Ten Things to Look for in a Loving Relationship

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While people are often drawn together by physical attraction and shared interests, a romantic relationship requires proper care and nurturing to grow. Healthy, loving relationships are characterized by mutual respect, open communication, support, trust and intimacy. Happy couples whose love stands the test of time will admit that it's not always easy but is definitely worth the work.

Value Your Differences

Respect is vital to a healthy relationship. This means valuing your partner for who your partner is, rather than expecting this person to change to meet your expectations. Honor your partner's views, even when they don't correspond with yours. When you have a difference of opinion, it is important that you listen to one another without judgment. Respecting one another means celebrating the differences between you as well as what you share.

Talk It Out

You may hear couples say that communication is the key to their happiness. This means feeling secure enough in the relationship to talk about what is bothering you. The power of empathy comes into play here -- put yourself in your partner's place. Successful communication results in clarifying issues and coming to a resolution that benefits both partners. When the lines of communication are open in a relationship, both partners feel free to be themselves

Support Each Other

A loving relationship is one of equals, with both people feeling that they are liked -- not just loved -- for who they are. Support your partner through problems by avoiding criticism or offering suggestions right away; instead, open yourself up to how the other person feels. Recognizing when someone needs to vent and when a suggestion for a solution is needed represents one of the hallmarks of a good partnership.

Keep It Real

Intimacy comes about as the result of trust, strong communication and mutual respect. Physical closeness should feel natural, not forced. Loving partners are comfortable expressing physical affection without feeling pressured to do so; they respect each other's boundaries and privacy. While sex is important, psychologist Dr. Nancy Wesson suggests that simply being able to relax and have fun with your partner is an expression of intimacy.

Listen and Learn

Listening is more than just hearing what another person is saying. Rephrase what you hear from your partner to make sure that you understand the meaning behind the words. If you do disagree, try to reach common ground. Disagreements offer an opportunity for understanding each other more deeply, which is more important than "winning" an argument.

Set Your Partner Free

According to Dr. Wesson, it is important that neither partner makes huge sacrifices to keep the relationship intact. Each person needs to feel free to attend to work responsibilities, children and other interests without guilt. A supportive partner will make an effort to get to know your friends and will express interest in your activities without becoming jealous or possessive.

Speak the Truth

Some truths can be hard to hear or to express, but you need to feel that you can share your feelings -- and listen to your partner's -- without becoming defensive. It may be easy in the short term to simply avoid uncomfortable topics, but this tactic can lead to resentment and mistrust. .

Focus on Fairness

Couples should arrive at decisions together, and neither party should ever issue commands. Split the costs of your activities fairly so that neither of you feels burdened. Avoid game-playing, such as withholding affection in order to get what you want.

Trust Each Other

A loving relationship has to begin with trust; both of you need to feel secure in your commitment to each other. If you experience bouts of jealousy, approach your partner honestly and talk through your feelings; suspicion and accusation should never enter the picture.

Have Fun With It

Maybe you laugh at inside jokes or watch old horror flicks on Friday nights -- whatever you share draws you closer. Be open to exploring your partner's interests and making new traditions of your own. It's important to be real friends who want to spend time together. Laugh, talk and enjoy being in love.