These are some of the characteristics that most of us would mention if someone asked us what our ideal partner looks like. Pretty, open, with a good sense of humor probably come next.
Truth be told, most of us would also add a lot more traits to our list before we got to an overlooked, yet crucial characteristic that is essential in love: courage.
You see, love requires courage. You need courage to start a conversation with your crush or make a move. You need courage to be vulnerable and honest with your partner. You need courage to confront the problems in your relationship and fight to fix them.
In other words, it takes considerable courage to do all those things that move your relationship to a high level of trust, safety, and confidence. That’s why what you should look for first and foremost in a partner is, courage.
What follows are the five habits of courageous partners that can help you determine whether your current partner or even yourself, are among them.
1. They Are Always Honest (Both With Themselves and You)
Honesty is a prerequisite for courage and an essential component of any healthy relationship.
An honest partner not only helps to move your relationship forward, but they also make it easier to take the risks that can help you grow as an individual.
As Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith explains in this article in Psychology Today:
“When you know you can totally trust your mate, it removes a large potential for worry. It also builds your internal security so that you not only feel good about your partner, but you also feel better about life. Having an honest relationship creates a kind of buffer between you and the difficulties of the world. Having a mate you can trust and rely on also makes it easier to take those risks that help us grow.”
Courageous partners take the time to reflect and pay attention to what’s going on in their hearts and their minds. They are honest with themselves about their strengths and their weaknesses — without being overly critical.
That means that they will always be aware of what they want, what they need, and what they deserve and will communicate it to you instead of leaving you wondering. If there are issues in your relationship they will acknowledge them and work with you to fix them — not run away from them.
Friendly tip: A powerful instinct when we meet someone we’re greatly attracted to is to please them — and we think that the best way to do so is by aligning with their views and choices on all matters. However, honesty can either make or break a relationship; make sure you and your partner both have the courage to be honest with each other from the beginning.
2. They Accept Reality for What It Is
One of my closest friends was once with a partner that would always have a complete and utter freak out whenever life threw a difficult at him. He would go on to neglect my friend and completely disconnect from her.
As you can understand, being with someone who cannot support themselves, let alone their partner, in the face of hardship, is challenging.
The truth is that sometimes life, well, sucks. It can be unfair and unpredictable. There are some things you simply cannot change and there are challenging situations each and every one of us will have to face at one point or another.
Courageous people accept that life is a series of fortunate and unfortunate events and we cannot always get what we want or even what we deserve. They acknowledge their problems — they don’t run away from them.
That also makes them great partners because they will stick with you no matter what kind of hardship they face. They won’t get paralyzed or endlessly complain. They’ll keep going, keep trying, and keep living. By your side.
Friendly tip: Sometimes there’s no way to stop things from unfolding the way they do. It is up to you/your partner whether you’ll let reality take control and paralyze you, or opt for courage and radically confront it.
3. They Always Speak up When Something Is Wrong
Most of us have had moments in our relationships when we’ve looked the other way when our partner did something wrong, instead of being brave and speaking up.
Maybe it was an innocent joke they made in front of our friends that filled us with shame or maybe it was something more serious, like flirting with a cute girl/boy in front of us.
And yet, we were too shy or anxious to confront them, fearing the tension and repercussions that would emerge. As psychotherapist Tonya Lester perfectly explains in her article:
“Specifically, what’s involved here is the willingness to stick your neck out and express a need or desire — when the outcome, because it’s uncertain and might end up making you feel uncared for, dismissed, or even humiliated, might substantially raise your anxiety level … or catapult you into a depressive funk.”
Although it’s understandable that one would look the other way once or twice, courageous partners don’t allow that to happen repeatedly. When they see something is wrong in your relationship, or when you do something that bothers/hurts them they make sure to tell you.
Friendly tip: Addressing your frustrations is always a lot harder than staying silent in order to keep the peace. But if you want your relationship to be long-lasting and serve you and your partner, you both need to find the courage to speak up whenever something troubles you.
4. They Don’t Care About What Other People Think
So many people lead their lives trying to please others. We get so caught up in what other people expect from us and what they think about us, that we end up hiding our authentic, true self.
That, of course, has a huge negative impact on our relationships, because we feel the urge to develop them based on the social scripts we were taught growing up.
The term “social scripts” refers to certain norms and practices that are constructed by society. These norms end up governing the life of the people who live within them.
The problem is that we often let social scripts affect our relationships in the sense that when things don’t go according to these norms, we think that there’s something wrong and we self-sabotage them.
And when it comes to people who find themselves in an unconventional relationship (e.g. being in a relationship with someone of the same sex, dating someone with whom we have a huge age difference, or forming an open relationship) having a courageous partner is the only way they can make their relationship last.
Because courageous partners don’t let others’ critiques sway them. They are confident in their choice of partner and strive to make their relationship work, without giving a single care in the world about what others might think of it.
Friendly tip: Your life is yours and yours only. Make sure you follow your heart and make your romantic choices based on what you feel and not on other people’s indications.
5. They Take off Their Emotional Masks
The most courageous thing you can do in a relationship is to remove your emotional mask and allow yourself to be 100% real and vulnerable in front of your partner.
It’s much easier to fake a smile and show a bright face instead of saying to your partner that you’re struggling or hurting. And although to be able to show your vulnerable side and even cry in front of them might be challenging, it’s totally worth it, as it will strengthen your relationship.
We often resist vulnerability, but it is the key to closeness. In marriage and family therapist April Eldemire’s own words:
“Your relationship can then become a powerful container where you can work together to heal past hurts, honor each other’s needs and wants, and work through conflict with respect, humility, and lovingness. Partners who are willing to be vulnerable with each other are often motivated to heal and be happy, rather than be “right.” They see each other as equals and as teammates, not just lovers.”
Courage is an often overlooked behavioral trait that has great importance at key moments in a relationship.
Before you start searching for some specific characteristics in a potential partner, first make sure they are courageous. They might be charming, clever, and hard-working, but without courage, your relationship is likely to suffer significant problems.
Remember, love requires courage.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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