From the outside looking in, happy relationships can look so effortless and natural, but no one knows how complex they can really be other than the people actually in the relationship. There's a lot of work, effort, and intentional behavior that goes into keeping a relationship healthy. There are, of course, important elements such as trust and communication, which are absolutely essential to a relationship's wellbeing, but there are also several underrated qualities that are important in relationships that must exist in order for each party to feel seen, appreciated, and truly loved. They're also qualities that'll help your relationship stand the test of time, because that's when it gets even more challenging.
Connell Barrett, Dating Transformation founder and dating coach with The League, defines a relationship quality as "a standard or aspirational pattern of behavior that both partners live up to for the good of the relationship," he tells Elite Daily. "If two people live and love by the right qualities, they can have a more fulfilling, passionate, and long-lasting connection," he adds. Sounds pretty great, right? Here are relationship qualities which, according to the experts, are less discussed, but just as essential for your relationship to be a happy and healthy one.
1. The Courage To Be Vulnerable.
Being vulnerable with your heart can be very scary, even when you're in a committed relationship, which is why Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples' therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily that courage in the face of that vulnerability is essential to a happy relationship. “At the heart of truly fulfilling relationships is the ability to be open and vulnerable with yourself and your partner," he notes. "Sometimes, it can be quite scary to share something about ourselves that indicates we're sad, scared, or hurt. Courage is a vital part of the bedrock of any truly fulfilling relationship." Plus, by being open in this way, we're able to build a foundation of trust with one another. “We don’t learn to trust each other by holding things in. We learn to trust each other when we are courageous enough to share our own vulnerabilities and to know that our partner is basically going to be loving… no matter what,” Dr. Brown explains.
2. A Shared Sense Of Humor.
When you think of the qualities that you find attractive in a potential partner, chances are a sense of humor is on that list. However, having a shared sense of humor can also make a huge impact on the happiness of your ongoing relationship, says Dr. Brown. “I'm not talking about your typical sitcom humor where one or both partners are trying to beat their partner with sarcastic put-downs. It may get a few laughs on TV but, in real life, it isn’t all that healthy,” he explains. “[Instead, it’s] the healthy ability to laugh at ourselves that helps us lighten the mood and not take ourselves too seriously.” This not only makes the relationship more fun and lighthearted, but it also shows strength of character and humility, Dr. Brown says.
All relationships, even the happiest ones, will go through some ups and downs in time, explains Dr. Brown. This is why being able to persevere through those down points is such an important relationship quality. “One of the greatest and most destructive myths about relationships goes something like this: ‘If it’s a good relationship, you shouldn’t have to work at it.’ Nothing could be further from the truth,” he says. “Falling in love is pretty easy. Staying in love through good times and bad requires the ability to persevere so that your relationship withstands the test of time, but also to help your love expand and grow.”
4. Capacity For Growth.
According to Barrett, one of the most overlooked qualities in a relationship is both parties' capacity for growth, which is actually a really important factor in any relationship — particularly one that's meant to last a lifetime. “As people, if we’re not growing, we’re dying — and the same goes for couples. A relationship is either moving forward or backwards," he explains. "Being able to learn, adapt, and grow as people and as a couple is crucial for a relationship’s long-term success. You must grow, as people and as a couple. It’s a need that’s hard-wired."
“Kindness is an essential quality in long-term partnership satisfaction,” Susan Winter, NYC relationship expert, love coach, and author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache, tells Elite Daily. When you and your partner are going through hard times, falling back on simple kindness as a guiding principle can make all the difference, she explains. “Over the course of a relationship, many hurts will occur and resentments take hold," Winter says. "The value of having a partner is that they're inherently good. They're conscious not to hurt us no matter how difficult the situation. They may disagree with us, but their expression of that difference will not be malicious or vindictive.” And, truthfully, it's pretty impossible to be in a “happy” relationship if you aren’t kind to one another.
Honesty comes to mind pretty quickly when talking about essential qualities in a relationship, but typically just in the context of avoiding dishonesty, which, granted, is important. Less discussed yet just as essential, says Barrett, is candor with our partners. “There are times in a relationship when you must give — or must hear — painful truths. It’s easy to tell someone nice things and sweet nothings. It’s harder but necessary to call them on their bull, to hold them to a higher standard, and to share uncomfortable, vulnerable, real feelings,” he explains. But that honesty (when delivered with kindness) is how couples learn to grow tighter. It's also how they know they can trust one another to always speak their truth.
Chemistry is yet another quality that frequently emerges when we think about what makes for happy relationships, but one aspect of it, disposition, tends to fly under the radar. Specifically, this has to do with what each person's disposition brings out in the other, says Winter. “Does our partner have a disposition that ignites our anger, jealousy or insecurity? Or, do they diffuse tension through clear communication and thoughtful behavior? No matter how hot and exciting a partner [is], we need to consider if they bring out the best or the worst in us,” she says. Sometimes, both people can be amazing and loving partners, but if something about one person's disposition brings out the worst in the other, it might be a recipe for disaster. The opposite is also true. If your partner's disposition brings out the best in you, you've likely found a keeper.
Relationships are complicated because people are complicated, and finding someone who compliments you can be a real challenge. But when it happens, and when all of these qualities fall into place and you’re in a relationship that makes you feel seen and heard, all the hard work is totally worth it.
Connell Barrett, Dating Transformation founder and dating coach with The League
Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles