Going out. Seeing each other. Dating. Hooking up. Spending time together. These days, there are many different ways to define the different stages of getting to know someone. But once you’re in a relationship, the rules remain pretty much unchanged. There are certain universally accepted characteristics that make a good partner: loyalty, honesty, passion, patience. But beyond the traditional ideas of being a good partner, what does being in a relationship mean?
Being in a relationship means you’re in a relationship with your entire partner; you can’t pick and choose which parts you do and don’t like. Along with the good comes the bad, and being a partner means embracing all of someone.
Here are some of the other things that come with being in a real, growing relationship:
You can be strong for them.
In life, we experience ups and downs. When your partner goes through tough times, you can help by offering support and being their strength. Relationships often get stronger during difficult times, because it’s when you really learn how to be a partner to somebody. Then, when you’re the one having a hard time, they’ll be there to offer you the same support.
You’re a team player.
Deciding to be in a relationship means choosing to be on your partner’s team. And sometimes, that means putting their needs before your own. When you’re committed to someone, you consider them when making both big and small decisions. In a relationship, you work together and make room in your life for each other. You’re not just an “I” anymore. You’re a “we!”
You can be yourself.
Even though being in a relationship means you’re a “we,” you’re still encouraged to embrace all the things that make you, you. Not only should you be yourself—you should be the best version of yourself. In a healthy relationship, your partner will accept you exactly the way you are. They’ll never try to make you into someone or something you aren’t.
You can be an individual.
Everyone knows someone who has become a little too much like the person they were dating. It’s definitely ok to take on the interests, hobbies, and habits of your partner. But don’t forget to stay true to your own identity. Being in a relationship means you can still be an individual and maintain your own perspective on life. It’s those differences in how you see the world that will bring you closer together. Remember—at the end of the day, you’re still responsible for your own individual happiness.
One of the more crucial characteristics of a healthy relationship—if not the most crucial—is respect. It’s important to approach all aspects of your relationship with respect. This includes being kind, knowing your partner’s limits, and not doing something that would knowingly upset them. Arguing is inevitable, but you can do it from a place of love.
Of course, every relationship is different. As you get to know your partner and learn what’s best for your own unique relationship, you’ll add to this list and even make changes to it. Learning what a relationship means to you is part of the fun of dating and falling in love.