Relationships are full of many ups and downs.
It’s easy to get stuck in default mode and miss a lot of what’s going on, but if you’re a highly observant person then you pick up on many details in your relationships.
This is what I refer to as your Relational Intelligence (RI).
Having high RI means that you’re able to notice problems and opportunities sooner in a relationship and be able to understand and resolve things in your love life effectively.
How high is your RI?
Let’s take a look…
1) Level of trust
How would you describe the level of trust in your relationship?
This might be a hard question to answer, so a good way to think about it is the following:
If you had to tell your partner something that could seem sketchy or lead to them potentially judging you or getting upset, would you hesitate?
Or would you tell them fully and directly and trust that regardless of their reaction they deserve to know whatever it is?
For example, if you were just told you lost your job would you trust your partner with that (or would they trust you?) or would you downplay it, avoid mentioning it altogether or try to lie about it?
There’s two layers here: your level of trust in your partner and relationship to withstand unpleasantness;
And your trust in your partner and their trust in you to be honest about what’s going on even if it’s unpleasant.
2) Emotional vulnerability
How willing are you and your partner to be emotionally vulnerable with each other?
Do you or your partner hide when you’re having a bad day?
On the flipside, do you take it too far and overshare or expect your partner to “fix” your bad moods and take responsibility for your wellbeing?
If you have high RI then you will pick up on these things rapidly even in a fairly new relationship.
It will be easy for you to see the level of emotional openness between the two of you and whether there’s way too much or too little.
3) Communication clarity
The fact that you may have RI does not mean that you yourself are ideally balanced or fully secure.
You may have your own significant share of relationship issues and frustrations.
But it does mean that you pick up on what’s going on between you and your partner much faster and more fully than less aware people.
It also means you’re highly self-aware about your own shortcomings and those of your partner, or at least the dynamics between the two of you.
This is especially true in terms of communication, where you notice the clarity of what’s going on between the two of you.
Are you both making an effort to listen and be heard? Are you understanding each other more or less?
4) Respect and reciprocity
The high RI person notices respect and lack of respect.
Relationships are never a fully two-way street with complete reciprocity.
We give more than our partner in some ways and they give more than us in others.
But if there’s no real give and take in different ways the high RI person is going to get an alarm bell going off.
Either there’s not real love here or one of those involved is using love to be waited on like a royal.
Not good either way.
5) Avoidant or anxious attachment
Avoidant attachment and anxious attachment are two ways that people give and receive love when they have learned in unhealthy ways.
These forms of attaching to others are often carried over from too much or not enough affection as an infant and child.
They can also be reinforced by psychological patterns where people begin to seek completion or a sense of purpose from their relationship that goes beyond giving and receiving love.
The anxious feels unsure they are good enough and suffocates a relationship with seeking validation and inability to tolerate long times apart.
The avoidant feels uncomfortable with too much closeness and backs off when they start feeling too much.
6) Signs of a healthy social life
Those with high RI notice their partner or prospective partner’s general social life level quite quickly.
I don’t mean popularity or how much they’re on their phone chatting with friends.
I’m talking about the general importance that friends play in their life, including their closeness with family and coworkers.
Is this person going to have their own social life or depend upon you for their social life?
That’s something a high RI individual is adept at noticing fairly quickly.
7) Self-esteem issues
Self-esteem issues don’t go away easily, and relationships are like a refiner’s fire when it comes to exposing them.
Everything that seemed to be repressed or done with comes back up.
The high RI person notices self-esteem issues in themselves and their partner right away.
Unlike those who get two years into a relationship before suddenly noticing they or their partner are triggering their worst aspects, the high RI individual notices after only a month or two.
8) Paranoia and accusatory behavior
When paranoia and accusatory behavior occurs in a relationship it often doesn’t happen until after the first stages of courting and getting to know one another.
But the person with high RI notices small signs of it right away when they pop up.
The “where were you?” with just a hint too much anger in it…
The “why didn’t you want to meet yesterday” that’s just a slight bit too much like a police interrogation…
9) Generosity with time, energy and finances
How generous is your partner with his or her time, energy and finances?
Those with high RI notice such things right away.
It’s not that they’re judgmental, it’s just that they know that red flags early on with these things can later become much more serious.
So they pay close attention and make sure to take deficiencies here fairly seriously.
10) A partner’s level of motivation or ennui
Those with high RI notice early on how motivated their partner is in general.
They may be cool with somebody who’s more chill and not very motivated, or may be looking for someone a bit more “switched on.”
But either way, they pick up on their partner’s self-motivation quite early on.
It basically comes down to what their partner would do and does do when they’re not around.
11) Reactions to discussion of the future
What happens when the subject of the future comes up?
Not even necessarily the relationship’s future but just the future in general?
The high RI individual picks up quickly on their partner’s general disposition to the future and planning in general.
Even if the relationship itself is rarely discussed, they notice the maturity of their partner in whether the future is something they consider and care about.
12) Dependency on the relationship for wellbeing
Inter-reliance and collaboration is a great part of any healthy relationship.
But obligation and dependency, especially emotionally and psychologically, is a form of addiction and self-sabotage.
The person with high RI is very perceptive about signs of codependency.
This includes either they or their partner slipping into a “victim” or “savior” role and signs of blaming or demanding behavior or actions from the partner.
If it’s codependency disguised as love, the high RI individual is going to notice much more quickly than most.
13) How in love their partner truly is or not
How much do you love your partner and how much do they love you?
You’re not looking for a percentage like how much battery life is left on your smartphone.
But a person with high RI is going to be highly observant about signs of real love vs. somebody going through the motions.
They’re also going to be highly aware of that in themselves.
“Do I really want to be with this person?”
If the answer is anything other than yes on either side then the highly observant person is going to start pursuing exit plans.
Boosting your RI
The key to boosting your RI is to focus on the core pillars of a relationship:
Communication, trust, emotional openness and respect.
Commit yourself to observing each of these on different days or weeks in your relationship.
What do you notice? What seems to be going well and what could use work?
When you become conscious, for example, that your partner rarely opens up to you, it’s something to keep in mind and talk to them about.
When you pick up on how much you and your partner respect each other, it’s a positive thing to value in your relationship and feel great about.
Your observational skills in a relationship will keep growing as you focus on these simple pillars and look honestly at how strong they are.
Remember: perfection is not possible, but improvement is!