“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” – Blaise Pascal
How can you tell the difference between the type of romantic partner that no one wants to let go and the one that no one is sad to see leave? In other words, what are the traits of the “keepers” in long-term romantic relationships? A recent article by Dr. Randi Gunther, clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, sheds light on 15 traits of the most successful long-term relationship partners:
Successful romantic partners tend to recognize the need to frequently question themselves and hold themselves accountable within a relationship. A mature romantic relationship involves compromise, open communication, and willingness to take responsibility for your behaviors. Romantic partners who lack the willingness to own up to the role they play in situations and take responsibility for their fair share often struggle in relationships. This type of romantic partner is willing to own their behaviors appropriately, actively seek out paths toward harmony through compromise, and feels confident in his/her contributions to the relationship.
“Keepers” are able to maintain their own personal rhythms and “flow” when under stress. They also blend effectively with their partner’s rhythm, creating harmony within the relationship. They are willing to respect differences in the way they and their partners do things, striving for balance. They respect these individual differences in a way that allows each partner to thrive in his/her own unique way. They do not try to force their partner to adjust to their rhythm or “way” of doing things… rather, they actively seek out ways to be in rhythmic, flowing harmony with their partners.
Desirable partners avoid patronizing their partners and instead look for ways to maintain levels of interest in their partners’ lives. They recognize the inevitability of knowing a great deal about your partner that comes along with long-term relationships. Recognizing this, they hold on to levels of excitement within the relationship by looking for ways to make situations and activities with their partners interesting and meaningful. They seek out ways to make connections and look for the positive. They always avoid patronizing their partners by pretending to be interested when they are truly not.
These romantic partners know that humor is an essential aspect to successful long-term relationships. They use humor to maintain a resilient stance in life and in their relationship. It is important to note that they do not use humor inappropriately (i.e., to cover up difficult emotions or to deny painful truths). Instead, they use humor to genuinely enjoy the connection they share with their partners and to keep things in perspective.
These “keepers” are able to maintain a sense of emotional balance and regulation, rarely getting “out of control.” They are the partners who you can count on to stay centered and reliable when things get tough. They are able and willing to take criticism without lashing out defensively at their partners, which results in their partners feeling safe in the knowledge that discussing difficult topics will not result in an emotional episode. They make the choice to use challenges to understand themselves and their relationship at a deeper level. They avoid overreacting to events whenever possible and are there to support their partners when they are struggling.
They don’t allow guilt to overly influence their decisions. These romantic partners make the choice to use the emotion of guilt in a productive way, learning from what the emotion is telling them rather than “keeping score” or lashing out at their partners. This type of partner never uses guilt is a means of controlling others any more than they allow themselves to be controlled by guilt from others. Instead, their sense of worth and integrity rests upon what their own internal moral compass says. They are concerned with making their partners feel happy and loved, but they do not act from a place of fear or loss when their partners are unhappy.
(7) Storing good times
Desirable romantic partners choose to reflect on positive memories of their relationship when times get tough, rather than ruminating on negative thoughts, feelings, and memories. They actively look for the good in situations with their partners, easily recalling times in their mind when there was a strong presence of positive behavior (i.e., rather than dwelling on times when there was a presence of negative behavior). They do not deny reality when it is painful, but they put it in perspective with the positive aspects of their relationship and do not allow negative events to overshadow the positive unrealistically.
“Keepers” are authentic in their word and deed and respect others who are authentic as well. They are honest, responsible, and have a strong sense of integrity. They avoid pretending to be someone they are not and choose to be transparent whenever possible and appropriate. These individuals tend to choose partners who value their honesty and authenticity. They treasure love from their partners and avoid going out of their way to cover up flaws and faults. They are as open with their partners about their virtues as they are about their vices. They believe in honesty and transparency in their romantic lives.
The most desirable romantic partners are aware of their realistic “value” in the eyes of others. They are aware of the qualities that make them desirable partners to others without viewing their desirability in an unrealistic light. They have strong ideas and values about what qualities they believe are important and have a realistic sense of their positive (and negative) attributes. They have a grounded sense of how others view them and expect their partners to recognize their worth. They don’t complain or feel rejected if they aren’t the “best” in any one category since they have an accurate perception of what qualities, traits, or skills they do have.
(10) Valuing others
Successful relationship partners actively seek out value in others. They notice and recognize the positive qualities in other people and do not feel threatened by them since they are secure in their own sense of self. They actively maintain their relationships and do not take them for granted. These people recognize that relationships require nurturing and they choose to take the time out of their lives to maintain them. They pay attention to what is happening in their partners’ lives and take an active interest in their partners’ current thoughts, feelings, and concerns. They value making their partner feel special and valued.
(11) Staying focused on what is important
Effective romantic partners choose to avoid attachments to unavoidable outcomes. They recognize what conflicts are unresolvable and instead focus on what they can change and what they can compromise on within the relationship. These people avoid getting caught up in power struggles. They prefer to direct their energy towards problem solving rather than problem maintaining behaviors. They inspire other people to focus on what is possible and help others direct their energies in productive ways.
We all experience distress in some form at some time. What makes the difference between a “keeper” and a “non-keeper” is how that person chooses to handle the inevitable stress of life. A desirable romantic partner manages emotions and tolerates distress effectively and maturely. They are mindfully aware of their own emotional states and recognize times when they need time alone to process their feelings before discussing them. They usually skillfully avoid unnecessary emotional exchanges and instead opt for soothing their own levels of distress before engaging with their partners. When they do get off balance emotionally, they are quick to notice that this shift has occurred and take proactive steps to get back on track.
(13) Seek continuous transformation
Successful romantic partners are constantly looking for ways to improve and transform themselves in positive ways. They are mindfully aware of their values and choose to direct their behaviors in purposeful and intentional ways that move them closer to their desired goals. They make the choice to learn from things that have happened in the past, reflecting on lessons learned so that they can avoid making the same mistakes again in the future as much as possible. They are committed to self-awareness and reaching their own potential. This type of partner tends to value another partner with similar values of self-awareness and self-improvement, with an eye towards helping each other reach their goals.
“Keepers” take good care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. They aren’t looking for a partner to “fix” them or to “take care” of them in these ways. They recognize that the choice to take care of oneself has the positive consequence of having more to give to others (i.e., being a better partner). They know that when they feel their best physically, mentally, and emotionally, they are best equipped to face the inevitable stressors of life. You don’t have to remind them to take care of themselves, nor do they pressure others in this way. They expect their partners to be equally committed to self-care.
(15) Being present
Desirable romantic partners value and treasure the present moment in a mindful way. They are committed to the present moment, engaging in thoughts and behaviors with full present-moment awareness and liveliness. They make the choice to learn from the past but leave it in the past just as they choose to avoid getting caught up in worries about the future. They are fully engaged in the present moment with the knowledge that it is always “now.”
What kind of partner are you? What kind of partner would you like to be? Just because you may not radiate all fifteen of these qualities, that does not mean that you cannot make the choice in this moment to actively cultivate any one of them. All of these traits and behaviors can be acquired through practice. If you noticed an area where you would like to see improvement in yourself, make the decision to do something about it rather than ruminate on what you perceive yourself to be lacking. Who do you want to be?
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Gunther, R. (2011, August 28). Who are the “keepers?” – The behaviors of successful long-term relationship partners [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rediscovering-love/201108/who-are-the-keepers-the-behaviors-successful-long-term-relationship-p
Featured image: Engaged (#50497) by mark sebastian / CC BY-SA 2.0