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Three Traits of Exceptional Partners

July 25, 2014
In the years since becoming a therapist, and especially in my work with couples as an Advanced Trained Gottman Couples therapist here in Portland, Oregon, I've noticed a number of traits that genuinely happy and fulfilled couples seem to have in common. If you are looking to take your relationship to the next level, consider raising your personal standards in any of the following ways below, remembering that if you want a better relationship, it begins with looking at one's own self first and foremost.

1. Exceptional partners have a good idea about what makes it difficult to have themselves for a partner, and they feel a sense of appreciation and respect for the challenges their own personality presents for their partner at times. It is easy enough for most people to list off a handful of traits that make it difficult to have their significant other for a partner, but when the question is turned back on oneself- "What makes it difficult to have MYSELF for a partner?"- the exceptional partner demonstrates a rare willingness to identify their own shortcomings, and  backs this up with a steady commitment to managing and keeping their own difficult traits and imperfections in check so that they don't impact their partner in unfair ways.

2. Exceptional partners understand that while they are not responsible for their partner's happiness, contributing to their  partner's happiness is nonetheless a top priority. Several years ago, I placed a bed frame up for sale. A couple arrived to purchase it. As they dismantled the bed piece by piece, there was an attitude of playfulness and a sense of mutual joy they took in one another that was striking in its rarity. "What's your secret?" I asked them. They shared that the secret of their successful marriage was that every morning they ask themselves, "What might I do today to let my partner feel loved?" Exceptional partners make it a habit to be exceptionally thoughtful. They seem to recognize that life is short and seek out ways on a regular basis to express their love. For these couples, love is indeed not just a feeling but an active verb.

3. Exceptional partners ask a lot of themselves, and not more nor less of their partners. It is often said that we should ask more from ourselves than others because this is the one thing that is in our control. However, this advice has its limits when it comes to the person we spend our lifetime beside day in and day out. Exceptional partners consider themselves a work-in-progress, and make a habit of expressing their needs and desires  in a direct yet respectful way. They insist on both treating their partner well while also being treated well in return. In other words, they invest heavily in the success of the relationship and expect their partner to bring this same level of consideration and commitment.


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