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What to Look For in a Long-Term Partner 👫🎞

You’ll Be Amazed! At what you attract after you start believing in what you deserve.– Prosperity Saying

Science tells us Love is Not Transactional; It’s an Emotional Bond.

Key points

  • As humans, we are misguided about what to look for in potential relationship partners.
  • Research shows that certain personality qualities are associated with better relationships.
  • Accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement (ARE) may be the building blocks of secure attachment.

It’s funny the way human attraction works. And kind of sad. We look at a photo on a dating profile or gaze across the room at a stranger at a bar; we evaluate height and BMI; we look at their clothes and unconsciously make a guess about their social positioning. We get to talking and go a little deeper and find that we share some of the same interests—you like pickleball?

Me too!

 Height, BMI, salary, interests… 
  • do they really tell us what kind of partner this person will be to us?
  • What a relationship with this person would feel like?

Maybe, but not in the way you might think.
In fact, physical attractiveness is associated with less commitment in relationships and shorter relational duration (Ben-Ze’ev, 2019). And for males, physical attractiveness has been associated with a higher likelihood of cheating, less supportiveness in spousal interactions, and lower relationship satisfaction.

Uh oh.
 So, if not based on physical appearance,  how can you know that you’ve found someone with whom you can create a healthy, happy relationship?

Research suggests there are characteristics that are associated with long-term relationship stability and happiness. The partners of individuals who are kind, patient, cooperative, open-minded, conscientious, and emotionally stable have better relationships (Furler, Gomez, & Grob, 2014; Shackelford, & Buss, 2000; Zare, Nasir, Mastor, & Shahrazad, 2013).

Love is not transactional.
  • If it were, we’d be happiest with the sexiest, richest partner. Someone from whom we gain status and material benefit.
  • Instead, love is an emotional bond. A partner with kindness, consideration, patience, and cooperation gives us a feeling of being important and loved.
  • A partner who is open-minded and conscientious. Shows us that they are willing to work hard to see our perspective and put effort into a relationship,
  • Shows us that we matter and are accepted for who we are. With someone who is emotionally stable, we can feel safe.

According to Sue Johnson (co-creator of the science-backed couples therapy method emotionally focused therapy or EFT), as humans, we are always implicitly asking a question in our emotional bonds:  “Are you there for me?”  She says that the building blocks of a partner with whom we will create a secure attachment form the acronym “ARE”:

Does this person show you that they will be there for you in a time of need?
When faced with a crisis, will they drop everything and show support and caring?

A partner who is accessible makes a good relationship partner because they will stick by your side when life gets tough.

This could show up early on in dating—if your car breaks down before a date, would they drive to your house to give you a ride? If so, you might find that such a partner is willing to take care of you when you are sick down the road or be there for you when you inevitably face grief and loss in life.

Does this person show you that your feelings and needs matter by demonstrating empathy and working on themselves for you?
Will they accept your influence, compromise, and come to solutions that meet your preferences?

 A responsive partner makes it known that your feelings and needs are important and does not neglect them for their own. 

For example, if you mention to an early relationship partner that something they said hurt you, a responsive partner would show caring and empathy for your hurt and take action not to hurt you again, rather than becoming defensive or dismissing your feelings.

According to decades of research, bonds that involve responsive partners have the ability to get better over time, while those that don’t often deteriorate over time.
Does this person give you the gift of their presence?
An engaged partner gives you their full attention as another way to show that you are safe with them and that you are a priority. If your date seems to be more interested in their phone than in your conversation, it could be a bad sign.

In fact, studies show that couples who turn towards each other in little moments by paying full attention are much more likely to have happy, stable marriages years later. Take note of the little things—do they look you in the eye, show they’re listening with follow-up questions, and laugh with you?

When you’re looking for a long-term partner, ditch the checklist—it’s not someone of a certain height or salary who will bring happiness into your life. Find someone whom you can have a healthy emotional bond with. Seek someone that you feel safe with, that you matter to, that you are a priority to, and with whom you feel accepted and loved for who you are.
References Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2019). The arc of love: How our romantic love changes over time. University of Chicago Press Furler, K., Gomez, V., & Grob, A. (2014). Personality perceptions and relationship satisfaction in couples. Journal of Research in Personality, 50, 33-41. Shackelford, T. K., & Buss, D. M. (2000). Marital satisfaction and spousal cost-infliction. Personality and Individual Differences, 28(5), 917-928. Zare, B., Nasir, R., Mastor, K. A., & Shahrazad, W. W. (2013). Personality traits, the risk of divorce and marital satisfaction: An intrapersonal model. The Social Sciences, 8(5), 466-472.
Author: Tasha Seiter, M.S., Ph.D., LMFT, provides online couples and individual therapy as well as life and relationship coaching to anyone hoping to improve their life or relationship.

Online: Schedule an Online Therapy or Coaching Session with Dr. Tasha, or Learn More, Facebook 

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Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet, understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.
― Ann Landers

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