Relationships: Search for these traits in an intimate partner
May 5, 2012
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series.
We all want variations of the same thing when we select someone to give ourselves to, to commit to, to marry or to live with. The problem, most people belatedly realize, is that no one is perfect, and that there are tradeoffs we are forced to accept no matter who we choose to be in an intimate relationship with.
Most heterosexual males, if given the choice, would choose a hot, sexy, lovely looking, responsive, receptive and nurturing woman to call his own. Most heterosexual females, if given the same choice, would be attracted to a successful, affluent, attractive, strong, emotionally available, kind, trustworthy and faithful man. In fact, who isn’t attracted to most or all of these traits?
But real life, more often than not, interferes with our romantic fantasies and dreams. So you just might get the hot, sexy, lovely looking woman, who also has bad credit and large debt, a drinking problem, lives with chronic anxiety and low self-esteem, and doesn’t let anyone get too emotionally close to her. Or the successful, affluent, attractive man who also has a porn addiction, is very controlling and jealous and who has a very quick temper that makes you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells around him.
That’s what I mean by tradeoffs. You get some of what you want, but also some of what you don’t want, and then you’re forced to decide what you can live with and what you can’t. This is what most of us deal with when choosing someone to call ours. So here are some guidelines for how to decide who is the right person for you. Here are the traits most of us want our intimate partner/spouse to have:
Look for someone who is a giver, and not just a taker. We all want to receive, but some people are more self-centered and expect to be cared for way more than they expect to give. Look for someone who is balanced in this regard, who is a giver at least as much as he takes.
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Someone with an even temperament will be way easier to get along with over time. Temperamental, hot-headed, easy-to-anger people will more often than not make you nervous and fearful to speak up or to be yourself.
You want someone emotionally available. Emotionally available people feel worthy of love, and are comfortable with giving and receiving love and affection. They have the capacity and display the willingness to be there for someone else, to be empathetic, compassionate and nurturing of other people. They tend to other people’s feelings, needs, desires and priorities as well as their own, and they are able to give their relationship time and effort.
Choose someone who is able and ready to bond and to commit. Someone just getting out of a love relationship or who is still struggling with the ending of their previous relationship is more likely to need a caretaker or a nurse, and seldom has the emotional wherewithal to be an equal partner or to have a whole lot he can to give to you.
Look for somebody with solid integrity, who knows right from wrong, and who does the honorable thing the vast majority of the time – toward you, with friends, toward work, with family. You want someone you can trust, and whose character you respect.
Some people are great talkers, but very poor listeners. You want a good talker and a good listener, but you especially want someone who really hears you. Do you feel you have a voice in this relationship? Are your concerns, wishes, preferences and requests heard and treated with respect?
Choose someone who takes care of himself, and who maintains a healthy mind, body and demeanor. How does he handle stress? What are her eating habits, drinking habits, exercise habits, spending habits?
How good are your partner’s conflict-resolution, compromising and negotiating skills? When there’s a problem, does he address it head on with diplomacy and respect? Look for someone who can address conflict and differences in a healthy manner as they arise. People who gunny-sack their emotions will eventually explode or withdraw.
Choose someone who is more upbeat than downbeat. Happier people are easier to be with. Angry, depressed, vindictive, cynical, bitter or defeated people are much harder to be with.
Look for someone who is good in social situations, good with children, good with family, good with animals and who knows how to be a friend.
Are you good playmates together? Do you play well with each other?
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 20th year of publication, and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website,