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The Most Overlooked Quality Needed for Relationship Success

01/18/2016 09:49 am ET | Updated Jan 18, 2016
Rob Lewine via Getty Images

How do we know if the person we're dating is the right choice for our long-term happiness? What steps can we take when the partnership we have is becoming less rewarding?

Picking the right partner is essential to a relationship's success. Most of us understand this foundational principle, and enter the dating scene with clarity of purpose. We know what we want. We know our end goals. And we know the qualities we desire in a mate.

Enjoying the partner we have demands realignment, creativity and growth. We often need to readjust our attitudes and behaviors in order to recapture the vibrant feelings of earlier times.

Yet, there's one crucial element that's routinely overlooked in picking a mate, and keeping our love alive. It's the factor that guarantees our relationship's survival and its ongoing contentment.

Disposition is the key to relationship success.

How do we know if the partner who has our desired qualities is capable of meeting the challenges of daily living, with us? Disposition is the central determinant in deciding whether the partner with the qualities we need is also the partner who's capable of creating an environment for long-term happiness.

Why dispositional compatibility determines a relationship's success:

Shared goals and values are the bedrock upon which rewarding relationships are formed. Certainly, we need to be with somebody who wants what we want, and wants that with us. But within those foundational constructs lies the manner in which we interact with each other on a daily basis. It's the lives we live inside of our relationship that account for our happiness, or despair.

Challenges will occur in every relationship. Issues will arise. This is a reality of life, and love. Therefore, we need to choose the type of partner whose disposition allows us to be our best, even at the worst of times. Long-term contentment is founded on dispositional alliance, as it allows for harmony to continue with the partner we've chosen.

Disposition is the unique characteristic that determines how we handle each other while handling our issues. Having mutually agreeable dispositional traits can help a couple effectively manage life's challenges with optimism and grace.

In my 20s, I didn't understand the importance of dispositional compatibility. Though my boyfriend was loving and kind, he was an inherently disillusioned man. He bore his disdain for humanity with pride, as proof of his superior intelligence. My optimism couldn't lift the weight of his attitude. Our only balance was found by adjusting myself downward. I left with the knowledge that love alone is not enough. It must be coupled with an environment that's conducive to our version of happiness.

If we repeatedly find we're not able to be our best selves, then we've chosen a partner who's not our best match.

Fortunately, life is here to assist us. We live. We learn. And we grow from every experience. We realize that our concept of love is evolutionary. We can ask more of ourselves, and more of our partner. Love must be cradled in a relationship that supports our better selves.

A partner who's a good choice is:

• One who knows how to handle our ups and downs, and can manage both aspects.
• Nonreactive to non-issues, yet able to prioritize true concerns needing adjustment.
• One who understands why we do what we do, and believes our feelings have merit.

In the process of looking for a mate, consider the role their disposition will play in the long run. What is your prospective partner's basic philosophy on life?

• Do they tend to be positive or negative?
• Do they seek a solution or stay steeped in the problem?
• Do they have a sense of forward movement in finding new solutions with you?
• Do you feel that you're growing as a couple, while handling life's challenges?
• Are you able to be honest?
• Are you comfortable being every side of your self?

One of the hallmarks of feeling loved is the freedom to be ourselves with our partner. That means choosing a mate who understands your mentality and emotions. Look for the partner who's able to work with you, and bring out your best qualities.

Established partnerships that survive and thrive:

Many couples start off with a good dispositional mix. They get along well with their mate. Yet in time they can develop a combative quality. If resentments are allowed to build up and issues go unresolved, the very thing that was so wonderful can be the thing that tears them apart. When the dispositional positions shift, both individuals become polarized as a couple. Their former compatibility is eroded by anger and resentment.

Reestablishing a good dispositional blending with your mate involves:

• Acknowledging your partner's hot buttons and knowing how to defuse them.
• Encouraging your mate to be open to better options for conflict resolution.
• Adding constructive correction when needed, given with love and diplomacy.
• Hearing their side of an issue, without voicing justification or defense.
• Saying "I'm sorry" when you've been in error.

Taking these actions allows your prior connection to rekindle. The qualities you loved are still there, but were obscured by resentment and anger. Look to find the beauty you once knew, and allow it to serve as the balm that keeps everything moving smoothly.

If you're in the selection process, look at your partner's disposition carefully when choosing a potential mate. If you're partnered, work with what you have. Seek a level of common ground that's higher than before. Find new solutions to old problems if you become polarized. And keep your sights on issues that matter.

In courtship, we pick our mates. In love, we pick our battles.

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