What Should You Look For in a Relationship

Relationships A-Z
22 Oct 2023
9 min read
What to Look For in a Relationship: 6 Traits, 9 Do's and 4 Dont's

Is this it? You have strong feelings for someone, but you aren’t sure if that means you have found the right partner. How do you know if this relationship is forever? If you truly want to know, there are several factors you need to consider. Before you make that serious commitment to your partner, here’s what to look for in a relationship.

9 Things You Need For a Healthy Relationship

Let’s talk about healthy relationships. The best partnerships have many of the same things in common. If you and your partner have these things between you, then you have the makings of a healthy relationship.

1. Honest Communication

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

There is no healthy relationship without effective communication. That has to go both ways. It would help if you committed to being rigorously honest and also an active listener. That includes making your partner feel safe engaging in open communication with you. When you’re with the right person, both of you will crave honesty as a way to make your relationship stronger.

2. Compatible Personality Traits

Do opposites attract? Not really! As you look for a partner, you may not have much luck with someone who has a personality that contradicts yours. That said, people have good relationships with people who don’t have matching traits.

Your ideal partner doesn’t have to be just like you. If you want a solid foundation for a long-term relationship, focus on compatibility. You want somebody who balances you without contradicting you.

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3. Mutual Physical Attraction

No, it isn’t shallow to consider physical appearance in your relationships. It shouldn’t be the most important thing, but there should be physical attributes you see in the person you love that draws you to them. Likewise, it’s important for them to feel the same kind of attraction to you.

4. Libido Alignment

“Let’s talk about sex baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.”

Herby Azor, Salt N Pepa

We can’t talk about what to look for in a relationship without mentioning sexual compatibility. You don’t have to have matching libidos, but your appetites should be pretty well aligned. Otherwise, both of you are going to deal with a lot of frustration, albeit for different reasons. Someone who is a good partner for you will want to have sex at a similar rate as you.

5. Same Hobbies And Interests

Relationships work best when the two of you can spend time together pursuing hobbies and interests together. Why is this so important? You want a life partner who you can have fun with and enjoy life. That is foundational to a good relationship. This gives you a reason to look forward to spending time with them and they with you.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

6. Quality Time Together

Shared interests are so important, but that’s only part of the equation. Both of you need to commit to spending time together doing those things that you love. In the ideal relationship, you don’t simply spend time with each other when you can. Instead, you make your relationship a priority by carving out time, even if that means making some sacrifices.

Related reading: Quality Time – It’s a Love Language

7. Sense of Humor

True love means being able to laugh together. When things are difficult, you will realize what an important part of your relationship this is. So, when you start dating somebody pay close attention to their humor. Can you laugh with them? Do you enjoy the same jokes and funny banter? Are they able to stop taking themselves so seriously? A sense of humor can truly help a relationship work. You have probably noticed the people in your life with strong relationships almost always have a shared sense of humor.

8. Similar Goals in Life

If you make a list of what to look for in a relationship, shared goals belong near the top of the list. This doesn’t mean that both of you want to accomplish the same things. It would help if you were on similar paths though. At the very least, you should be able to respect and give space to one another’s pursuit of your life objectives.

Related reading: How to Focus on Yourself in a Relationship

9. The Ability to Disagree Constructively

“Every relationship is like a garden and every garden has weeds. Arguments are the little weeds of our relationship that grow up around the things we intentionally plant. Some arguments don’t seem so bad and are easy to work around whenever they pop up. Others are ugly enough that you go nuclear on them. That patch of land is abandoned as scorched earth for a couple of years. Either way, the weeds always come back as reliably as the days and the seasons despite our attempt to get rid of them once and for all. This is true of the arguments we have but also the arguments we don’t have. Arguments don’t end because they have long, long roots.”

Buster Benson, author

You don’t have to agree on everything to have a good relationship. The most important factor is your ability to disagree with respect and constructively work towards a resolution. Also, smart couples know that simply giving one another permission to have different views is the key to a great relationship. If your disagreements always turn into arguments, you need to find a way to reach common ground.

What to look for in a relationship: 6 partner traits

6 Things You Should Seek in a Life Partner

Relationships are made up of independent people who need to be able to relate to one another, compromise, and care about one another. If you can find such people, your life will be enriched. These are the characteristics that you should seek in your partners and friends.

1. Emotional Maturity

If your partner lacks emotional maturity, there’s not much hope for your relationship. If they possess this trait, you may have someone you can build a life with. Emotional maturity is the ability to manage one’s feelings appropriately. People who are emotionally mature can express negative emotions to their partners without lashing out. Likewise, they are able to deal with other’s emotions too. Can your partner:

  • Deal with normal life frustrations without “freaking out”
  • Avoid becoming defensive or insulting you when you say anything critical
  • Express disappointment sadness or anger without yelling
  • Talk to you honestly about their feelings
  • Maintain personal and professional relationships even when disagreements happen

Emotional connection is such an important part of a relationship. It’s one of the things that is a must-have as you learn what to look for in a relationship.

Related reading: Male Maturity – When Does It Kick In?

2. Similar Core Values

They say you shouldn’t discuss religion or politics early in your relationship. That may be true, but one of the things you and your partner need to have are similar values and beliefs. This doesn’t mean you have to agree on every single issue that becomes a topic of discussion. Still, you should have the same values as a foundation for your relationship. It’s one thing to debate over certain issues. It’s another to realize that your partner simply views the world in a way that you don’t relate to or understand.

Be wary of sexual or physical urges getting in the way here. Don’t let your libido convince you that you and your partner can work around these core differences. In a few months, the novelty of a new relationship will wear off. When it does, all you will be left with is a person you probably won’t like very much at all.

How do you know if you and your partner can get beyond a difference of opinion? Try the friends test. Could you be a close friend with somebody who believes what your partner does? If so, you may be able to make things work even if you aren’t always on the same page.

3. Good Listener

“But charm is not only being soft-spoken, relaxed, and at ease; it’s wanting to be a giver. Wanting to be a good listener. Responding, communicating, having a genuine interest in people. It’s having a good memory for amusing things so that you’re a happy person to be with. Charm is grace — graciousness. And it all has to be real — good manners and good manners of the heart. Charm is a touch of magic. Try to make it a part of your way of life.”

Joan Crawford, American actress

Does your partner listen to you to understand you, or are they too busy thinking of a response? Even when you disagree about things, feeling heard can make all the difference in the world. Of course, if you want a successful relationship, you must also work hard to be an attentive listener. Good partners respect each other by listening. This is also how you encourage open communication.

4. Independence

You want to be a supportive partner. That’s a good thing, but you also want to be with a person who is independent. They should have their own life, friendships, and some level of financial independence. Without that, you will never quite know if your partner is with you because they want to be or out of emotional neediness.

This is why casual dating is an important part of getting to know someone. You can learn how independent they are before you start a relationship with them.

Related reading: Modern Dating – 15 New Rules for the New Environment

5. Ability to Express Love

Physical affection is important, but there’s more to the ability to express love than that. Consider whether you and your partner have the same love language. That’s how a person expresses and receives love. If you don’t have the same love language, your relationship can still work. You will both need to adjust to the other person and their way of being affectionate.

6. Empathy and Respect

You don’t need to feel the same way about everything, but you both need to show each other empathy and respect. If your partner has this characteristic, your relationship is likely to last. Simply put, this is a sign they are a good person.

4 red flags for healthy relationships

4 Major Relationship Red Flags

Everybody has bad characteristics, but some are worse than others. If any of these exist in your relationship, it may be time to find a new partner.

1. Imbalance of Effort

You are willing to spend time together, talk through your issues, and even go to couples counseling. Meanwhile, your partner does the bare minimum work to keep your relationship going. You feel frustrated, and a little betrayed.

Of course, you are left feeling resentful. That’s completely valid. A relationship doesn’t need to be a 50/50 partnership. However, there should be a reasonable balance in the efforts both of you make. If they aren’t willing to pitch in, you can be sure that your relationship isn’t equally important to them. This truth may be difficult to swallow, but it’s better to be realistic about your partner now than set yourself up for disappointment.

2. Mismatched Life Goals

When you and your partner have similar life goals, that goes a long way toward strengthening your relationship. What if the opposite is true? For example, you want to pursue a master’s degree, but they think higher education is a rip-off. If both of you look ahead and envision futures that are incompatible, then your story together may be a short one.

Related reading: 14 Red Flags in Your New Male Squeeze
14 Red Flags in Women – Here’s Your Checklist

3. Unresolved Emotional Baggage

Past trauma can destroy a relationship. If they haven’t done the work to get through the bad things that have happened to them, your partner may tend to sabotage themselves and your relationship. Whether their issues stem from childhood or past relationships gone bad, they must be emotionally mature enough to own their issues and work on them.

Look for a partner, not a project. If you are the one who is plagued with trauma and self-doubt, take some time to get help. Even if you are single right now, your potential partner deserves you at your best.

4. Refusal to Communicate Openly

Nobody is a perfect communicator all of the time, but willingness to communicate is an important trait. If your partner lies, gaslight, or gives you the silent treatment, that’s a real problem. How do you fix things when you don’t even know your partner’s thoughts? Their refusal to be honest and talk things over when you have a disagreement makes it impossible to have a lasting relationship.

How to Know Your Relationship Can Be Successful

Now you know what to look for in a relationship. How does yours hold up? You may find that you have some gaps between what you have and what you should have between yourself and your relationship partner. Does that mean you need to give up on love? Absolutely not!

It’s wonderful when all of the elements of a lasting relationship just fall into place. However, there are plenty of successful partnerships that exist because both people put in the hard work to make that happen. Think about what you have, and ask yourself this question. Are our differences due to contrasting personalities, or things that can be changed with effort? If it’s the latter, that’s a good sign that you can build something amazing together.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.
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