly, this means we tend to pay less attention to alternatives (even attractive alternatives) when we're happy with our partners.
Sure enough, deleting Tinder from your phones is a modern sign of seriousness. As the New York Times noted poetically in a recent Vows column, highlighting a middle-aged couple who met on Tinder, "As a sign of their commitment, they both deleted Tinder from their phones."
Realizing that you no longer want to peruse Tinder, even just to gawk at all the tigers, points to a very good Tinder-less future with your S.O.