5 signs your partner is a keeper, according to psychology

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Let’s talk about that movie that never gets old: Jerry Maguire.

Now, we all know and love Tom Cruise’s powerhouse performance, but how about we take a moment to appreciate the unsung hero of the story? That’s right: Dorothy!

Dorothy is Jerry’s love interest—and she’s played by the ever-talented Renée Zellweger. 

She’s a devoted single mom working in the same sports agency as Jerry. Now, she’s not just a love interest, she’s so much more!

She’s a bonafide game-changer, the one who sees beyond Jerry’s charming exterior and spots the real him. In other words, she’s a keeper.

A “keeper” in a relationship is basically that awesome person you can’t imagine life without.

It’s someone with all the winning qualities you want in a partner, making you feel lucky to have found them.

Dorothy is a keeper because she isn’t there for the flashy success or the high-flying lifestyle. Nope. She’s truly there for Jerry, flaws and all.

Have you ever had someone who saw the real you, the one you might be hiding from the world? 

Dorothy is that gal for Jerry, and it begs us all to ask the question: who might be that person for us?

If you’re wondering if you’ve found yourself a real one, here are some of the psycholog-backed character traits of a keeper.

Let’s begin with one that Dorothy embodies: they make you want to be a better you.

1) They help you to unlock your full potential

Have you ever been in a relationship where you felt like you had to hide parts of yourself or compromise on your dreams? 

It’s the worst feeling. Trust me, I’ve been there (and more than once).

On the other hand, if you’ve found a true keeper, it means they not only accept you for who you are but they also inspire and support you to become the best version of yourself.

In fact, a study on the major role romantic relationships play in mental wellbeing, particularly during adolescence and early adulthood, found this one to be true.

“A relationship which is beneficial for well-being would, in general terms, have high-quality levels, through which the partners can develop their potential, achieve personal and shared goals,” researchers shared.

Think about it. When you’re with someone who encourages your personal growth and genuinely celebrates your achievements, big and small, it’s like having your very own personal cheerleader. 

They’re not just interested in being with you, they’re invested in helping you reach your full potential! Ain’t that the best?

No matter what happens, they’re there, right by your side, guiding you toward success, happiness, and fulfillment.

But let’s not forget the shared goals, the dreams that you both look at with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

A gem of a partner doesn’t just see a future with you—they actively work with you to build that future into a reality.

Whether it’s planning a trip together, saving for a house, or supporting each other’s career aspirations, you’re creating a shared story that goes beyond the day-to-day.

Also, when you’re in a relationship that fosters personal and shared growth, it becomes a breeding ground for resilience and strength.

Let’s face it… life can be mighty unpredictable, filled with all its challenges and curveballs. But having a partner who makes you want to be your best self acts as an anchor. 

You face obstacles as a team, learn from them, and emerge stronger together, as a team.

Remember, life’s way way too short to settle for anything less than a partnership that encourages personal and shared growth.

2) You trust them completely

Trust is a gamechanger. Think of it as the glue that holds the relationship together. 

A 2013 study found that if you trust your partner, it’s a strong sign you’ve got yourself a keeper. 

Researchers linked the rates of relationship “satisfaction” to a couple’s ability to “establish their trust in each other.”

When you trust your partner, it’s not just about believing they won’t cheat on you. It goes deeper than that. 

It’s about relying on them, knowing they’ve got your back, and feeling secure in the partnership.

When you trust your special person, you can share your deepest fears and your wildest dreams. 

It’s the true freedom to be yourself without the fear of judgment or betrayal.

Now, ask yourself: Do you trust your partner? 

If the answer is a resounding “yes,” hold onto this person, cherish them, and enjoy the ride.

3) They call you in, rather than calling you out

Ever heard the phrase Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse being bandied about?

If not, John Gottman, a famous psychologist and researcher in the field of relationship stability, introduced this concept as predictors of relationship breakdown.

The Four Horsemen include negative communication patterns that can basically predict a relationship breaking down.

These include contempt, which involves expressions of disrespect, defensiveness, where people deflect responsibility, stonewalling, a complete withdrawal during conflicts, and of course, criticism. Which we will go into in a sec.

If it all sounds like doom and gloom, trust me, it isn’t! 

These markers are a great way to see what your partner is not doing (in a good way).

“Making your intentions clear in a respectful and assertive way can allow both of you to avoid needlessly hurting each other’s feelings,” explains a Gottman piece on criticism.

Does your partner do this? Do they voice their concerns by calling you in, rather than calling you out?

If they’re not one to criticize you—it’s a fantastic sign that you might have found the one.

Calling in shows emotional intelligence. It’s about expressing concerns without turning it into a courtroom drama.

In this way, your partner respects you, values the relationship, and is committed to a safe space for both of you. 

No one likes feeling attacked, and avoiding criticism is super important in healthy relationships.

4) They are emotionally open with you

In an article for Psychology Today, Jim Taylor, Ph.D. put forward the idea that a keeper is someone who is emotionally open with you. 

“For genuinely healthy relationships, emotions and vulnerability are essential for meeting each other’s needs, feeling loved, and communicating effectively,” says Dr. Taylor.

He goes a little further, saying it’s important to ask yourself: “How emotionally accessible is your prospective partner?”

If you’re wondering what this means, an emotionally accessible partner is someone who creates a safe space for you to share your deepest feelings. 

They’re sure to open up about their own emotions, too.

Think about those late-night conversations where you reveal your dreams, fears, and everything in between. If your partner is right there with you, emotionally present and engaged, congratulations… you’ve found a keeper!

Think about vulnerability for a sec. It’s like opening up the treasure chest of your emotions and saying, “Hey, this is me, flaws and all.” It takes guts, right? 

Well, an emotionally accessible partner not only encourages this vulnerability but also reciprocates it. 

It’s a beautiful connection where both partners share their true selves, forging a deep bond.

Emotionally accessible partners also excel at communication. They not only express themselves clearly but also listen with an open heart, making sure no message gets lost in translation.

Emotional accessibility fuels intimacy, fosters understanding, and builds a foundation that can withstand the test of time—and that, my friend, that’s the true mark of a relationship worth cherishing.

5) Fights don’t get out of hand with them

A social psychology study concluded that if your partner is able to healthily solve conflict with you, then they’re likely to be a partner who’ll go the distance.

Their findings stressed “the importance of expanding the couples’ repertoire of positive conflict resolution strategies.”

Such strategies included “positive problem solving, conflict engagement, withdrawal and compliance.”

Basically, it’s not about avoiding conflict altogether (let’s be real, that’s just impossible!), but about handling it like a pro.

When you can talk through differences with your partner without it turning into a heated debate, it’s a sign you’ve got a keeper.

Both of you should be actively engaged in resolving issues, listening, and finding common ground.

Positive problem-solving is not just about fixing the issue at hand, it’s actually about growing together in the process.

It’s about finding solutions that leave both partners feeling heard, understood, and appreciated. 

Plus it can be the difference between slapping a Band-Aid on a wound and actually healing it deep down.

This rare quality is the very thing that transforms a good relationship into a great one.

So, if you find yourself in a relationship where conflicts are resolved with grace, where positive strategies are the norm, give yourself a pat on the back. 

Final thoughts

To sum things up, finding a good partner is like discovering a rare gem!

A keeper, like Dorothy in Jerry Maguire, inspires personal growth and shared goals, making a relationship deeper and more meaningful.

Trust is crucial, built on emotional safety and sharing fears and dreams.

Instead of criticizing, a good partner communicates respectfully, fostering understanding.

Emotional openness creates a strong connection through vulnerability and excellent communication patterns.

Lastly, solving conflicts well sets a great relationship apart from a good one.

Remember, a keeper is more than a companion—they navigate life with you, celebrate wins, and build a shared story.

Life’s too short to settle for less. Let’s go after relationships that encourage growth, trust, communication, and positive conflict resolution. We’ll be all the better for it.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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