There are certain important qualities we’re taught to look for in our romantic partners: Are they honest? Are they strong communicators? Are they good at handling money? And the list goes on.
But what about the less obvious signs that someone will make a great husband or wife? We asked relationship experts to tell us what seemingly small things actually say a lot about a person. Below, find out what marriage therapists, psychologists and authors had to say:
1. They don’t freak out during a traffic jam.
“You know those people who honk, zig-zag across lanes, or make nasty gestures? Ever wonder how they act at home? How we behave under pressure says a lot about whether we keep our cool or lose it when life gets hard in general. Patience and an ability to tolerate disappointment and frustration go a long way when dealing with relationship challenges.” ― Winifred M. Reilly, marriage and family therapist and author of It Takes One to Tango
2. They don’t always need to “win.”
“Most of us would agree that married couples are supposed to be partners, not competitors. But for far too many couples, their partner is a competitor ― someone to one-up, win over, and prove they’re right and better than. We all have to compete against the rest of the world, but we’re not supposed to with our loved one too.” ― Kurt Smith, therapist who specializes in counseling for men
3. They’re committed to their own personal growth.
“It may be my bias as a therapist, but I believe that a growing and changing relationship requires partners who are willing to take a good look at themselves and see how they became the person they are and make changes if necessary. This may include therapy, couples weekends, self-help books or any catalysts to look inside to understand why they do what they do. Relationships are growing, changing organisms. If one person is unwilling to adapt to that growth, you might have a problem.” ― Ryan Howes, psychologist
4. They’re comfortable talking about sex.
“Many people pay a lot of attention to what their sexual compatibility is like at the beginning of a relationship, but that’s just not a good long-term gauge. Every couple is going to have issues in the bedroom at one point or another. What’s most important is having a partner that’s willing to talk about your sex life openly and honestly, and work on it together as a team. It’s OK to be embarrassed or shy; being willing to try is what counts.” ― Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, the online orgasm course for women
5. They fight fair.
“Even if you’re in the honeymoon stage now, eventually you’re going to argue. Observe whether he or she listens to you, cares about your opinion, avoids extremely hurtful tactics like name-calling or intimidating, is able to see things from your perspective from time to time and is able to apologize or offer an olive branch when it’s appropriate.” ― Michele Weiner-Davis, therapist and author of Divorce Busting
6. They tell the cashier if they get too much change back.
“Same goes for telling the waiter something was left off of the bill. Behaviors like these reveal not only honesty, but an absence of entitlement to get something for nothing. In a long-term relationship, being stingy, or looking out for yourself at the expense of another is a formula for trouble.” ― Winifred M. Reilly
7. They take care of their physical and mental health.
“Questionable dietary and exercise habits may be endearing at first, but could become an obstacle later on. Self-care habits related to food, exercise, and stress management may compound over time and become a major source of relational stress. If your partner has more difficulty functioning in the future, you’ll probably be called upon to help, and are you ready and willing to meet that need?” ―Ryan Howes
8. They’re willing to seek help when relationship problems arise.
“All long-term relationships go through valleys, times where you feel like giving up, running away or shutting down. That’s predictable! But how a person responds to these trying times will tell you whether he’s someone you can count on through thick or thin, or who will bail when the going gets rough.” ―Michele Weiner-Davis