There’s no shortage of articles online and in lifestyle magazines about dating red flags: If she’s rude to the waitstaff or your Uber driver, it’s a big red flag. If he spends half the date talking about his “crazy ex,” run for the hills.
We’re all well-versed in the warning signs of a bad partner, but what are the signs that you’ve found a keeper? We asked marriage therapists across the country to share a few little green flags that you’ve struck luck with your new boo. See what they said below.
1. They’re the first person you want to share good — or bad — news with
You just got promoted or called out in a meeting by your boss for a project well done? Your first thought is to call your S.O. You just heard that your team might be impacted by upcoming layoffs? You call them about that too. Whether it’s good or bad news, your partner is always a reliable sounding board, said Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California.
“When you’ve found a person you consider your lifelong mate, you want to share all the best and worst news with them because you know they’ll celebrate with you or provide the support to get through the rough times,” he said. “If they’re your first go-to with this news, it means you feel safe to share the most intimate parts of yourself with them.”
2. You’re the real, authentic ‘you’ around them
Chris Rock once said of dating, “When you meet somebody for the first time, you’re not meeting them, you’re meeting their representative.” When you’re with someone you gel with, you drop the facade and act pretty much exactly as you do when you’re alone: You’re comfortable at home with them, scarfing down a burrito from the taqueria down the street with reckless abandon. You snort when you laugh. You go along with your rant after a rough day at work, knowing there will be zero judgements. You’re the real you, not “date representative” you.
“You don’t have to try too hard to impress them because you know they adore you no matter what,” said Shannon Chavez, a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles. “You can be hanging out in your pyjamas all day and they remind you how beautiful you are and how much they love spending time with you. They notice the small things that are truly who you are and they appreciate them.”
It’s vital that you can let your guard down with your S.O.
3. Their communication skills are top-notch, even when life is crappy
A good partner knows that communication really is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship: They’re consistent with calls and texts when you’re apart and are tuned in and engaged during conversations.
A great partner keeps those A+ communication habits up even when the two of you inevitably butt heads. Instead of stonewalling or running away from conflict, they want to see it through with you.
“When you have a keeper, the communication flows both ways in the relationship nearly all the time,” said Jennifer Miller, a marriage therapist in Juno Beach, Florida. “When conflict arises, they talk it through with you in a calm, respectful manner without avoiding, blowing up, or worst, ghosting.”
4. They’re flexible enough to do some things your way without being resentful, blaming or thinking they’ve ‘lost’
All couples fight ― in fact, it would be unhealthy if you didn’t argue here and there. Couples with sticking power have arguments, but in the midst of the fight, they keep one thought firmly in mind: We’re on the same team.
Whether you’re arguing about the quickest route to the freeway or something more substantial, a quality partner hears you out when you make your case. They’re focused on solving the problem, rather than winning the debate, said Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California.
“Anyone can ‘go along to get along,’ but a healthy and secure person can let go or try things in a new way out of curiosity or generosity,” she said. “There’s no grudges. No keeping score.”
And when they are wrong on the issue, they’re comfortable admitting it, said Benjamin Gallenson, a counsellor at Framework Associates, a therapy practice in Santa Monica, California.
“It’s a good sign for the relationship when both partners can recognize their own shortcomings,” he said. “It’s even better when both partners have the ability to let go of their ego and defenses and admit fault. Introspection like that is unique.”
When you’re a good match, you see yourself as a team, so arguments aren’t about “winning.”
5. Your close friends are big fans
Your best friends have had a front-row seat to your dating life: They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly during your dating app days. They know what unhealthy relationship patterns you’re trying to nip in the bud. That makes them uniquely qualified to give their opinion on your new partner and the impact that person has on you, Howes said.
“Old friends know your dirty laundry and have a perspective on you that predates the life you currently live,” he explained. “They’ll know whether your current mate is an improvement on your relationship trajectory or a regression.”
Early on in your relationship, ask yourself this: Are you confident that your new S.O. will get your friends’ stamp of approval or are they going to tell you you’re sliding back into your old ways with them?
“While your friends aren’t the ultimate authority on your life, they may have a perspective worth listening to,” Howes said.
6. You’re proud to call them your partner
At the end of the day, you’re proud to have this person by your side ― and they feel exactly the same way about you, said Kathleen Dahlen deVos, a psychotherapist based in San Francisco.
“Whether it’s their dedication to their career, passion for volunteer work, commitment to friends and family or the knowledge that you could take them anywhere and they could hold their own, you are proud to know this person and to have them by your side,” she said.
Falling in love is always wonderful, but falling in love with someone you think makes the world a better place is something else entirely, she said. Their shine rubs off on you and vice versa.
“This sense of pride infuses your relationship with a deep sense of gratitude for them, which is a wonderful ingredient for long-term success,” she said. “And when you know that your partner feels just as proud to be with you, it sets up a relationship that’s based not just on love, but mutual appreciation.”