It can be difficult to know if your partner is the right person for you
It can be difficult to know if your partner is the right person for you

Am I in the right relationship?

It's a common question - and the answer is actually rather simple 

Ammanda Major
Monday 23 November 2015 09:40
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“How can I be sure I’m in the right relationship?” is surely one of the most frequently asked questions of modern times. Most of us have asked this to ourselves or to a partner, particularly when things may not be going so well. Lots of studies also point to our obsession with "Finding the One" - a recent survey by the relationship website eHarmony suggested that before settling down, a woman will go on four disastrous dates and be stood up once. She’ll also have fallen in love twice, lived with one partner and had four one-night stands. In contrast, men will have been stood up twice and will have six one-night stands before they meet their ideal partner. But interesting and reassuring as this research may be, capturing what we might mean by this so called "ideal partner" can be tricky.

How many of us have looked a friend’s partner and wondered why on earth they’re with them? Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder on these occasions and only serves to illustrate how individual our tastes are in what we look for in a relationship. Having said that, most of us want to feel connected, supported and loved. The need to be accepted by a significant other is a basic human need and it’s no wonder that when we feel this need isn’t being met, we tend to question who we’re with.

For most people, the beginning of a relationship is intense. This urgency to be the centre of each other’s world can feel so powerful that when the passion fades and real life takes hold it can cause real doubts about the couple’s future together. Luckily, many couples find a way of managing this transition and come out of the other side with a partner who makes them feel comfortable and loved. But some people want and expect the high intensity phase to last for ever. This can lead to diminishing returns as their partner tires of having to meet all their needs incessantly.

Knowing if you’re in the right relationship is going to depend largely on what you see as important in a partner. The Way We Are Now 2015 study by Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care of over 6000 UK adults found that across all age groups, sex life and physical attraction were not considered to be as important for a relationship as honesty and communication. The study also found that 39 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 reported arguments with partners about where their relationship was going. But it seems that, as we get older, these concerns lessen with just 13 per cent across all age groups reporting this to be a source of arguments.

Perhaps being in the "right" relationship means recognizing that amazingly, our partners are human, just like us.

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It’s not unusual for Relate counsellors to see couples where one person has started asking themselves if their partner is right for them. Often this comes as a complete shock to their other half who hasn’t felt that anything has changed; they still care and love them as much as they ever did. This points to how we don’t always complement each other in terms of our changing needs as we get older. What used to work may have come adrift due to all sorts of life events and if this isn’t addressed, it can be very difficult (although not impossible) to find the way back together. Keeping up to date with how you’re both feeling about your relationship through regular "relationship check-ups" can help prevent finding out much later down the line that your partner isn’t happy with you and hasn’t been for years.

Perhaps being in the "right" relationship means recognizing that amazingly, our partners are human, just like us. They can’t possibly meet every single one of our needs all of the time and must acknowledge that we can’t meet all theirs either. It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s surprising how often we lose that ability to see that our partner is really doing their best, even if they aren’t meeting our high expectations.

It’s common for people to wonder if there’s someone better for us out there - somebody perfect, a soulmate. Hollywood and romantic novelists have a lot to answer for here. Dan Savage, the American sex advice columnist and host of the cult podcast the Savage Lovecast argues that "The One" is a lie - no two people are 100 per cent perfect for one another. The good news is that if you’re able to offer respect, compromise, companionship and care to one another – as well as putting up with a few annoying habits – then you are quite likely to get pretty close.

Ammanda Major is a trained Relate Counsellor and senior consultant on Sex Therapy. If you have concerns about your relationship, speaking to somebody objective may help. Visit Relate online to find out about the services offered including face-to-face counselling and Relate’s free online Live Chat service.

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