Like most thirty-something-year-olds, I’ve had my fair share of relationships. Through them, I learned a lot about people, most of all myself.
But the biggest thing I learned is that compatibility is less romantic than many believe it to be.
Or at least, it’s a lot less romantic than I imagined when I was in my early twenties.
For context, as I write this, I am happily married. I have been with my wife for almost a decade. But I don’t claim to have the perfect relationship, whatever the hell that is.
What my wife and I do have, however, is a bond that has far outstretched any of my previous ones, and the average – research suggests that the most common time for couples to part ways is after around two years.
While it would be nice to put this down to fate or meeting ‘the one,’ it wasn’t a case of luck or our zodiac signs aligning – far from it.
Want to know what to really look out for in a relationship?
Today, I dive into five bedrock traits that have helped my partner and I get through the tough stuff. I wish I’d known them earlier.
Let’s dive in.
1) You can count on each other
This is a big one.
It’s a trait I’ve seen in my own relationships that lasted and those of others like my parents, who have been together for more than three decades.
It isn’t about never arguing or always being happy; it’s about knowing that you can rely on your partner when things get a little rough, which they inevitably do.
This not only benefits our relationships. It benefits our overall health.
Harvard researchers conducting the longest-ever study on happiness concluded that positive relationships are a better predictor of well-being, both mentally and physically than anything else.
The director of the study, Robert Waldinger, even noted that great couples did fight but could “really count on the other when the going got tough.”
So ask yourself, “Can I count on him/her?”
Be honest. The answer will tell you more about your relationship than any zodiac sign or checkbox article ever can.
2) Mutual respect
You’ve heard this before. But it’s true; a cornerstone of any strong relationship is mutual respect.
While it might seem obvious, it’s easy to overlook it in the day-to-day of a relationship.
Think about a time when you or your partner had something important to share. Were both of you actively listening, or were distractions like phones or TVs taking away your attention?”
We are all guilty of this, sometimes. Couples that last learn to minimize it.
But this is just one example.
The point is a relationship where you feel heard, valued, and understood, even in disagreements, is a sign of deep-rooted respect.
It’s about listening – really listening – when your partner speaks, not just waiting for your turn to talk. It’s in the way you speak about each other to friends and family, not just in how you treat each other in private.
So, take a moment and reflect: Does your partner respect you not just as their partner but as an individual with your own thoughts, feelings, and needs?
If the answer is a resounding yes, you’re on the path to lasting compatibility.
3) Shared life goals and values
We so often associate sex, grand gestures, and excitement with what a relationship should be. But often missed is sharing similar life goals and values. It’s crucial.
This isn’t about having identical interests or hobbies; rather, it’s about aligning on the bigger life goals. Without this trait, a relationship is destined to end.
In my own relationship, my wife and I were lucky to discover early on that we shared similar values regarding family, career, and personal growth. It would be an understatement to say that this alignment has been a guiding force in our journey together.
When you share the same core values and life goals, navigating life’s complexities becomes a team effort rather than a series of individual challenges.
Do we agree on everything?
Of course not.
Compatible couples don’t have to agree on everything, but they do need to be in harmony on the fundamental aspects of life and what they want out of it.
So ask of your own relationship:
- Do you agree on whether you want to have kids?
- Have you agreed on where you would like to live?
- Are you aligned on financial goals and lifestyles?
- Do you share similar views on personal development, social issues, or how to contribute to the community?
If you have a series of yeses when answering these questions, you are in a good position to have a lasting, compatible relationship.
4) Effective communication and conflict resolution
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship.
However, compatible couples approach conflicts not as adversaries but as partners working towards a solution that everyone can agree on.
In my own relationship, I’ll admit I had some work to do in this area when we first started dating. Luckily, unlike the previous trait, this is one that can be developed.
From what I have learned, the key is in the approach: avoiding blame, not jumping to conclusions, and ensuring your partner feels heard and valued. It’s about finding common ground and compromising where necessary.
So, reflect on how you and your partner handle disagreements. Do you feel closer and more understood after a conflict, or does it drive a wedge between you?
5) A healthy independence
This one should come as no surprise.
The strongest relationships are those in which both partners have the freedom to pursue their own interests and dreams.
My wife and I have different interests, but we support each other in these.
It’s a beautiful thing when your partner not only stands by your side but also pushes you towards becoming the best version of yourself, even when they are not personally interested in what you might be pursuing.
Of course, it’s not all roses. It would be silly of me to say that we don’t sacrifice any independence. We do.
I’m a big fan of golf, but I don’t spend every waking hour of the weekend on the course.
It’s about finding the right balance between ‘we’ and ‘I’. It’s about understanding that nurturing individual passions and goals can actually strengthen the bond you share.
Over to you: Does your partner give you the space and support to grow? Are you encouraged to pursue your own goals?
If so, you have a keeper.
The bottom line
As I reflect on my decade-long journey with my wife, I realize that these traits have been the bedrock of our relationship.
They are what have helped us navigate the ups and downs of life together, strengthening our bond along the way. But remember, most of these traits are not things you just have; many can be built over time.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m far from perfect. That being said, I wish I’d known these key traits earlier.
I hope my sharing of these proves valuable for some of you out there.
Until next time.