Certain traits and qualities, like respect and empathy, can help your relationship flourish in the long-term and benefit your mental well-being.
When dating somebody new, you might have a list of qualities you’d like them to possess — such as ‘makes me laugh’, ‘great in the bedroom’, or ‘gets along with my friends’.
Sure, these are worth taking into consideration. But when you start thinking about this person as your life partner, there are other ‘deeper’ qualities to bear in mind.
“When doing your relationship due diligence, there are a few things to look for in a partner,” states Dr. David Rakofsky, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Wellington Counseling Group. “These could help make whatever time you have together feel enjoyable and reasonably free from relationship tumult.”
1. They have a solid foundation
In human terms, this has nothing to do with bricks and mortar. Instead, it’s about having strong physical, emotional, social, financial, and purposeful roots, states Lori Kret, LCSW, BCC, and co-founder of Aspen Relationship Institute.
“This doesn’t mean they have to be the most popular, rich, fit, and successful person,” she notes. “But they have to be able to stand on their own in each aspect of life or be actively working on doing so.”
While these aspects will benefit your partner, they’re also advantageous to you. “Being in a relationship with someone who takes responsibility for their own wellness means you won’t have to fill the gaps of their self-worth, confidence and security,” Kret explains.
2. They can communicate effectively
As the saying goes, communication is key. And, while your partner needs to be able to express themselves, it’s equally important that they can listen to your needs and concerns.
Sharing feelings and needs clearly and straightforwardly aids in “improving feelings of intimacy and closeness,” explains Parisa Ghanbari, a registered psychotherapist in Toronto, Canada.
“Partners who are good at communication make our lives easier,” she continues. “There’s no guesswork and confusion in trying to understand them and their needs.”
Of course, good communication takes work. But various steps, such as having regular check-ins, can help keep things on track.
3. They share your values
No couple is 100% going to agree on everything all the time, and it would likely be very boring if they did. But having similar beliefs and attitudes towards the key ‘life’ pillars is vital, believes Rakofsky.
For instance, he notes, “from how to raise the children you may decide to have, to whether or not charity and other forms of giving ought to be a part of making a valuable and well-lived life together.”
One partner can influence the other in some aspects, Rakofsky continues. But “it truly helps when you’re starting off with your values identified and, in the best of circumstances, overlapping significantly.”
4. They demonstrate respect
Aretha Franklin sang that we all need respect — and she wasn’t wrong. But it’s not about expecting your partner to respect you more than they respect themselves.
Instead, shares Dr. Ashley Head, a licensed clinical psychologist with Thriveworks in Hoffman Estates, they should consider your opinions, values, and feelings and act accordingly.
It’s also important your partner demonstrates respect for your personal boundaries.
“Each partner must agree to not cross those boundaries, regardless of disappointment, hurt feelings, or in times of anger,” Head asserts.
Receiving respect is also vital in helping you maintain self-respect and knowing your value and worth.
5. They show empathy
Simply put, demonstrating empathy is the ability to recognize and understand another person’s emotions and needs.
While it might not be a quality that first springs to mind, empathy is critical to relationship success. A
Partners who are empathetic are more likely to experience loneliness and insecurity if they’re dissatisfied in their relationship, compared to those who lack empathy.
In addition, “having an empathetic partner helps us feel more heard and understood in the relationship,” states Ghanbari. This not only aids in bringing a sense of fulfillment, but also helps build trust and respect.
6. They recognize and appreciate their imperfections
We’re not talking about someone who thinks they’re perfect and never strives to improve themselves when necessary. Instead, these individuals can “see their own flaws with grace and without self-deprecation, shame, blame, or avoidance,” Kret reveals.
If your partner can do this, you’ll both reap the rewards. “They will have enough confidence and self-love to be able to acknowledge when they’ve made a mistake,” she continues.
Plus, “they will be much more likely to provide the same safe space for you to be imperfect and be less likely to deflect blame and responsibility.”
7. They’re open to influence
“With some partners, it’s either their way or the highway,” Ghanbari notes. For instance, she says, “have you ever dealt with a partner who knows your needs and wants and refuses to give you what you ask them?”
But being with someone willing to accept your needs and consider your opinions is vital. In addition to boosting your feelings of self-worth and self-respect, it also “leads to more satisfaction and happiness as you feel essential to [them],” says Ghanbari.
8. They give affection in the way you need
We all like to show and receive affection in different ways: some are very touchy-feely, while others demonstrate love through practical actions. But if these don’t align within a relationship, it can lead to frustration and even feelings of rejection.
“Find a partner who, roughly speaking, communicates their appreciation and desire for you in a way that is compatible with what makes you feel seen and loved,” shares Rakofsky. “This is one of the bedrock ideas behind The Five Love Languages [devised by] Gary Chapman in the 1980s.”
9. They listen and are open during arguments
If your partner doesn’t actively listen during disagreements and simply waits for their next opportunity to give their two cents, it “does not give space to problem-solving,” states Head.
Furthermore, feeling like your point of view isn’t being appreciated can create feelings of frustration, resentment, disrespect, and that you’re ‘not being seen’.
“Remaining open and curious allows for more information to be taken in and allows one to see new perspectives,” Head continues. This can be particularly beneficial in “remedying difficult situations.”
While it’s important to look for and recognize favorable traits in your partner, it’s also crucial to recognize the responsibility isn’t solely on them. In a successful relationship, it takes two to tango.
“Singles can enter the dating world with a myopic view of what they need and want,” states Kret. “This is especially true if they are coming off a bad breakup or have wounds from past relationships.”
It’s important to also “take a deep look into whether you’re capable of providing the same,” she continues.
So does this mean you should have the exact same traits and attributes as your partner? Definitely not, says Rakofsky.
“People come with all kinds of strengths and weaknesses,” he states. “The best relationships are not necessarily made up of people who are the same, but by people with strengths that help to support the shortfalls of their partners.”
Head agrees. “I ask partners to identify how much overlap they need in the relationship. For example, I had a couple where partner A valued being social and partner B valued independence,” she recalls.
“In this case, they agreed this was a healthy difference — as it challenged partner A to become more talkative and attend networking events, while partner B appreciated more alone time to grow personal hobbies.”
Recognizing qualities that are significant and meaningful to you can help in determining whether your partner is the right person to be by your side for life’s journey.
Relationships are a two-way street, so it’s crucial that you can also offer similar valuable traits and not expect your partner to do all the hard work.
If your partner doesn’t have all the attributes you’d like, it doesn’t mean you have to break up: different (but complementary) traits can be key to success.
Plus, if your significant other isn’t meeting your needs in a specific respect, couples counseling might help you move forward. “It always helps to get the third-party perspective on a relationship and identify unhealthy and healthy relationship dynamics to see if we can improve them,” Ghanbari assures.