We all want to know that when we choose to spend a lot of time committed to one person, that they’re the best possible person for us to be with. They bring out the best in us, they bring more positivity to our lives than they take and essentially, they’re not silently ruining our life (or that we're not silently ruining theirs). Alas, thanks to all that love is blind bullshit, many of us aren’t aware that our relationships are the exact opposite of positive until we’re drunk crying about it on our boss’ shoulder at the work Christmas party.
To save you all from an embarrassing 2nd of January back at work, and from slowly self-sabotaging for months with the wrong person, we’ve spoken to relationship counsellor Beverly Hills about what exactly makes a healthy relationship, and found out all of the questions we should ask ourselves to figure out exactly if this monogamy malarkey is working for us.
1. Am I giving more than my partner?
‘Often we “over invest” in the hope that our other half will pick up on it and reciprocate. Don’t do it, as this will only lead to resentment,’ says Beverly, ‘If you find yourself giving more ask yourself “why?”, “Why would you want to create what could essentially become a dependent relationship?”’
'My ex used to do a lot for me all the time, he would go above and beyond with everything, cooking all the time, gifts, romantic gestures, he gave me a lot of emotional support, just everything' says Talia*, 23, 'it got to the point where I expected it, and I was essentially dependent on him to maintain it or I'd think something was up. I didn't realise that he was silently resenting how much he did for me until we had an argument and he brought up this one time he'd bought me flowers and I'd forgot to water them like two months prior. I had no recollection of it, but clearly to him it was a big deal. It opened a huge can of worms and we realised we had to adjust our expectations of each other a lot after that.'
2. Am I asking for what I want?
‘Forget about being implicit. If you want something, ask for it, be explicit,’ says Beverly, ‘Sometimes we live in eternal “hope” that the other person will magically know what we want. Sorry, this isn’t fairyland, and no one can read minds.’
'A few Christmases ago, I spent weeks excited for my boyfriend to propose on Christmas Day,' says Elizabeth, 28*, 'I was convinced he was going to because we'd been together three years and in my mind thats engagement territory. When he didn't, I may have slightly kicked off, and he told me he didn't think I wanted to get married because of some random joke i'd made months earlier about divorce being inevitable. Literally one conversation and we would've both been on the same page, no Christmas Day breakdowns necessary, but communication wasn't my strong suit back then.'
3. Are you both caught up in the blame game?
‘If you or your partner are constantly blaming each other for relationship mistakes, maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at your own responsibilities,’ says Beverly, ‘it can’t always be the other person's fault.’
'In my first relationship, we were always having to work through something, cheating or constant arguing or jealousy, it never ended,' says Anna*, 23, 'it got into such a cycle of one of us doing something wrong and holding it over the other that I actually felt relieved whenever I'd find out about something he'd done because it wasn't all on me for a bit. Now I realise we were both at fault for everything we were doing, and that cycle of blame was useless, it didn't matter who was doing what, it mattered that we clearly weren't making each other happy.'
4. Do you have your partners best interests at heart?
‘If you do, great,’ says Beverley, ‘This is about being mindful and taking into account the impact your actions have, not only on you, but on the other person’
'I always thought I had my exes best interests at heart,' says Elizabeth, 'until the day he told me he had got a really great promotion that would mean him working away three days a week and I tried to convince him not to take it. I was being selfish because I didn't want to spend half the week alone, but it took a lot of arguments for me to realise that.'
5. Are your boundaries similar?
‘For example, what does cheating mean to you?’ asks Beverly, ‘A kiss? A sext? Full on swinging from the chandeliers? Make sure you’re both singing (or swinging) from the same hymn sheet.’
'A year into my last relationship, I overhead my boyfriend and his mates talking about webcam models and how much time they spent on them,' says Joanna*, 24, 'For me, that's cheating because you're having a sexual relationship with another person, but my boyfriend just saw it as an extension of porn and thought I was over-reacting. We clearly had very different ideas about what constitutes cheating.'
6. Can you communicate everything you’re feeling to your partner?
‘Maybe the question is also should you?,’ says Beverly, ‘Before spilling the beans, remember the three questions to ask yourself: One, is it necessary? Two, is It timely? Three, is it kind? So, do they need to know or could I run it by someone else who is less involved? Is now the right time, or shall I wait for them to finish up in the bathroom? Am I just being a bit spiteful because I want to get back at them?’
'I used to see my romantic partner as an all-encompassing support system,' says Beth*, 22, 'But after telling my ex a bunch of things I was feeling that he really didn't need or want to know, now I realise you don't have to have ONE person for everything. You can't expect one person to be your everything, it's not fair, and it's why you need friends.'
7. Are you in love with them or just the idea of them?
‘Think about it,’ says Beverly.
'I used to always have this list of non-negotiables that I wanted from a life-partner,' says Hayley*, 29, 'my second boyfriend he fit all of them and I could see exactly how he would fit into my life when we were ready to settle down. But then, like six months in, I realised I was always thinking about our future, not things that were happening right then. I wasn't really happy with him day to day, I just knew he'd make a great husband or dad, and realistically you shouldn't be with someone who's not making you happy just because one day they might do.'
8. Do you need to feed your relationship?
‘Dynamics change but relationships always need feeding,’ says Beverly, ‘when you first met, you couldn’t help but talk and laugh, and talk and eat, and rock and roll and talk talk talk. You were feeding the relationship with outside influences. Forgetting to do this could lead to stagnation, so do the communication stakes need upping?’
'When I moved in with my boyfriend, we decided to make it at least a monthly thing to go out for dinner or drinks, anything' says Anna, 'it's so easy to think "I see you every day I don't need to go out with you" but actually coming home tired at the end of the day to eat dinner in-front of the tele together isn't really quality time. Whenever we feel like we're losing a bit of a spark, we make sure to plan a date night and we always feel closer again afterward.'
9. Are you with someone you really don’t like?
‘If you find yourself constantly wanting to change your partner, then you might want to look at that,’ says Beverley, ‘Yes, they might go along with it, get new hair, a new job and such, but they will always reset to default somewhere along the way, so why be with someone you don’t really like?’
‘Ask yourself too,’ she continued, ‘Are they doing that to you?’
'I got so tired of constantly having to work on myself with my ex-boyfriend that I basically just gave up,' says Joanna, 'we broke up not long after and I spent the next year being single and selfish and absolutely loved it. Changing for anyone but yourself is exhausting and I won't be doing it again in my next relationship.'
10. Are you cloning?
‘We’ve all seen it, the pics of Brad Pitt looking like every girlfriend or wife he’s ever had,’ says Beverly, ‘If you’re turning into your partner, dressing like they do, eating the same foods, watching the same movies, and such then you’re in danger of losing your own identity and boredom could set in.
‘Be brave enough to be yourself, go out with your mates, wear red and green together, sing all the wrong lyrics out of tune in the shower if you want to, keep your individuality, after all, it’s why they fell in love with you in the first place!
*names have been changed
If you're interested in relationship counselling, visit the Counselling Directory.