Dear 100 Hour Board
How easy should a good relationship be? How happy? How indifferent?
It should probably fluctuate in how "easy" it is. I think that rather than have "ease" as an appropriate measure, it's probably better to look at the ratio of investment:return. Dating someone seriously (or marrying them) can sometimes be a huge investment, but if the relationship is good, the returns are likewise really high. This means that even if you're doing a lot it might not feel super "hard" because it's worth it. By contrast, if one (or both of you) is putting a lot into the relationship and not seeing any benefits, that's not a great sign.
How happy? Very, but not all the time. I think that the recent Board question about how we all know we're in love goes to this. None of us are thrilled with our partners all of the time, but the general level of contentment is quite high, and for most of us I'd guess there are few if any people who can make us happier than our partner.
How indifferent? Not. Now, let's clarify: by indifferent I'm referring to "not caring." That's a terrible recipe for a healthy relationship. That being said, there are certainly times/parts of a relationship that don't/shouldn't require an insane amount of investment. That's just about balance, and identifying your priorities. For example: neither Man, Certainly nor I are particularly bothered that we don't share his hobby of mountain biking. So, I can just sleep in on weekend mornings while he gets up early to bike ride. He's fine with that. He does that with his other friends, and we do different things together. Sure, I learn somewhat about bikes by talking to him about bike stuff, but I'll never be as expert as he is and that's okay. It's something he's more invested in, as opposed to a big part of our relationship. As long as you're supporting each other appropriately, it's probably okay if you're relatively uninterested or uninvolved in certain aspects of each other's lives.
I think at least at the beginning, things ought to be easy and happy. If you start out feeling anything else, that's not a particularly good sign. However, sacrifice is likely going to be a part of any long-term relationship, and that means it's going to be hard sometimes, and you're going to be unhappy sometimes. Sometimes you're going to have to put more effort into the relationship than your partner, but in the long-term that sacrifice should improve the relationship, not make either of you unhappy.
If, like Anne says above, you're putting as much love and effort as you can into a relationship and not receiving anything in return, that is a recipe for unhappiness, and not what I would consider a good relationship. But in a good relationship, you should be able to talk about stuff like that, about how you're feeling and what your needs are. If you want things to be better, or happier, or easier, then you need to talk to your partner and figure out how you can make it that way. If you're not sure how you feel about a relationship, I'm an advocate of talking about things to see how your partner is feeling, because there could be simple ways to make you both happier.
My initial thought when reading your question was, "if this person is asking this to decide if they should stay in their current hard/unhappy relationship, that's probably a sign they need to get out of it." But then I remembered that I've felt my current relationship is sometimes hard and indifferent, so I don't think that's always true. While a good relationship should make you happier than how you'd be without it, it can't make you happy all the time. In fact, I'd be a bit worried if it only ever made you happy.
There are many different ways to define how easy a good relationship is. It should be easy to want to talk to and spend time with your significant other, though it may not be easy to actually do those things. I'm in a long-distance relationship and, honestly, it's hard. But the things I value, such as being able to talk freely, come easily. That makes it easy to want to put effort into making our relationship work.
Something I've found fascinating is how our feelings of love change over time. Long-term relationships don't often keep those feelings of infatuation we experience at the beginning - instead, they grow into a companionship love. While I may not feel butterflies whenever I talk to my boyfriend anymore, I do enjoy spending time with him. I think sometimes people mistake that for indifference. However, I'd be concerned if someone felt indifference for their partner near the beginning of their relationship. Either way, Luciana's right about talking to your partner to see if there are things you can change.
-guppy of doom
The question Anne, Certainly alludes to about knowing we're in love is Board Question #90372.