Personal Qualities Part 2
In Part 1, we considered why having the right partner in a loving relationship can be such an incredible part of having a Full Life. We then looked at four personal qualities in a potential partner that increase the chances of creating a powerful, empowering and mutually fulfilling relationship.
In Part 2 we’ll look at another six.
5. Emotionally Open and Mature
A relationship involves emotions, so being able share feelings honestly is very important. It ensures that no energy is wasted with one person trying to breach walls the other has a hard time letting down. Certainly, trust needs to be earned, but as time goes on you should see a gradual opening up. Otherwise you may just be wasting time and your emotions.
Some people fear showing affection and love. They have so many tests for their partner to pass before they give love that the relationship gets bogged down in wasted time and unnecessary drama. Part of it may be related to low self-esteem. But part of it may be inability to open up emotionally due to psychological factors, past trauma or history. It is a long time before they feel safe enough to do so. Unfortunately, before this happens the other is usually so drained and unfulfilled that they leave for something better.
Just as important as being able to show emotion and express feelings is knowing when restraint is appropriate. An emotionally mature person does not throw tantrums in public, explode at the smallest provocation, or vent on you when you are in a bad state. If your partner constantly acts up in public, it is not a good sign as it shows not just emotional immaturity, but lack of consideration and self control that will carry over to other areas as well.
Question to ask:
- Does your partner express his feelings easily or do you feel like he is an unreadable block?
- Have you seen partner emote with laughter, crying, passion?
- Is your partner so volatile you feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time?
- Has your partner ever flared up in public or ranted on social media like Facebook?
- Does your partner show sensitivity and moderation in expressing unhappiness about your mistakes, or do you feel bombarded and psychically tortured every time you have an argument?
6. Empathic and Giving
Support on many levels is important in a loving relationship. Someone who is both empathic and giving is better able to provide this.
Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, without actually understanding what they are going through. So the comfort that can be offered is often limited, based on logic and rationale. That often isn’t what’s needed. Empathy is feeling with a person. It’s the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes (which is much harder) and not just offer practical help but relate emotionally too.
A person need not have had similar experiences to be empathic. Some people are naturally better at it. Others can develop it with commitment and hard work. Really listening, using a bit of imagination, knowing a person well, and years of experience interacting with people face-to-face (not online!) can help do that.
However empathy alone is not enough to support someone. Being giving is the other part of the equation. Being giving encompasses positive values like generosity, kindness, compassion, sensitivity, consideration, and ability to put your partner’s needs above yours when appropriate.
To illustrate, here’s an example.
Imagine you’ve been looking forward to a dinner and midnight movie date with your boyfriend all week. An hour before, he calls to tell you that he’ll be late as he’s hurt his back in the gym.
Empathy allows you to feel or imagine what he must be going through, not just the physical pain but the psychological anguish at being unable to train, and the worries about whether he’ll be able to sit through the movie and how long it will take to heal. You feel anguish and worry yourself.
But being giving makes you retain this information to guide your actions. First, you suggest cancelling the date so that he can rest, without resentment or selfish disappointment. If the date proceeds, you choose the nearest restaurant to minimize his walking. You avoid conversation topics that remind him he’s currently incapacitated. You might say you’re tired and suggest going home early.
In essence, you have put aside your own wants and made your partner’s needs your sole priority in the moment. Because you’re a giver this was an automatic, natural decision made without any internal struggle or resentment. You have changed your plans for the night to supporting his needs.
And in the way of a true giver, all this is done nonchalantly, without drama, and in such a sensitive, delicate way that he may not even realise your motivations.
Questions to ask:
- Does your partner care about your feelings and show it through actions?
- Does your partner speak easily with strangers, and seem to connect well with most people?
- Is your partner upset or distressed when friends or even strangers are in pain or other dire straits? Is his immediate response, “How can I help?” or “Let’s mind our own business/ Lucky it’s not us.”?
- When you have a hard day at work, does your partner make himself available to listen, even if he’s tired himself?
- Does your partner make sacrifices in his personal Life in order to help you in yours?
- On your dates, does your partner exhibit any of the warning signs described in the post Contribution Caveats Part 1?
7. Physically/ Sexually Affectionate, Compatible and Exclusive
Physical intimacy is an expression of passion that separates a romantic relationship from a platonic one. Few things are as powerful, connecting and reassuring as holding hands, kissing, and making love with someone special.
Your partner should be comfortable with their sexuality, both giving and receiving affection, and understand that sex is an act of love, not a tool for manipulation or a bargaining chip.
Honesty is important so that incompatibilities can be identified and worked out if possible. Both need to be honest about their attitudes towards sex – what they need, what turns them on, frequency, and so on. That’s important because this is the person you’ll be physically exclusive with for a long time to come, if not the rest of your Life.
The happiest relationships I know honour physical exclusivity. Faithfulness is obviously important, but this day and age so is the commitment to being player-proof. This means learning about the manipulative games players play, one’s own blind spots, and self-defence against them.
Questions to ask:
- Is your partner affectionate or closed off when it comes to physical intimacy?
- What does physical and sexual intimacy mean to your partner?
- Do you both receive and give, strengthened by physical intimacy, or is it a one-sided affair?
- What is your partner’s attitude towards faithfulness and what exactly does faithfulness mean?
- Has your partner ever cheated on anyone? If so, why, and can you accept that reason?
- What does your partner know about players, and are you confident of his commitment and ability to deal with common gaming scenarios that may occur?
- Does your partner have an STD?
Honesty is important in any relationship, not just to your partner but yourself – being true to your values and guiding principles while in the relationship.
Communicating honestly means being direct without censorship due to fear of reprisal. It’s important to communicate who you really are, what your dreams are, what you want in a relationship, and what you cannot accept.
Behaviour must also be honest. Some people project an idealized version of themselves to match their partner’s wants but this is unsustainable. They may suppress unhappiness until one day it explodes in the most undesirable ways. If your partner cannot love or appreciate you for who you are, you are not compatible. Find a partner who does.
Other people with low self-esteem play mind games and practise manipulation to keep a mate. Such dishonesty never works.
It may be polarizing, but straight talk saves two people lots of time before they become too emotionally invested in each other. When you can’t be authentic you won’t be happy for long because you aren’t really living Life.
Other things can be big issues. People have their own views about shortchanging faceless companies, littering, downloading movies, escaping cover charges, stealing office supplies, using work equipment for personal use and so on. Can you accept your partner’s?
Questions to ask:
- What are your partner’s views on white lies, lies of omission, and doublepeak?
- Does your partner believe every single thing must be shared openly, or are there exceptions such as protecting another person’s confidence? Is that acceptable to you?
- Has your partner ever lied to or cheated on someone in a relationship? Why?
- Has your partner even been lied to cheated on in a relationship, and has that changed his opinion on staying faithful?
- What are your partner’s views on downloading illegal songs or movies, returning lost items or money, paying cover charges, and other things that might be an issue for you?
9. Positive Attitude
Someone with a positive attitude will focus on the joys of being in a relationship, look for solutions to crises, and be grateful for the loving, thoughtful things their partner does. They tend to be more trusting and open. Being positive usually comes with other positive qualities such as being a giver, having high self-esteem, and commitment to self-improvement and growth.
It’s easy to spot someone negative. They focus on difficulties, create quarrels over minor incidents, blow things out of proportion, and constantly mull over what a disappointment their partner has been. They have a very high index of suspicion which prevents them trusting their partner or giving of themselves fully in the relationship. They complain constantly, drain the other person, and generally weigh any relationship down like a sinking ship… often until the other person jumps off.
Questions to ask:
- What is your partner’s outlook/ philosophy of Life?
- How has he handled adversity, setbacks or pain in the past?
- Does your partner constantly find fault about everything, including you?
- Does being with your partner make you feel happier, lighter, and more uplifted? Or the opposite?
- Also consider the questions attached to qualities 1 : Commitment to Growth, 3: High Self Esteem, 5: Emotionally Open, 6: Empathic and Giving
10. A Friend
Your special partner should be the best friend you have. Too many people want a relationship, choose someone (usually based on superficialities like good looks) and think romance exclusively. The problem is the temptation to fake an ideal persona and best behaviour all the time, an illusion which is stressful and impossible to sustain.
The great advantage of having the element of friendship is authenticity. The freedom to be your crazy, imperfect selves eliminates stresses from pretense and conformation to an ideal. Such a relationship may lack a little mystery, but gives you more honesty, vulnerability, acceptance, and fun.
Some people who read those posts might wonder, if one does so much for a friend, how is a loved one special?
My answer is you don’t do all those things for all your friends. But you would do most, if not all, for your special other, because you spend more time creating shared experiences, memories, and tender moments. You enjoy exclusive physical intimacy. You set goals about future directions and growth together. In the happiest moments and the harshest, you share practical and emotional realities in a way you seldom do with friends. You create something loving, supportive and enduring. That’s what makes the relationship the most special one you have.
Not All for One and One for All
It goes without saying that everybody is different in what they can offer in a relationship. Not all these qualities will exist in everybody, at least not to the same degree. You should not penalize your partner if they lack any of these but you have been happy to this point. Remember relationships are a two-way interaction, and you should also consider if you lack any of these qualities. Think about cultivating them if you do.
In future we’ll discuss relationship qualities common to the happy couples I have met and studied.