Dr Kathy Nickerson, who has 22 years experience in the field, said indicators that a relationship is strong include it “feeling easy”, genuinely caring about your partner’s happiness, and being “intentionally gentle and kind” to one another.
The psychologist from Orange County, California, said: “After working with couples for so long, I know that it's never too late to make a relationship better.
“The four points I mentioned are clinical observations I have made – but if your relationship is not where you want it to be, don't give up, take action.
“Think about what you're really craving, then find a kind and gentle way to ask for this. Then ask your partner to do the same.
“Couples that commit to talking frequently about what they feel and what they need do far better than couples who shut down, settle for what's offered, and don't talk about how to heal sore spots.“
It feels easy most of the time
A relationship feeling “easy” is critical to its health, states Dr Nickerson.
“What I mean by this is that it does not feel like a daily struggle or challenge to connect with your partner or get emotional support from your partner,” she says.
“Even though life might be difficult and you might face personal challenges, your relationship feels safe, comfortable, and easy.”
She adds that while all relationships experience difficult patches, the ones that are most likely to last are those where the rough spots feel few and far between.
You fight fairly
On the subject of “fighting fair”, she explains: “Couples who have healthy relationships know that the point of a fight is to communicate, not destroy each other.
“They care about each other's feelings; they're careful about tone and how they phrase things.
“The goal of good communication is to be honest, authentic, and kind - not nasty, critical, defensive, or dismissive,” she says.
You care about your partner’s happiness
Caring about your partner’s happiness is vital, says Dr Nickerson, because at the heart of a good relationship is a solid friendship.
“We feel closest to people who like us, who actively care for us, and who go out of their way for us,” she says.
“Healthy couples do this and they're mindful about what makes their partner happy.
“The strongest couples casually track the fairness in their relationship, especially when it comes to things like household chores and choices made for the family, like what restaurant to eat at.
“They strive to make sure both partners get equitable treatment,” she says.
You are “intentionally gentle and kind” to each other
The fourth and final sign according to Dr Nickerson is remembering to be gentle and kind to each other, even when things get difficult in life.
She says that couples with staying power recognise that they are a “safe harbour” for each other.
“They are intentional about being gentle with their words and kind with their behaviours.
”They go out of their way to ensure their partner feels secure, valued, and loved.
“When their partner is hurt or upset, they drop everything to listen to them, comfort them, and support them.
”They actively listen for their partner's feelings and they validate those feelings,” she says.
Of the four signs, Dr Nickerson believes that the most important is that your partner’s happiness matters to you.
If this element of your relationship is true, she says, you will instinctively do things to support them and show compassion for them.
“You'll ask them about their dreams, their feelings, and their fears,” she says.
“You will do what you can to help alleviate the fears and make the dreams come true.”
She adds: “We all want to stay in relationships where we feel respected and valued for who we really are.
“If your partner's happiness truly matters to you, you'll naturally do many things that convey acceptance and admiration.”
Dr Nickerson shared her advice in a TikTok video which has racked up more than 400,000 views.
On the subject of a happy relationship, she adds: “I think a good relationship is the most precious gift you could ever receive.
“My advice to everyone would be... act like this in your relationships and if this person is ready for you and right for you, the relationship will last.”
Additional reporting by SWNS
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