Five Things to Look for In a Life Partner

For everyone out there falling in love, here are some things you should look for in a potential partner. And if you are a partner, you should strive to offer these things to your mate. Happy Valentine’s Day!

1. Empathy is our ability to imagine how another person feels (which may be completely different from how you feel about something). If your potential partner has no capacity for empathy, compassion, kindness, and consideration will not be a priority.

2. Humor can defuse a struggle and transform a moment from bad to better. It can give you both a chance to disengage from your angry emotions and allow the logical part of your brain to resume thoughtful negotiation. Do not confuse sarcasm with humor. Sarcasm is a form of contempt.

3. The willingness to keep talking during conflicts. Partners need to find common ground or be able to agree to disagree. They do this best when they are able to describe for their partner how they are feeling about a situation. Listening to your partner during these discussions is also critical. Telling your partner how THEY should feel is a recipe for failure.

Thich Nhat Hanh on Compassionate Listening

4. Understands the basics of how emotions work. During strife, emotions run the show. Emotions are hard-wired in our brains. No matter how smart or clever we are, no one can prevent emotions from happening, especially in times of conflict and threat. When we react immediately by indulging our impulses fights escalate. Thinking before we speak or act gives us more control over the outcome of our interactions.

Love Sense: from Infant to Adult (Sue Johnson and Ed Tronick)

Understanding Emotional Intelligence: The Amygdala Hijack

5. Understand the importance of establishing ground rules for disagreements. All couples have disagreements and fights. Having found your special someone, you need some ground rules. Feel free to create your own, but here is a starter set:

  • We don’t insult each other.

The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling

  • We don’t walk away (turn away) in the middle of a discussion without stating our intention to return and resume talking.

Love Sense: from Infant to Adult (Sue Johnson and Ed Tronick)

  • We don’t go into pursuit mode when the other person says they need time to work through their feelings. Doing so only makes the problem worse.

  • We never shout, yell or get in each other’s face.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence: The Amygdala Hijack

  • We remind each other that we love and care about each other even though we are angry. Need help here? Go back to the Five Love Languages.

  • We don’t dismiss each other’s feelings. Although you and your partner may have different feelings about something, there is no ‘right’ way to feel about something. Your partners feelings are just as valid as yours.

  • We don’t threaten to leave each other. Whether it is meant to coerce or hurt your partner this is never acceptable.

  • A conversation isn’t over until both people feel understood and better. But it is OK to take a break as long as we return at a later time or day to resolve the conflict.

  • Stay in the present. Don’t dredge up transgressions from the past. When you find yourself doing this you are trying to win an argument. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who Cares! Winning augments is always a loss for the relationship.

Here are a two books I like and recommend to my clients.



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