2 Subtle Signs Your Relationship Can Stand The True Test Of Time

An expensive date doesn’t mean anything if she feels she cannot depend on you.

Signs your relationship can stand the pressure Pexels, IlyaAMT | Canva

There are signs of a healthy relationship that often go unnoticed. People usually focus on grandiose and cliché ways of expressing their undying love. Or they chase the chemical cocktails that give you butterflies and keep you high. I am not here to judge these means of expressing love. I am here to tell you that a healthy relationship goes way deeper than these means.

To recognize and create the healthy relationship you are after, you need to pay attention to subtler ways of being and communicating (both with yourself and your partner). This article is based on two things: a specific relationship that made me more mature than any other one I ever had. The second thing is Dr. John Gottman’s research and books.


Gottman is a researcher and psychologist who can predict divorce with an accuracy of 94%. He has been studying relationships for almost four decades and has deep insights into what makes or breaks a relationship. He is the holy grail of relationship research.

One of the main reasons my current relationship is more mature and healthier than ever is Gottman. I have read some of his books thoroughly and tried as much as possible to bring his practices and wisdom into my relationship. Thankfully, my girlfriend is welcoming this maturity and simultaneously working on her own maturity. This would not have worked if she had not been such a great soul and understanding person.


So, yeah! This article is from my own (mature and healthy, but also painful) experience which is highly shaped and influenced by the work of Gottman, to whom I am forever thankful. Let us get into it.

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How do you fight?

According to Gottman, there are two types of ‘problems’ in relationships: Solvable problems and perpetual problems. Perpetual problems make up about 69% of the problems in a relationship, meanwhile, solvable ones make up the remaining 31%. So, if most of your fights will be about stuff you cannot solve, you are screwed, aren’t you? Not really.

It turns out that happy couples do not fight like unhappy couples. They still disagree. They have different opinions, feelings, and even values. They have perpetual issues. But those fights don’t end with China plates thrown around the house. They don’t make partners feel alienated, unheard, or misunderstood. In fact, those fights can be ways to connect deeper. Or, at least, they don’t create emotional distance between partners.


Gottman mentions something that he calls 'gridlocks.' You reach them when discussing a perpetual problem has been too much of a burden. 

When you are in gridlock, your physiology (heartbeats, hearing and seeing capacities, …etc.) and how you feel will be affected negatively. You also feel emotionally flooded. This means you will be feeling intense emotions that overwhelm you. You are less able to have access to your sense of humor, less likely to listen, less likely to be understanding or emphatic, and more likely to attack your partner and say or do nasty things to them.

Over time, those gridlocks can become the main reason a relationship fails. Why? Because how they are handled creates emotional distance. The build up of these negative experiences around your partner (and the inability to connect or communicate with them) can damage any relationship. Happy couples don’t reach those gridlocks very often. And if they do, they quickly recognize that and repair their relationship. 

In short, it is not about having zero fights. It is about how well you repair. 

When happy couples have an argument, they actively try to listen, understand, and empathize with their partner. They can down-regulate their emotions and feel calm to avoid being flooded. One of the ways they do that is by taking a break during their argument and resuming talking when they are not triggered. “Hey, I am not feeling well, and I feel that I might say hurtful things. Can we discuss this later/after an hour/after we reach home/sit down?” This is not conflict avoidance; this is telling your partner that now is not a good time to discuss something. And you do get back to discuss it as you promised.

But there is more about how happy couples fight. It is about fighting gently. What does that even mean?! When it comes to how you discuss things, it is important to realize that even though fights are supposed to be negative experiences, they can have a positive side. In a healthy argument, there should be some degree of positivity and/or neutrality. 


This means that during these fights, there will be humor (if possible/appropriate). There will be sincere attempts to understand your partner. You want to see things and feel them from their perspective (even if you disagree with them). There will be empathy because you believe your partner is awesome. There will be affection and tenderness. There will be respect. There will be less or no criticism and more accountability. You still talk about what bothers you. But you do that while showing respect and positivity. You are not trying to spot the bad guy; none of you is the bad guy; you, together, are fighting the bad guy.

Will those things solve your problems and arguments? Not particularly, and that is fine. The goal is not to stop fighting. It is to learn how to fight well. You may come close to solving a perpetual issue, but it is not very likely. Most of them are handled by understanding, empathy, compromise, and acceptance. That is why you need to select a partner whose flaws you can tolerate. As Mark Manson suggests, the most accurate metric of your feelings for someone is how you feel about their flaws.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Fight Like You Love Them — A Therapist Describes How Strong Couples Argue


It is not only about fighting well!

One last thing worth mentioning is that happy couples repair very well. Gottman calls “fights” regrettable incidents. Through fights or not, you will inevitably hurt and annoy your partner. Sure, you will do that accidentally and sometimes with good intentions. When two people have an intimate relationship, they open their inner worlds to each other. And it is impossible not to touch a wound here and there.

Happy couples can repair the damage. 

They make repair attempts, which can be as simple as saying sorry or, as we discussed above, “I don’t feel good, and I think I will say nasty things. Let’s talk in 20 minutes.” The repair attempts, as Gottman calls them, can be having a gentle fight where you genuinely try to understand your partner’s point of view, even if you disagree with them. Those repair attempts bring us closer, help us understand our partner deeply, and allow us to be more intimate. That is how fights can be one of the ways you get closer to your partner.

@healwithbritt 3 helpful tips for resolving fights or arguments with your partner #relationshipadvice #relationships #survivalmode #traumahealing ♬ original sound - Britt Piper

But there is a catch. Whether our partner will accept our repair attempt or not has nothing to do with the nature of those attempts, Gottman found. He says it has more to do with the quality of the friendship between you. This brings us to the next point…


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How well do you know him/her?

Ask questions. Be curious. What is her biggest dream? What stresses him the most these days? What is she anxious about the most? What is her favorite meal? Really? Do you know? No? Then, ask. And ask because you care. And because you care, you should be genuinely interested in the answer. 

That is called genuine communication and having good intentions. And your partner can feel when you do something because you care about them. Those questions may reveal hidden aspects of your personality, which will help you understand each other better. And you don’t want superficial, boring answers. You dive deeper to understand more.

For instance, why is your biggest dream to be a great musician? Maybe music was the only thing that made you feel safe as a teenager amid the chaos that was around you at that time; you used to play music and use it to express your feelings; it made you feel better and that you are in control of something, and that, no matter how sad an instrument was, you had control either to dwell on its tenderness or to change it. Share that with your partner. Don’t force it. Share it because you are inspired to (usually because you are discussing something related and/or you want to share your inner world with this person.


Now ask your partner questions and encourage them to do the same. Do not force them, and do not share only to manipulate them to share, too. Appreciate their answers and respect them for sharing these answers. Dive within yourself. Understand. Share. Ask. Ask deeper questions. Help them answer them to get to know them. Watch your friendship grow bigger. Watch trust build between you. Great. Keep on.

Are you there for your partner? Are you supporting them and helping them out? Or are you leaving them to dry in the wind? Are you ignoring them or actively trying to communicate with them? Are you reaching out? Does your partner know they can count on you? Can they reach out to you when they need something? Are you a good friend to your partner?

You are a couple, and you must be good friends


Being good friends will help you have more affection, fondness, and respect. These things are like oxygen for a healthy relationship. 

They are like money in your emotional bank, as Gottman describes them. If you do something stupid, your partner will be more likely to forgive you when there is enough in your emotional bank. And, as we mentioned above, your partner is more likely to accept your repair attempts if you have been a good friend to them lately. And as small as they may be, they make all the difference. They are the very fabrics that build trust.

I may go the extra mile and say they are more valuable than romanticized ways of showing love and care for someone. An expensive date doesn’t mean anything if she feels she cannot depend on you. A gift may not mean anything if you haven’t called her for a week. Work on the little things. They make the big things meaningful.

RELATED: 29 Relationship Questions To Ask Your Partner To Feel Closer & More Connected


Mosab Alkhteb is a writer and online entrepreneur who has been writing online since 2015. His work is featured on Medium, TinyBuddha, and YourTango, and he is the author of multiple books about relationships and self-development.