Making comments about the haircut they prefer on you or wishing you’d spend less on comic book memorabilia is one thing, but if your partner is asking you to change major things—your career, your religion, your studies, or other things you consider core parts of your personality—that’s a serious red flag, says Fran Walfish, PhD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and co-star of Sex Box on WE tv. “An important part of being in a successful relationship is to give up trying to control other people, especially your spouse or partner,” she says. Instead of trying to change you, a good partner will support you in your goals. And if they do disagree with something serious? A healthy couple will talk it out, either privately or in therapy, until they reach an understanding—one of the 15 signs of a solid relationship.
Give them your phone passcode
Secrets between partners can be a deal breaker in relationships but that doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to your privacy. This is especially true when it comes to things like your phone and your social media accounts. “Asking to go through your phone or demanding your passwords is a major boundary violation,” says Michele Kerulis, PhD, a professor of counseling at Northwestern University. (Have a hard time setting boundaries? Try these 12 steps to setting healthy boundaries in your relationship.) If your partner feels the need to check your phone or email constantly, then the real problem is that they don’t trust you—and that’s the issue that needs to be addressed, not the pattern of your screen swipe, she explains. “Trust is the foundation of a healthy and respectful relationship. If you don’t have trust then you’re probably with the wrong partner,” she adds.
Make sure everything is exactly equal
“There simply are no fifty-fifty splits of responsibility in a great marriage. Great couples learn to sacrifice and serve one another, even if it isn’t totally ‘fair’,” Dr. Walfish says. In fact, in the best relationships it can be hard to tell who gives more because the partners don’t keep score, she explains. Nothing kills the love like trying to tally up who has more points from cleaning the bathroom or doing dishes—not to mention all that emotional math is exhausting. The truth is there will be times, like during a job loss or illness, when you will have to do all the heavy lifting because your partner isn’t able to give anything. But these times generally balance out, with your partner picking up the slack when you need help. But the key, she says, is that neither complains when it’s their turn to give all.
Keep a bad secret or lie for them
You should never feel like you have to keep an illegal or immoral secret for your partner or lie on their behalf, says Shirani Pathak, PhD, licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Relationship Center of Silicon Valley. Secrecy and lies of all stripes are inherently damaging to your relationship and it’s unfair for your partner to put you in a position where you feel like you have to choose between their love and doing what’s right. “If your partner has something to hide and lie about, the best most loving thing you can do is let them deal with the consequences of their own actions,” she says.
A spouse cheating, even “just once,” can and often does torpedo a relationship, Dr. Walfish says. A serious indiscretion can be overcome with therapy if both partners are willing to work together to heal, but if the cheater asks for a “pass” or expects you to just “get over it” because they said they’re sorry, that’s a death knell for your marriage. It is even more damaging if your partner has a history of cheating, she adds. You cannot be expected to simply “forgive and forget” something as serious as infidelity. If your partner is willing to accept responsibility and change, start with these 15 steps for surviving an affair.