Social media sweeps us away with the idea of what our relationship should be. So what truly matters? An expensive framing of what the stars looked like the night you first kissed? Washboard abs or perfect body proportions? Sharing with the world your relationship status on Facebook? We get caught up in other people’s relationship ideals and forget about what relationship goals matter to us. Instagram smiles aren’t reality, and Facebook statuses aren’t written in stone. When you see couples with lengthy, sappy paragraphs or perfect, winning smiles, understand that doesn’t make for the perfect, long-lasting relationship.
1. YOU’RE ON THE SAME PAGE
You both want to leave your small hometown, but you love the city and he wants a beach view.You want a big Catholic wedding, but he’s never stepped inside a church. These issues will bring a couple together or coldly tear them apart. Don’t sign on to a relationship doomed from the beginning. Your time is precious. Compromise what you can, sacrifice what you can’t and know how much you bite off before you chew it. Speak clearly with your partner about feelings, intentions and priorities. Remember that not all couples must aim for marriage. And not all couples must stay a fun fling. University of Florida junior Valerie Hernandez said, “College relationships are strange because everyone is at a different stage in all of them. Some people are just dating to date, some are nearly engaged and some are even already married.” Relationships vary, each with different goals. Just make sure those goals align.
2. YOU FEEL PROUD OF YOUR PARTNER
Love should make you want to dance in the rain, jump on your bed and shout from rooftops. Be with someone you’re excited about. Don’t hide your love from others. Flaunt it. Hold hands in the street. Introduce your partner to your family. Share your love on social media. You deserve to feel your heart swell with pride when thinking about your partner. Miami Dade Honors College nursing student Gabriela Espinoza said, “I felt so much better after telling my mom about my feelings for a female friend. I didn’t want to hide it anymore, since she was such a wonderful and significant aspect of my life.” Hiding your partners in the dark may bring ugly feelings to light. Insecurities, doubt and mistrust may begin to plague the relationship. Don’t put the question, “Are you ashamed of me?” in your partner’s head. If you do, it could spell the end.
3. YOU FEEL SAFE
You should feel safe when in the same room as your partner. If you feel like you walk on eggshells around them, consider that a red flag. Do they hopscotch around answering easy questions like, “How was your day today?” or “What should we do for dinner?” Another red flag. Now start the hard conversation to figure it out. No way around it. Communicating with your partner should be easy and freeing. Consent is mandatory and communication is key. Feeling safe and heard can never be just a relationship goal, but a requirement. If you read this and think your love lacks these elements, consider it time to walk away.
4. YOU FEEL THE DISTANCE IS WORTH IT
Long distance relationships all struggle one way or another. Your loved one should feel like they exist in your heart, even if they go to college 2,000 miles away. Miami Dade College freshman Katerina Constant said she doesn’t let the miles interfere with her relationship. “We hang out whenever we’re free. Even if it’s 12 a.m., we stay up until like 4 a.m. Talking, watching stuff, playing video games together… his personality and his company just makes me so happy. He’s always the highlight of my day,” Constant said. A relationship that endures challenges will come out the other side stronger, especially in terms of communication. Love someone who makes that 2,000-mile gap feel like a two-second trip away.
5. YOU CAN BE YOURSELF
Everyone’s a little quirky. Find someone who will laugh at the jokes you thought only you enjoyed. Even the lame ones, like “What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?” Florida International University sophomore Sabrina Fernandez said, “When my boyfriend and I first met, I feel like we fell in love with what we thought the other person could be, not who we actually were. It caused a bit of problems, so my advice is: Love and accept your partner for their true self. Don’t try to change them.” Partners should see every side of you—and love you anyway. It also doesn’t hurt If your partner knows that while you may think pirates love “R,” a pirate’s first love will always be the “C.”
6. YOU ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER TO BECOME BETTER PEOPLE
The people you choose to spend time with reflect your personality. Surround yourself with a person who brings out the best in you, because loved one’s little habits easily rub off on you. Keep this old saying in your back pocket: “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.” Partners should encourage you to try new (healthy) things, challenge you to think differently and support your deepest aspirations. When you have a tough or lonely day, find a partner that pushes you to take a walk outside with them, rather than downing a few shots to drown the pain. Intentions are important, but actions count. Your loved one should want to make you a better person.
7. YOU HAVE COMMON INTERESTS
Nothing kills relationships like fundamentally different interests. Make sure views align on topics that hold the most value to you. It’s okay to like different pizza toppings or have different personalities. But severely differing religious views or political opinions invite trouble down the road. You may not see it immediately, but try to think about your future together. Do you see yourself bickering about the upcoming election, or arguing over how to raise the kids? College relationships don’t always need to be serious, but the way you connect with your partner should be. Opposites don’t always attract.Major differences in morals or values might lead to the demise of your relationship in the future. Find a partner who is compatible with you, but still forms their own opinions.
Ultimately, you want to feel happy. And in some relationships what it takes to feel happy might make you or your partner miserable. Realize that person may not be your best match. Do you find yourself talking about them to your friends less and less? Are you excited for your next date? Unhappiness in relationships can sneak up on you. Slowly but steadily, a smile can slip away before you even realize it’s gone. Check up on how you’re doing emotionally to avoid this. Saying goodbye is always better than living in sadness. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks, as long as you put a smile on each other’s faces. Only your two feelings count. Find someone that makes you happy like no other. Then work on making them happy, too.