We're not talking about abs here.
When it comes to relationships often what we think we want versus what we actually need are two different things.
If you’re leading with superficial ideals such as the perfect partner should have model good looks, a six figure+ income, and the right degree from the right school, topped off with six-pack abs, or a certain bra size, you’re really ignoring the most imperative qualities that can actually make or break a relationship.
The fact is, all those other “qualities” will not matter much long term if your partner doesn’t have the following attributes. If you find a partner who embodies all these traits, you, my friend, have found a true keeper!
A lie is a lie. It doesn’t matter if it’s white, black or green. This includes lying by omission or withholding information, which is also profoundly dishonest. Someone who lies about anything no matter how insignificant they think it is, is not a trustworthy partner.
Even “white” lies can break trust with your partner and can make them wonder what else you’re hiding.
True honesty and integrity is one of the hardest traits to come by these days and it’s not a virtue you should overlook. You should be able to trust your partner to be honest with you about everything. A transparent relationship is a healthy relationship.
If you find your partner is withholding information or skirting the truth, this is not a person you want to spend your life with. It’s better to be with someone who is brutally honest and is willing to ruffle a few feathers than someone who puts on the “nice” act and lies to save their hide. A straightforward person is the best kind of partner you can ever have.
2. A Respectful, Kind Family
Notice I said a “respectful, kind” family, not a “perfect” family. No family is perfect and they all have their quirks and minor annoyances, but if your partner’s family is meddling, judgmental, jealous or hypercritical, it is considered emotional abuse and if your partner won’t or can’t stand up to them it’s likely to be a deal-breaker. This is not the kind of family you want to marry into.
Unless you want to spend your life walking on egg shells and feeling constantly judged and ridiculed, opt for a partner with an evolved, open-minded family that understands boundaries and respects your relationship.
No matter how many good qualities you think he or she has, they’re not really a “catch” if they allow their family to be emotionally abusive toward you. Move on. There are plenty of great people out there who know how to set boundaries and have loving and accepting families. Don’t settle for less.
3. Strong & Independent
If you want a loyal warrior by your side that you can trust with your life (and heart) no cowards need apply. If your partner lacks resolve, independent thinking skills, and always needs approval from others, this is not a partner who will have your back in life. You are not dealing with a mature adult or someone who has the ability to be the kind of strong, capable partner you need.
Life can be challenging and scary, and the only kind of partner that is going to hold up through the test of time is a strong, resilient partner who can be your rock.
If your partner lacks the ability to handle adversity or stand up for themselves or you, it’s time to cut the cord. It’s hard to respect someone who doesn’t demand respect for themselves or you.
4. Kindness & Empathy
Kindness and empathy are two words we hear a lot, but what do they actually mean?
There is a big difference between being run-of-the-mill “nice” and being “kind.” Anyone can be “nice.” Nice involves a surface-level politeness that does not have to be genuine and it does not require empathy or integrity. They smile on cue, bring the right gifts, say all the right things, hold the door open for you.
For example, you may find “nice” people may be pleasant to your face, but then surprisingly nasty behind your back. You’ll sometimes find that the people who thrive off being labeled “nice” may be overcompensating for something or have dark secrets.
To be kind, you must be empathetic. Kindness cannot exist without empathy. Kind people are genuine. They understand others on a whole different level and really feel for humanity.
“Nice” people say and do all the right things when everyone is watching. Kind people feel and follow through on all the right things when no one is watching. There is a big difference. It’s better to have a empathetic partner who gives $20 to a homeless person than a “nice” partner who gives you a $5k Chanel bag, then lies to you.
5. Decent People as Friends
This is always such a touchy subject and for good reason. You’re probably going to spend a lot of time with these people and if they’re immature and disrespectful, suffice it to say you’re going to have a hard time reconciling wanting to be with your partner and not wanting to be around people that think making fun of disabled people or cracking homophobic/sexist jokes is sooo hilarious.
There is a big difference between being a humor-less killjoy versus not going along with things that go against your values and violate basic human decency. We’re all supposed to be adults here and we’re supposed to know that just because a group is doing or saying something doesn’t make it right. You know that old adage about following people off a bridge? Yeah, don’t do that.
If your partner’s friends are disrespectful, this is a red flag.
The reality is that personalities can conflict. We’re not all going to get along with everyone in the world, but it’s important to do your best to get along with your partners friends and respect their friendships. It doesn’t mean you have to like their friends as much as they do, but understand they have a place in your partner’s life.
However, if you find your partner’s friends to be perpetually intolerable and disrespectful toward you and others, and your partner refuses to hold them accountable, it’s a wise idea to move on. You don’t want to deal with that for the rest of your life.
It’s also worth mentioning that questionable friends can reveal that your partner may be hiding undesirable traits and may not be as good as he/she is portraying themselves to be. As the saying goes: “Birds of a feather flock together.”
6. A Healthy Lifestyle
Choosing a partner who leads a healthy lifestyle is vital to your long-term health as well. Our partners can be significantly influential on us and if you have a partner whose idea of a good time is getting sloshed in bars, there are two likely outcomes: a) You’re going to go along with it and live a less healthy lifestyle. b) You’re going to refuse to do it and probably end up in arguments.
Either way, if you want a healthy life, choose a partner who also leads a healthy life.
A friend of mine who is a successful entrepreneur and was an infamous “party boy” recently wrote a beautiful tribute to his fiancé (who is a wellness coach) where he praised her for turning his life around and helping him lead a happier, less-stressed, healthier lifestyle. He relayed that before meeting her, he had all the things he was “supposed” to have, but that his life was the same repetitive party and lacked meaning.
He went on to say that he is now the happiest he’s ever been and that the absolute best decision of his life has not been his business, education, travels, or parties, but his choice of choosing a healthy partner who helped bring meaning and depth to his life.
A truly great partner is one who helps us be the best, healthiest version of ourselves — not perpetuates our vices and indulges in our unhealthy choices. If your partner does not inspire you to be a better person, it may be time to move on and find someone who does.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.