If you’re in a couple, whether you’ve been together for five months or 15 years, you know that ups and downs with your S.O. are natural. (Though, if it’s only been a few months, you’ve probably had way fewer — hopefully.) When you go through rocky periods, it’s easy to doubt the strength and resiliency of your partnership. That’s why it’s important to keep things in perspective, and that means paying attention to the little things that might not seem like a big deal but can really indicate whether your relationship will stand the test of time.
Whether it’s holding hands in a restaurant or laughing at each other’s dumb jokes (even if it’s for the 20th time), these 19 little signs are usually present in the best relationships. If you and your S.O. can check off most of them, chances are you’re pretty golden.
There’s a sense of casualness (in a good way)
“When two people are confident in their connection, they become more at ease with themselves and therefore can be more casual when together,” says relationship expert and breakup coach Chelsea Leigh Trescott. “In a strong relationship, the romance lies in two people feeling like they can be both simple and uneventful when they are together.”
You both respond to texts
Gone are the days when you’re scrambling to come up with reasons why the person you’re dating isn’t texting you back. “In a strong relationship, neither person is trying to appear any busier than they are. If their phone is on them and you send a text, there is no waiting game to be implemented,” says Trescott. Basically, both people are still excited to hear from one another and are transparent about that excitement.
There’s open and good communication
Kind of “duh,” but more important than almost anything else because how can a relationship be strong if neither partner talks about what’s going on? “Strong relationships have great communication with one another and know how to have open and honest conversations with each other, even when it may be difficult,” says licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Candice P. Cooper. You also address and talk to each other with respect.
You’re affectionate in public and private
“Touch is a very vulnerable experience, as well as kissing, and couples who touch are typically more connected emotionally,” says Cooper. And touching (e.g., holding hands, locking arms, touching lower back while walking) for these couples is not conscious. It’s just something they do.
You (almost) always share what’s on your mind
Hopes, dreams, fears… if your S.O. is always opening up to you (and vice versa), it shows there’s emotional intimacy. “It means that he/she never tires of talking to you and also indicates that they take comfort in you knowing what they know and that they want you involved in all aspects of their life,” says Trescott.
You go out on dates
They don’t always have to fancy and expensive… or even planned. “Regular date nights shows that the couple prioritizes fun and makes the time to connect, laugh and create memories together often,” according to relationship experts and husband and wife, Meygan and Casey Caston.
You’re a team
You know you’re in a strong relationship if you feel more like a “we” than an “I,” no matter what life brings — because you know you have each other. “When facing any obstacle coming our way, we’ll often shout out, ‘TEAM CASTON,’ as our rally cry that we got this,” say the Castons.
You each consider the other to be your best friend
Do you share everything with your partner, confide in them and feel like you can be your true self, similar to how you’d be with your best guy or gal pal? “In strong relationships, couples have friendship as the foundation of their relationship. If at any given moment they have nothing else to stand on, they have their friendship to carry them through the tough times,” says Cooper.
There’s tons of trust
“If your partner is out of town, working late for business or just off doing things that are important to them, there is a profound trust in their honesty and in where they say they are,” says celebrity relationship expert Audrey Hope. This is a sign that you know each other so well — and believe in your closeness — that you don’t need to question or worry about it.
You’re proud of each other
You honor what your partner stands for and what he or she does and are proud to tell others about her or him. “This is not about false bravado or superficial bragging, but a genuine honoring for who your partner is. And they feel the world is lucky to have you in it,” says Hope.
There’s lots of laughter
Couples who laugh together last. “Laughter is always a sign of true happiness and life cannot be taken too seriously. If happiness is the lightning, it is immediately followed by the thunder of laughter,” say the Castons. Note: The humor is primarily positive; not sarcasm, digs or insults that could be offensive.
You make foreplay a priority
Quickies are great, but in order to increase your lust for one another and the intensity of your orgasms, you don’t always rush through the process of getting turned on. “Couples who take their time in the bedroom and make things romantic feel more in love and desire to be together. Frequency also helps to increase sex drive,” say the Castons.
You have good sex — often!
The one thing that always stands out as sustaining the longevity of a relationship and a strong relationship culture is good physical chemistry — that is, good sex. “The positive nesting effects that the biochemistry of intimacy creates is profoundly important to create goodwill, interest in one another, passion, sexiness and flirtation,” says Victoria Lorient-Faibish, a psychotherapist and relationship expert.
You buy in twos
In a strong relationship, one partner has no issue paying for the other and vice versa, and that’s because both people feel like they are always paying for “us,” says Trescott. Here, too, the romance in this dynamic is that someone always feels like they are being treated.
You talk about the future
It doesn’t have to be weddings and children (if you’re not there yet), but upcoming trips, events and even just date nights, weeks and months in advance. “By making plans and talking about the future, you’re treating them as part of your future life and you’re also consulting with them on decisions that may impact your future together,” says Michelle Frankel, professional matchmaker and relationship coach.
You’re each other’s biggest fans
You cheer your partner on when she or he’s got a huge presentation at work. They’re your biggest cheerleader when it comes to publishing your first novel. “When each person knows that, no matter what, their partner has their back and will make every effort to not be judgmental or critical, it has a profoundly healing and bonding effect on the couple and on the relationship culture,” says Lorient-Faibish.
You each have your own separate lives and identities
“A relationship is only as strong as the people in it. If each person has a strong sense of self, then the relationship will naturally be stronger,” says Trescott. It’s hard to have a strong relationship when one partner doesn’t have his or her own interests, friends and hobbies because it can put too much pressure on the couple.
You do sweet things for each other for no reason
Your S.O. knows you hate breaking down boxes because you always cut yourself, so he does it for you without even asking. “Goodwill deeds and random acts of kindness are like a healing elixir for a couple who wants a long-term and passionate relationship culture,” says Lorient-Faibish.
You make candid introductions to new people
Does your partner introduce you as their “friend” or their “girlfriend”? In a strong relationship, couples will introduce each other as just what they are — “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” “partner,” “fiancée,” etc. “They openly acknowledge what they are to each other and to other people before they’re even asked, and this is because they have great pride in who the other person is to them,” says Trescott.