Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

Qualities to Look For In a Partner


Six Important Qualities to Look for in a Partner

Adapted from:  Are You the One for Me?: Knowing Who's Right and Avoiding Who's Wrong. by Barbara De Angelis



Quality 1: Commitment to Personal Growth


  • Your partner is committed to learning everything s/he can about how to be a better person and a better spouse.
  • Your partner is willing to receive help and guidance in the form of books, tapes, lectures, seminars, and counseling if necessary.
  • Your partner is conscious of his/her blind spots and childhood programming, and is aware of what emotional baggage s/he has brought into your relationship. It’s dangerous to become involved with someone who’s oblivious to his/her weaknesses and problem areas.
  • Your partner has personal goals for his/her own self-improvement, and you can see specific, positive changes in him/her over time.


Questions to ask your partner about commitment to personal growth:

    1. What have you learned about yourself emotionally in the past ten years and how has it changed you?
    2. What have you learned from your past relationships, and what do you do differently now?
    3. What are your greatest weaknesses, and where do you think they come from?
    4. If I asked your past partners to list their biggest complaints about you, what would they be? Do you agree or disagree?
    5. What sources of help have you used in the past when you or your relationships were in crisis (books, counseling, etc.)? Did these help?
    6. How would you like to change in the next five years? What parts of yourself would you like to get rid of? What qualities would you like to acquire more of?



Quality 2: Emotional Openness


  • If your partner can’t identify and share his/her feelings with you, then s/he’s not ready to be in an intimate relationship.
  • Staying in a relationship with a person who cannot share feelings is a form of self-punishment.
  • You deserve to have someone in your life who shows you his/her love and appreciation on a consistent basis.
  • The opposite of emotional generosity is emotional stinginess—hoarding love and emotions as if they were in limited quantity and offering you tiny pieces of one’s heart.


Questions to ask your partner about emotional openness:

    1. Do you feel comfortable expressing your feelings to the people you love? To whom in your life right now do you often say “I love you?”
    2. What feelings are difficult for you to talk about? What feelings are easy? Has this changed over time?
    3. Are there parts of yourself you don’t feel comfortable sharing? Why do you think that is?
    4. When you do open up and share your emotions, how do you feel afterward?
    5. Do you think your inability to express yourself has ever caused problems in your relationships?
    6. If I asked your past partner whether you were emotionally open, what would they say?



Quality 3: Integrity


  • Honestly, integrity, and trustworthiness are essential ingredients for a healthy relationship.
  • Not telling the truth is the most significant way couples kill passion and destroy their intimacy.
  • People who frequently bend the truth may have a “life isn’t fair” attitude, and they consider dishonesty a strategy for getting an advantage.
  • Finding  a partner who has integrity means seeking:

    • Someone who is honest with him/herself.
    • Someone who is honest with others
    • Someone who is honest with you
    • Someone who doesn’t play games

  • Look for a partner who is up front about how s/he feels and what s/he wants, and someone whose actions match his/her words.
  • When your partner is consistently honest with you, you will naturally trust him/her.


Questions to ask your partner about integrity:

    1. Do you think partners should be honest about everything in a relationship, or do you think some things should be kept private? For instance…?
    2. Have you ever been lied to or betrayed in a relationship? What happened? How did it make you feel?
    3. Have you ever lied to or betrayed someone in a relationship? What happened? Would you do it again?
    4. What things, if any, would you lie about in a relationship? An affair? Unhappiness with your partner’s appearance? Etc.
    5. If I asked your past partners if you were honest and trustworthy, how would they answer? Why?
    6. What kinds of things do you feel are inherently wrong, and what wouldn’t bother you (cheating on income tax, taking office supplies home from work, littering, not returning money you found, etc.)?



Quality 4: Maturity and Responsibility

Here are some signs that your partner is mature enough to have a relationship:

  • S/he can take care of him/herself (emotionally, physically, financially, socially)
  • S/he’s responsible

o        This isn’t a concept—it’s an action.

o        When you find a partner who’s irresponsible, you have, in a sense, stumbled upon a child in an adult’s body. Lovable, perhaps even sympathetic, but certainly not ready for an adult relationship.

  • S/he’s respectful of:

    • Your feelings
    • Your boundaries
    • Your time
    • Your possessions
    • His/her possessions
    • His/Her environment
    • His/her employees, employer, or coworkers
    • Other people’s feelings


Questions to ask your partner about maturity and responsibility:

1.       Are you usually on time or late for appointments, etc., in your life?

2.       In what area of your life would you say you are the most irresponsible (finances, health, returning phone calls, etc.)?

3.       Have you been fired from your jobs, or have you quit? If you were fired, what were the reasons?

4.       Do you feel you act more as the caretaker in your relationships, or as the one who’s taken care of?

5.       If I asked your past partners, would they say you were very responsible, very irresponsible, or somewhere in between? On what would they base these conclusions?

6.       Do you consider yourself sensitive to other people’s feelings?

7.       Do you usually return things when you borrow them from people?



Quality 5: High Self-Esteem

  • A person with low self-esteem loves IN ORDER to feel good about him/herself. A person with high self-esteem loves BECAUSE s/he feels good about him/herself.


  • Look for these signs of self-esteem:

o        Your partner takes pride in him/herself

o        Your partner doesn’t abuse him/herself, but takes good care of him/herself. The more you love yourself, the harder it will be for you to abuse yourself physically or emotionally. You can tell how someone feels about themselves observing how they treat their bodies and take care of themselves (emotionally, psychically, spiritually, etc).

o        S/he doesn’t allow others to abuse him/her. The more you love yourself the less you’ll allow others to mistreat you.

o        S/he expresses his/her self-confidence by taking action in his/her life. The person with low self-esteem will avoid action because they are scared to death of failing and feeling even worse about themselves.


Questions to ask your partner about self-esteem:

1.       What are you the most proud of about yourself and your life? (Do they have a difficult time finding anything to say?)

2.       What kind of emotional abuse or mistreatment have you tolerated in the past? Why did you put up with it? Would you tolerate it now?

3.       What do you do to show your love for yourself? (bubble baths, massages, special vacations, etc.)?

4.       What are your worst health or living habits.

5.       Do you procrastinate a lot of the time, much of the time, or not much at all?

6.       What risks have you taken in your life? Are there any risks you’ve been avoiding taking?



Quality 6: Positive Attitude Toward Life


Love is a positive force: It thrives in an atmosphere of positivity and starves in an atmosphere of negativity.

  • Negative People
    • Always focus on the problems, and resist solutions
    • Always find something or someone to complain about
    • Allow fear and worry to rule them
    • Are cynical and pessimistic about the future
    • Don’t trust easily
  • Positive People

o        Always focus on finding the solution

o        Turn obstacles into opportunities and adversity into lessons

o        Trust in their ability to make a difference

o        Believe that things can always get better

o        Use their vision to change their reality


Questions to ask your partner about a positive attitude toward life:

    1. Do you feel people are essentially good or essentially bad?
    2. When lots of things go wrong at once, how do you react? What goes on in your mind? Give an example from your recent past.
    3. What are some of the most important lesions you’ve learned about pain in your life?
    4. If you could sum up your philosophy of life in a few sentences, what would it be? Has it changed since you were younger?
    5. If you had to explain why the world is the way it is to your children, what would you say?
    6. Do you believe things always turn out for the best? Whether your answer is yes or no, explain why.




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