Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. — Rainer Maria Rilke
This beautiful quote creates a wonderful visual for what a healthy relationship requires. No matter how close two people are, they are still two separate entities with their own unique qualities. The space between you and another allows for each individual to maintain his/her own identity and integrity. Personal growth and growth alongside another occurs when we learn to live with and love another’s uniqueness as we would want for ourselves. And that last sentence, “for each to see the other whole against the sky” means that a healthy relationship, the right partner, wants all of you, not just some pieces that they like, but everything about you.
But before we get into the specifics of how you know you’re with the right one, it’s important to identify the essential qualities of a good relationship.
Trust is an absolute. We learn trust from our past relationships. If we’re lucky, these have been largely positive and we feel safe with those we rely on. Trust implies reliability, stability, and consistency. Being trustworthy implies openness and a willingness to be forthcoming. Things are as they are and there is no hidden agenda or deception.
Commitment is a promise to another to fully and intimately share ourselves and our life. It is a promise to commit our full attention, time, and energy. Commitment is reserved for only those who have proven that they are capable of sticking around for the long haul and are ready, willing, and able to share themselves with us.
Respect literally means “regard,” “to look back at.” Although respect is about looking back at, reflecting what has happened, its meaning is somewhat different for an intimate relationship. It’s about the mutual mirroring of emotions, feelings, and beliefs. Respect says, “What I see in you I hold as important as what I see in myself.”
Communication in the healthiest way means we transmit our emotions, feelings, and beliefs in the most satisfying way, for a common purpose. When we freely communicate we feel safe to fully express ourselves in an environment that is supportive, accepting, and loving; one that is largely free of judgment, criticism, withholding, and anger.
So then, what are some ways to translate these essential principles into behaviors that highlight these qualities and indicate that you’re with the right one?
You can be who you are. I’m sure you’re all familiar with relationships where one partner dominates, seems to need more attention, and will manipulate to get what they need. When you’re with the right one you’re comfortable to be yourself. You’re equal partners. While always trying to be respectful, you don’t have to walk on eggshells, to worry about your actions, or watch your words for fear that it will offend your partner.
While you and your partner may not always agree, you’re not concerned about being judged, criticized, or shamed. You can disagree and argue respectfully but you both ultimately decide to work on conflicts to arrive at a constructive solution.
You share the same or similar values. You value basic principles and ideas about life and are on the same page about what you want to accomplish during your life together. You spend time exploring what you both enjoy. You share similar goals and a vision for the future.
You can be your own person. This is quite different than “you can be who you are,” although they may sound the same. Although you may share many things in common, you’re still very separate unique people, and aim to keep this separate identity apart from the relationship. You may have interests outside of the relationship that you don’t share. Of course, you will bring who you are and the gifts and talents you have to offer to the relationship but there’s plenty of room for that. In other words, you respect what the differences are and how they enhance the relationship.
Your relationship is a work in progress. Things change and so do relationships. The right one understands this and is willing to put in the work to keep the relationship satisfying. This is really the only way to handle life’s challenges together. At the same time, while you’re taking care of real business, it’s important to laugh together, even when things are very rough.
In addition to working on goals that support and honor the relationship, the right one will encourage you and support you to work on yourself and on the things that are important to you personally. The common goal is for both of you to be the best you can be.
You trust your partner with your heart and soul. The right one proves time and again that they are reliable, honest, principled, and fully present. They are upfront about who they are, don’t cause you to ever doubt them, are not secretive or withholding. Their character speaks for itself—all you need do is look to your partner’s relationships outside of your own to see how they treat others.
It might take time to find the right one. You may have to go through a few “learning experiences” to see how you feel in an intimate relationship, and to understand the complexities of living with another person for a lifetime. It may take time, too, to learn about yourself, who you are, what you need, and what you aspire to. Having done that work, it will probably be a lot easier to identify the right one once they come along.
Facebook image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock