What should you look for in a long-term partner?
Attraction is certainly important, and enjoying somebody’s company is key. There needs to be a connection and a real bond there.
But beyond that initial spark and connection, what else is there to look out for?
Psychology has answers that will help you build a stable and meaningful relationship that will stand the test of time.
Let’s dive in.
Spontaneity is an exciting and attractive quality, but it can’t provide the basis for a long life together.
Stability is something you should look for in a life partner, in terms of somebody who’s able to look after themselves.
They don’t have to be perfect by any means, but they should be actively working on themselves and have a real desire to improve.
“They have to be able to stand on their own in each aspect of life or be actively working on doing so,” advises psychologist Lori Kret.
What are this person’s roots in their community, their family and their career?
Optimally, they have commitments in their life that are meaningful to them.
The kind of person who can commit in one area of their life is also willing and able to connect in another area of their life.
This is why looking at what somebody’s committed to and what their ties are is meaningful to seeing what the relationship future is likely to hold.
There is definitely a place for teasing and naughtiness in a life partnership.
But basic respect needs to be there.
This means simple things like showing up on time, speaking with respect and value you in the way they treat you.
Without respect, a relationship is headed for increasing tension and fights.
This leads to the next point…
Having a partner you can really communicate with is absolutely crucial.
No matter how much physical and emotional attraction there is, without the ability to communicate and the interest in doing so, the relationship is fated for the wrecking yard.
Communication isn’t only about talking and can come in many forms, including reading each other’s moods and understanding subtle cues.
But if you’re not communicating in some way in the relationship, then this person is not for you.
Without trust, even the most passionate connection has no legs to stand on.
Getting to know somebody and seeing that you can trust them is crucial.
It matters in the small things as well as the big matters.
“Trust is foundational in a good relationship: It creates security and safety,” notes counselor Kari Rusnak.
“Without those things, it would be hard to build connection and show vulnerability.”
Finding a partner who is empathetic is key to success in the long-term.
You don’t need to settle down with Dr. Phil or Oprah to find an empathetic person.
People from all walks of life can have high emotional intelligence and be understanding of their own emotions and those of other people.
Empathy is crucial for getting through the highs and lows of a long-term relationship.
Being with someone who you love and are committed to is a wonderful thing.
But even the most stoic of us likes to have reminders now and then.
This is where affection and intimacy comes into the picture. This means kind words, physical touch and sexual chemistry as well as everyday interactions that show you you’re valued and wanted.
You want to feel like your partner would choose you even if they were single and were choosing all over again.
“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.”
Finding a life partner is about finding somebody who’s accountable to you and takes responsibility.
Even more importantly, they’re accountable to themselves.
They fall short of their goals and standards sometimes, of course, as well all do. But they own up to that and are honest about it.
They don’t try to gloss over mistakes or ignore commitments and promises they’ve made.
They’re honest and accountable to you, and to themselves. You don’t feel any need to monitor them or check that they’re doing what they said they would.
They’re handling it!
Having a partner with a sense of humor and enjoyment of life is a must, but their maturity level is even more important.
Nobody wants to be somebody’s parent and partner at the same time.
Not only is it thoroughly unsexy and unattractive, it’s also very likely to lead down codependent avenues that creep up and overtake the relationship.
Before you know it, the two of you and replaying old patterns of codependence and neediness or detachment that existed in your family from early years.
Regardless of gender, vulnerability is a key attribute in relationships that last.
Choosing a life partner is about somebody you can still talk to and be around through the ups and downs.
This person should be able to stand on their own but still be able to open up and bare their heart when times get tough.
By the same token, you should know that you’re valued and heard in the relationship and won’t be gaslighted or dismissed if you open up and are vulnerable about how you feel.
Let’s be real:
Appearance and physical attraction matters in choosing a life partner.
Intellectual and emotional connection and finding somebody interesting and affectionate is certainly important.
But at the end of the day, a life partner is somebody irreplaceable who helps you grow and vice versa.
This is someone whose soul you can see shine and who can see your radiance and bring it out of you in a unique way, too.
It’s a person who makes you laugh with your whole being, and who has something about themselves that’s invisible but enduring and very meaningful to you.
“Focus on what’s more critical: the quality and content of their character, for the radiance of their soul, for how you feel when you’re around them, how they treat you, what you could notice and know about them if you were blind and could not see.”