The media, and every fairy tale, emphasises the same fallacy over and over: love triumphs over everything. Love is all you need.
While it's true that love is the glue that binds our relationships, it shouldn’t be the foundation on which we build these relationships. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship will tell you that, once the excitement and perfect bliss of new love wears off, there are certain qualities needed in a partner for love to last.
Here are some qualities to look out for in a partner or to build in yourself.
This is the ability to understand and manage emotions. It applies to both the past and the present. An emotionally mature partner will make the effort to analyze and resolve issues from their past relationships while using these experiences as a guide to a better relationship in their present.
An emotionally mature partner can also look at situations objectively. Meaning they are able to take a step back and see their role in any conflict, which makes resolution easier and prevents fights from deteriorating. They are also able to navigate conflict without diminishing the other person’s feelings while helping to find a solution that works for both of you.
The ability to be open and exposed is rare and often overlooked. We all have shortcomings and insecurities that could interfere with or damage our relationships. Being open and honest about these things allows your partner insight into what triggers or elevates you. This way, they can avoid unknowingly prodding those sensitive points and give you support and positive reinforcement instead.
Being vulnerable also means letting your partner in on how you really feel about the state of your relationship. And being honest about your expectations.
This will open the door to a relationship audit that can lead to positive changes and encourage genuine conversations.
Being respectful is probably the most important quality a partner can have. The lack of it is arguably the lead cause of break-ups and relationship discontent. Respect spans how partners treat one another in public and private, consideration for each other’s personal boundaries, and prioritizing those things or people that matter to them. Respect for your partner and your relationship is what keeps one faithful or from standing between them and the things they value.
Additionally, different people have different stressors; one person may dislike yelling and another untidiness; respect keeps one mindful of these boundaries and encourages the exploration of better alternatives.
Nothing can chip away at trust faster than broken promises and dishonesty. What a lot of people don't realize is that a promise is a binding commitment, no matter how small. Forgetting or blowing off doing something for your partner only makes them feel like less of a priority or that they cannot depend on you.
It will inevitably make them question your commitment because, if you can’t be trusted with a penny, then how can you be trusted with a pound?
Dishonesty similarly breaks trust – one lie at a time. It’s a popular notion that white lies are sometimes necessary to maintain a relationship. The downside of this, however, is once you’re caught in a few lies everything from there is under suspicion. Instead of your partner automatically taking your word at face value, they will tend to question its validity. This constant second-guessing will likely cause other problems. Not to mention they may start to wonder what else you are being dishonest about and that is a rabbit hole that doesn’t end anywhere good.
This last one is a quality that may not be pointed out as much; because it’s not as obvious. Whereas emotional maturity fosters understanding and conflict resolution, it does not necessarily bring meaningful change. Having a partner who has what my friends and I call a ‘teachable spirit’ is that special ingredient that makes all the difference.
You can only have the same argument so many times before everything goes bust.
Having a partner that can adapt to your love languages and truly internalize those things that matter to you is a true show of love.
Our varied life experiences mean that we all have vastly different perspectives on life. Perspective may mean that you don’t understand why you partner does or wants something, but having a teachable spirit will allow you to adjust anyway. While mutual understanding is desirable it cannot always be achieved and in these moments a partner who can surpass breaks in communication to cater to your needs using their knowledge of similar past experiences is priceless.
These are some of the qualities I think are important for a long and healthy relationship.
Some other things you may also want to consider: empathy and kindness, independence, sexual compatibility and loyalty. It is important, however, to emphasize that relationships have no blueprint and each one is unique.
Look for the qualities that matter most to you and will have the highest impact on your long-term happiness.
Similarly, you can work on yourself and become the type of partner you are looking for. It is, in fact, easier to find what you already possess as in many cases like attracts like.
All we are saying is do not buy into the ruse that love is the be all and end all as this promotes the belief that relationships do not need constant work to be successful and healthy.
What do you think is important for happy relationships? Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Facebook: Love Matters Africa and Love Matters Naija.