The question “what are you looking for in a relationship partner?” may seem like an easy one to answer. Common attributes that come to mind include intelligence, kindness, sense of humor, attractiveness, or reliability. No matter what we think we’re looking for in a partner, the people we wind up choosing don’t necessarily match our criteria for an ideal companion. The reason for this is very simple; we don’t always want what we say we want.
The laws of attraction aren’t always fair. We may think we are looking for a partner who complements us only in positive ways, but on an unconscious level, we are frequently drawn to people who complement us in negative ways as well. What this means is that we tend to pick partners who fit in with our existing emotional baggage. We are inclined to replay events and dynamics that hurt us in the past in our adult relationships. We choose partners who fit in with destructive patterns, not because we enjoy them, but because they’re familiar.
When choosing a life partner, it’s important to break free from harmful tendencies from our past. Consider the people you’ve previously chosen to be with and think about why it didn’t work out. Were they too controlling? Passive? Jealous? Elusive? Did they make you feel a way you felt in your past? Did the situation mirror a dynamic from your childhood?
While we can’t know for certain all the good and bad characteristics our partner will bring to the table when we first meet them, there are certain universal traits you might want to look for in a relationship partner that will ensure a happier outcome. No person is perfect, of course, but here are eight key qualities to look for in a partner:
1. Emotional Maturity
Every person comes equipped with flaws and emotional baggage. Seeking perfection is an idle search. Instead, what you should look for in a partner is emotional maturity. This means someone who is willing to think and learn about themselves, who is open to reflecting on the past and evolving in the present. This certain someone should be non-reactive, in the sense that they think before they act. They don’t let their instant emotions rule their actions. They are independent and self-assured, which means they aren’t looking to you to fix or complete them.
Along with emotional maturity, one of the things to look for in a partner is an openness to feedback. Not only should your partner be interested in changing his or her own self-limiting behaviors, but he or she should be open to hearing what you have to say. Open and honest communication is vital to sustaining a close relationship. When a person puts up a wall that says, “I am unwilling to listen and unwilling to change,” there is really little room for growth on both your parts. When a couple is willing to openly communicate about themselves and their feelings and reactions to each other, they avoid building a case and creating tensions that later tear them apart. By being resilient and hearing each other out, they construct a solid foundation for a workable relationship that is sure to evolve over time.
While deception is generally frowned upon, lying is sadly common in many relationships. Some couples believe they need lies to survive, yet research shows that lying less is linked to better relationships. Being able to trust is so important when choosing a life partner. Look for someone whose actions meet their words and someone who is open about how they feel. It’s better to be with someone who will tell you what’s on their mind, even revealing that they’re attracted to someone else, than to make those topics taboo or off limits, which can create an air of secrecy. Even when the truth is hard to take, it’s in your best interest to really know your partner. Someone who hides aspects of themselves can leave you feeling insecure and mistrusting.
4. Respectful and Sensitive
One of the most valuable qualities to look for in a partner is respect. When you find someone who encourages you to be yourself, you can feel secure in your relationship, yet independent within yourself. It’s easy to feel loved when someone encourages you to do what lights you up and makes you happy. This same person may be willing to challenge you when you’re engaging in self-destructive attitudes and behaviors. This attuned way of relating is both sensitive and respectful of who you are as an individual, separate from your partner. When someone appreciates you and takes an interest in the things you are passionate about, you can really share life with this person, while continuing to pursue your unique interests.
People often make the mistake of thinking that a relationship is a way for two people to become one. Attempting to merge your identity with someone else is not only bad for you, but bad for the relationship. When couples fall into routine and forego their independent attraction to each other, things tend to go south. Real relating is replaced with an illusion of connection or “fantasy bond.” This sense of fusion subdues the passion in a relationship. By maintaining your individuality: enjoying separate interests along with interests you share with your partner, keeping your outside friendships and always trying new things, you keep romance and attraction alive.
In addition to being a good communicator, you should look for a partner who is empathetic. It’s fortunate to find someone who is willing to hear out and relate to your struggles. When you have a partner who aims to understand and feel for what you experience, you are able to be more vulnerable and reveal more aspects of yourself. Compassion is one of the most important human traits, and you should strive to find a partner who can easily feel for other people.
7. Physically Affectionate
One of the symptoms of a “fantasy bond” involves a lack of affection and sexuality between a couple. Physical affection is an important part of life. It is a way people stay connected and close to those they love. Keeping your relationship vital and intimate is part of making love last. It’s important to choose a partner who accepts love and affection, who is also giving of love, affection and acknowledgment. Your sexuality is a part of you that shouldn’t fade with time. Keeping your feelings alive means expressing them verbally and physically.
Sense of humor is as important as it’s made out to be. Laughter is the best medicine when it comes to most things, but especially relationships. Someone who is happy to just hang out, have fun and laugh with you is someone worth sticking with. Being easy-going and willing to laugh at yourself are highly beneficial characteristics to look for in a partner. A person who is lighthearted can be well worth getting serious with.
When we consider the many things to look for in a partner, each of us will have a different idea of what’s important. We may be drawn to more specific traits like creativity or work ethic, green thumbs or blue eyes. Yet, choosing people who strive to live by the qualities listed above will help ensure our best chance at happiness in our relationship.