Dating is often seen as a process of trial and error, one where we search for the good in another person while keep an eye out for any red flags. While our partners often capture our attention and our hearts, and that’s why we’re with them, it can be easy to let small mistakes frustrate us and cause us to question the relationship. It’s important to keep a positive attitude and to realize that no one is perfect, to ‘not sweat the small stuff’, especially when it comes to relationships. Especially when they are a partner who has certain habits that will lead to a healthy, loving and satisfying relationship.
When it comes to determining if a relationship will be truly satisfying, it’s important to listen to what professional psychologists have discovered during their research in their studies on relationships. The go-to-guide for the past several decades for thousands of psychologists on what determines if a relationship will succeed is Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love; a comprehensive study that mapped out the three major important areas of any relationship. Sternberg’s study uses data to predict that if the two of you have a 90% match in all three areas, you will likely have found your ideal match. These three important areas are; Intimacy, Passion and Commitment.
From Intimacy, which encompasses the feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness one experiences in loving relationships, to passion, which encompasses the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, and sexual consummation, to decision and commitment, which encompasses, in the short term, the decision that one loves another, and in the long term, the commitment to maintain that love, each of these three components of the Triangular Theory of Love have skills that can be developed to maximize a couple’s potential of reaching the desired consummate, or complete romantic love.
If you notice your partner doing one, five, or even all eleven of these things with you, psychology says you have found a great partner and should keep them in your life:
1. They are able to really listen to you
Whether you’ve had a great day and want to share your good news, or it’s been an exhausting day and you need someone to vent to, your partner is able to take time to compassionately listen to you, to hear your needs, and to reflect back your feelings to you in a gentle way. Having someone who gently listens and can listen for your feelings, and the needs behind those feelings, is deeply relieving and is a key aspect to a healthy relationship.
2. You are their biggest priority outside of themselves
They love being with you for the simple reason that it just feels right. You know they have your best interests in mind when making plans, making decisions and even when doing simple things such as deciding what to cook for dinner. They are passionately in love with you and are thinking of you often enough that you can see it, and it causes you to feel loved.
3. They desire the same amount of commitment as you
A key factor to having a satisfying relationship is that both partners desire the same level of commitment. Once you know what kind of commitment you desire; dating, a relationship, marriage, kids, seeing each other every day, or just a few times per week, etc, it’s very important that your partner shares their desired level of commitment with you; and that it matches! If you both are looking for the same with each other, then you’ve found someone special.
4. They don’t mind going out of their way for you
If you forgot to pick up something at the store, or if you’re not feeling well and really want that one soup that only your favorite restaurant can make, your partner is willing to go get these things for you because they love you. Showing compassionate support is a key component of intimacy.
5. They genuinely love themselves and are able to love you more because of it
The practice of self compassion is vital to a healthy relationship, because if we cannot love ourselves fully, we cannot love another fully. The key to having healthy and successful relationships always starts with the self, and when you’ve found someone who knows how to practice loving themselves, you can be sure they will use their heart and love as a guide when making their decisions with you.
They value your opinion and seek to understand your point of view, rather than arguing against it all of the time. Their maturity when it comes to handling feelings and conversations helps you feel safe and trust them when it comes to important issues.
7. They are open about their sexual needs and listen to yours
Having a healthy passion and sexuality within a relationship is one of the three components of Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, and it’s important to take this seriously. A partner who understands this and openly communicates their sexual needs to you, and compassionately listens to and compliments yours, is valuable and can keep your love life satisfying and enjoyable. It’s also very important that the two of you desire the same level of sexual contact, as if one partner desires more or less than the other, it can lead to problems in the future. If your partner’s and your desires have a 90%+ match, then this is a person worth keeping.
8. They show you their vulnerable side
Being vulnerable in a relationship and showing each other our sensitivities is what it means to be intimate. The age-old idea that men are like stone and women are overly sensitive does not fly when it comes to healthy relationships. Both partners need to open up and share their vulnerabilities with each other, and in turn show love and care during these times.
9. They want their life to be with you
Your partner genuinely enjoys you and wants you to be a part of their life for the long-term. You don’t question their commitment because they’ve told you exactly what it is, and it matches yours. Their actions are consistent with their words, and you know this person will stay by your side.
10. They’re always honest with you
Whether it’s good or seemingly bad, you can be sure they’ll be honest with you and tell you the whole story. Honesty is the foundation of trust, and your partner knows this. If your partner is honest with you even when it comes to the difficult things and their mistakes, you can trust that they’re telling you the truth, and are doing their best.
11. You can count on them in times of need
High levels of intimacy are greatly desired in a relationship, and intimate relationships play a central role in the overall human experience. Humans have a natural desire to belong and to love, and this desire can be satisfied in intimate relationships (Perlman, 2007). Sternberg’s definition of intimacy includes the ‘desire to promote the welfare of the loved one’ as well as ‘being able to count on the loved one in times of need’ (Sternberg & Grajek, 1984). When your partner is there for you when you need it the most, you’ve found someone who knows the true meaning of family and a loving relationship.