It can be difficult to find perspective when you’re in the thick of something. We strive for healthy relationships but can still fail to see red flags.

While some are easier than others, relationships all require some degree of tending and care to thrive.

How do you know if your relationship, overall, is healthy?

“Trust and open communication are two important elements of a healthy relationship,” said Mary Faith C. Terkildsen, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Endeavor Health and AASECT-certified sex counselor. “Unfortunately, we often take these things for granted with longer-term partners and don’t objectively evaluate the status of our relationships until problems arise. Set aside time to talk about your relationship. Start with what you each feel is going well and then something each would like to focus on improving.

There are some key ingredients that help solidify a relationship. Do you see these characteristics in yours?

Boundaries. Do you give each other space? Do you have separate interests, hobbies or friendships — and allow each other to cultivate them without restrictions? Do you leave your partner’s phone and email alone, or do you snoop? A respectful relationship will have a healthy boundary between your personal interests and the things you do together.

Respect. You and your partner allow each other to have your own opinions, emotions and interests. You support their friendships. You understand the things that are important to each other. Respect also means you’re committed to each other and put in an equal amount of effort to maintain your bond.

Trust. Truly a cornerstone of any healthy relationship, trust in your partner means you can rely on them. You know what to expect from them, and they know they can count on you. You know they’ll guard your deepest, most vulnerable emotions.

Open, effective communication. Communication — how and whether it’s done – can make or break a relationship. Do you fight fair? Take turns speaking? Actively listen to your partner? Validate their feelings (even if you may not agree)? Couples who communicate openly and with kindness can find ways to successfully navigate the ups and downs of life. This is, of course, easier said than done.

A focus on kindness. Treating your partner with kindness, compassion and understanding makes a huge difference in a relationship. Try not to keep score or focus on past arguments. Forgive them. Trust that they have your best interest at heart. And most of all, accept them for who they are, flaws and all. None of us is perfect, not even you.

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