“Healthy, mutually fulfilling and satisfying relationships almost always require consistent and persistent energy and attention, particularly committed, long-term romantic relationships,” Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, PsyD, tells Yahoo Life.
Experts swear the right combination of a slew of factors, including, of course, good sex, can keep you together. Here are the top signs of intimacy, whether you’re in a new relationship or have been married for years.
1. There’s mutual respect between you
Without respect, a relationship won’t last, David Klow, licensed marriage and family therapist, founder of Chicago’s Skylight Counseling Center and author of the book You Are Not Crazy: Letters from Your Therapist, tells Yahoo Life. He calls respect “a key cornerstone of a healthy relationship,” adding, “a relationship without mutual care and respect may have a difficult time being successful.”
William Chopik, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University and director of MSU’s Close Relationships Lab, agrees. “Relationships that don’t last often have hints of contempt—that partners don’t like or respect each other,” he tells Yahoo Life. “That often spells doom and is one of the main indicators that a relationship won’t work out.”
2. You know you can trust each other
It’s one thing to say you trust each other—it’s another to act like it. “This must hold true for everything, from the small things to the most important things to each partner,” Cilona says. He stresses the importance of consistency when it comes to building “authentic” trust. Meaning, you should be able to trust that your partner will do something as minor as take out the trash when they promise to, up to knowing that they’ll be there for you when you’re struggling through a difficult life event.
3. You’re able to be vulnerable together
Vulnerability can be hard, but it’s important for a healthy relationship. Cilona says that couples must have, “the ability and willingness of each partner to some degree to make themselves vulnerable to being hurt, betrayed or abandoned.” And, he adds, “true intimacy cannot exist without vulnerability.”
Vulnerability is crucial, Chopik says. “Some of the most salient predictors of who we feel close to are whether we disclose important things to each other and a sense of responsiveness from our partners,” he says. It’s a back-and-forth thing, though. “People tend to trust others who divulge personal information and having an accepting and non-judgmental partner builds a sense of mutual trust between people,” Chopik says.
4. You feel attracted to each other
This is slightly different from wanting to rip each other’s clothes off all the time (although that comes into play here, too) Chopik says. “Feeling attracted to—and attractive to—a partner is important, particularly early on in relationships,” he says. “The type of intense, passionate love displayed early in relationships tends to fade, so some of the more sustainable aspects of attractiveness—being attracted to your partner’s values, personality, behavior—is also of the utmost importance.”
Still, Chopik says, “couples who report being physically attracted to each other tend to be more satisfied in their relationships.”
5. You can have safe, enjoyable, fulfilling sex together
Sexual fulfillment can look different to every couple, Cilona says. “This can range from an extremely small part of a relationship to and extremely influential part, and everything in between,” he says. But ultimately, he says, “what’s most important is that partners find ways to remain aligned enough that each feels their needs related to sex, affection and physical connection are fulfilled.”
Feeling “safe” in your sex life is also vital, Klow says—it allows partners to open up to each other sexually without fear of being judged.
6. You want to get to know each other better
If you’ve been together for ages, it can feel like you know everything about each other. But people change and evolve over time, and it’s important to want to continue to learn about each other, Klow says. “Often we can think that we fully know our partner, yet allowing for there to be unknowns can keep the mystery alive,” he says.
7. You have some level of interdependence
Interdependence means relying on each other—that’s different from co-dependence, which is when you feel like you can’t do anything without each other, Klow says. “An interdependent relationship would be the ideal,” he adds.
Interdependent couples ultimately grow closer over time, Chopik says. “They share new activities together, become increasingly interwoven in each other’s lives, and begin to think of themselves as a shared unit,” he says.
8. You feel like a team
There are so many elements that go into being a part of a team, but feeling like your partner has your back—and vice versa—is crucial. “The team mentality is that we’re all in this together, and that it takes work to build a strong relationship over time,” Chopik says. “Adopting such a growth mindset does this. Going on your own or leaving your life and relationship to destiny or the universe doesn’t typically bode well when things start to go wrong.”