How do you know you’ve found the right person for a romantic relationship? Of course you should have things in common and feel excited when you’re around them, but there are some non-negotiable qualities to look for in a man or woman when you’re dating.
Non-negotiable qualities in a relationship are the characteristics and values that must be present to have a successful and mutually beneficial partnership where both people feel happy and fulfilled.
Dating and finding ‘the one’ can be really hard. There are a lot of people out there who don’t exactly put their all into cultivating a healthy relationship where both parties are putting in equal effort.
There are warning signs of a toxic relationship that you should look out for, but what do you look for in a guy when you’re dating? What qualities make someone a good life partner?
We’re going to talk about 16 essential qualities to look for in a partner, and they go beyond how they look or what their job is. Those things can be important but they’re things that will change over time, what’s most important in a serious long term relationship is their values, priorities, and how they treat you.
These are the foundations of long lasting relationship built on respect and trust. The following qualities are non-negotiable in a relationship if you want it to thrive.
Non-Negotiable Qualities That Build a Healthy Relationship
1. They Work on Personal Growth
In nature, if you’re not growing you’re dying. I think it applies to humans in a way. If you decide you’re done learning once you finish high school or college you are really doing yourself a disservice.
There is always a way to improve yourself, to break old patterns that don’t serve you, to find happiness in new ways.
If you’re someone who values trying to better yourself then look for the same value in a romantic partner.
Find someone who reads personal development books or listens to podcasts. Have discussions about what you learn.
Grow together. If you’re growing but they’re staying at the same level, eventually they’ll become resentful because you’re moving forward while they’re just stagnant, and you’ll become unhappy.
2. They Talk About Exes With Respect
Obviously not every relationship ends amicably, your partner doesn’t have to praise or like their ex, but look out for the people only disparage their past relationships and put all the blame on the other person.
No one is perfect in a relationship, each person contributes good and bad things. However, if the person you’re dating only talks about their exes in extremely disrespectful ways that’s a warning sign to take seriously.
Eventually you’ll be one of their ‘crazy exes’ that they talk about to the next person.
A mature person learns from past relationships. They weren’t a victim, they were an active participant and have to own that.
3. Their Words and Actions Align
A romantic partner should be reliable. They should keep their promises and do what they say they’ll do.
If they talk a big game then they should take the actions to back it up. If they say they’ll be there for you then they need to show up. If they say they value honesty then they have to be honest. If they want respect they have to give it, not just to you but to everyone from the waiter to their coworkers.
You can’t have a relationship without trust, and a sure way to break trust is to not follow through on your promises.
If you notice someone is breaking their word early on, end the relationship.
4. They Communicate Their Feelings
Communication is a must have quality for a healthy relationship.
None of us can read minds, if someone needs something or doesn’t like something then they need to speak up instead of being surly and resentful because the other person isn’t delivering on an unvoiced desire.
Check in with each other. Create a time and space where you are both able to express yourself without judgement or hurt feelings.
Some people have a hard time expressing themselves, so it can be helpful to suggest that they think about something for a while and get back to you at a specific time.
5. They Apologize
A good romantic partner apologizes when they are in the wrong.
Whether it’s for a small honest mistake, or an action what was really hurtful, a good partner will own up and take responsibility for what they did.
Even more importantly they will do everything they can not to repeat that mistake. An apology is meaningless if something still continues the hurtful behavior, like lying, cheating, manipulating, abusing, etc.
The following are NOT acceptable apologies:
- I was just joking.
- You’re being too sensitive.
- Let’s just forget this.
- I’m sorry you’re reacting this way.
A genuine apology looks like:
- My actions hurt you and I’m sorry.
- I was wrong, I’m sorry and I won’t do it again.
- I’m sorry, how can I make this right?
6. They Respect Your Boundaries
It’s so, so important that your partner respects your boundaries.
Early in a relationship it’s important to establish your boundaries. Establish what behavior is and isn’t ok with you, and what will happen if they violate your boundaries.
To women in particular, you don’t have to accept crappy behavior from men. There will be another guy out there that will respect your boundaries, so feel free to cut loose anyone who doesn’t.
We all need to feel safe. Respecting your boundaries looks like:
- Stopping when you say no.
- Not pushing or whining when you say you don’t want to do something.
- Respecting your needs.
- Asking for consent.
- Not invading your privacy.
- Giving you physical space when you move away.
7. They Are Goal Oriented
An important quality to look for in a romantic partner is being goal oriented.
Goals are a sign of ambition. They show that the person is trying to up level and improve their life. It shows that they aren’t happy just staying in their comfort zone, they want to expand and challenge themselves.
Trying to improve your own life while having a partner without goals is like trying to go the wrong way on an escalator. They’ll keep pulling you back down to their level.
Ask them what they want to accomplish in life, what are they pursuing, what are they improving about themselves? What are their goals for their career, finances, family, ect?
8. They Listen
Being with someone who listens is a really important. We all need to feel seen and heard in the relationships that are most important to us.
When we don’t feel heard we feel isolated and unsupported.
You partner should listen to you, especially when you’re expressing your needs, fears, and dreams. Carefully listening to you and respecting what you say is a sign of a healthy relationship.
Listening looks like:
- Not interrupting or changing the subject.
- Making eye contact as you talk.
- Validating your feelings.
- Offering advice if asked.
- Remembering the conversation if the subject comes up again later.
9. You Both Feel Comfortable Showing Your Flaws
None of us want to be with someone who isn’t authentic. If we’re showing up as our real self, flaws and all, then they need to be real too.
No one should feel like they have to hide parts of themselves.
If you feel like your partner will judge or reject you because they tend to be critical, you need to either tell them how their judgement hurts you, or consider ending the relationship because it will only bring misery.
Or if you feel your partner is very understanding but you still feel fear it might mean you need to do some shadow work on accepting your own flaws so that you can be yourself.
Likewise, if a person is only showing your their good side and showering you with excessive gifts, complements, and affection, you need to be on the look out for the real person underneath.
Sometimes people will ‘love bomb’ you and seem like a fantasy, then once you’re committed to the relationship they’ll show their true selves who is not quite so loving and it can be a shock.
Make sure that person is being real from the start.
10. You Feel Safe Sharing Your Dreams
Your partner should support and encourage your dreams and goals.
They shouldn’t shoot down your ideas and tell you that you can’t do it, it’s too big, or now isn’t the right time.
A good romantic partner should be your cheerleader. They should encourage you to keep going when you feel discouraged. They should help you back up when you stumble. They should be excited for your success.
Your partner should believe in you and want you to expand and improve your life.
11. You Give Each Other Space
When you’re in a loving relationship of course you want to spend time with that person, but it’s also important to have your own things.
Being clingy or discouraging you from hanging out with other people is not healthy.
In a healthy relationship both people are able to spend time apart without anyone feeling neglected or jealous. They’re able to be independent for a while and then come back together for quality time.
This also means that if one of you says I need space, the other person honors that need and doesn’t take it personally.
12. You Both Give As Much As You Get
An equal amount of give and take is vital to a healthy relationship.
If only one person is giving, and the other person is taking, your relationship will breed bitterness and resentment.
In a loving relationship both people want to give. They both want to contribute and take care of the other.
Everyone has their own strengths and things to offer to a relationship, but it’s import to make sure both of you are contributing in big and small ways.
This might look like one person cooking and the other cleaning the dishes, one person bathing the kids while the other cleans the play area.
It does not look like one person cleaning the house or going to work while the other play video games for 10 hours and leaves the house a mess.
It also does not look like cleaning up after your man like their mom did. Don’t be with someone who doesn’t clean up after themselves.
13. You Hold Each Other Accountable
In a relationship it’s important to hold each other accountable. That means you’re encouraging each other to honor your values, morals, and commitments.
It also means you make each other responsible for their actions, in a firm but loving way. Don’t accept misplaced blame or excuses. Be honest about the situation, but don’t put them down.
If they are willing to work on the relationship respect them and put in the same effort. Don’t try to shame or guilt trip them.
Motivate each other to complete your goals. If you can see they aren’t taking chances because of fear help them work through it. Encourage them.
14. You Meet Them Where They Are
We’ve talked about being with a person who has goals and is always bettering themselves, but it’s also important to meet your partner where they are.
This means understanding everyone is on their own journey and has their own baggage. Everyone has their own life experiences that has shaped the person they are.
Most people are doing the best they can with the tools they have, so its important to understand that and not have unreasonable expectations.
At the same time it’s important to have standards that you don’t compromise for anyone. So you have to find the balance. Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for someone to get to your level, but you also have to be realistic.
You might need to have a talk with your partner about each of your expectations for the future. Communicate where you see your life going and make sure they are on the same trajectory, even if your timeline is a little different.
15. You Are Their Priority
Your partner should make you a priority in their life. They should make time for you and consider you when they make big decisions.
Making someone a priority doesn’t mean their needs are more important than your own, but that you care for their well-being and put effort into the relationship.
Making your partner a priority looks like:
- Checking in with their feelings and needs.
- Scheduling time together.
- Solving problems together.
- Giving them your full attention.
- Support them achieving their goals.
- Show interest in things they enjoy.
- Voice appreciation for their efforts.
16. You Don’t Have to Change Yourself
When you love someone you accept them as they are.
There is a difference between wanting to grow together or maybe putting more effort into being healthy, and expecting someone to completely change who they are.
If a partner wants you to have a new body, wardrobe, and personality then that’s a problem.
Those people want a fantasy, not a real person. You’ll never be able to satisfy them. They might say things like, “if only you would…” lose weight, dress nicer, wear make up, cook better, etc.
Look for someone who loves you as you are.
I hope this article helped you understand the foundations of a good relationship. Keep these things in mind as you are figuring out your non negotiables in a relationship. Some things will be more important to you than others, but all should be present.
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