I hope you are understandably suspicious of this title. Yet, over the past forty years of counseling couples, this question has been the most often asked of me, bar none other. So, I thought I’d at least give it a try.
First, I thought I’d do a current poll amongst my patients, my friends, and the Internet, just to see if I was on the right track. So many “most important” qualities come up that saints would be envious if a person had only a modicum of them. Try authentic, trustworthy, kind, attractive, sexy, funny, honest, compassionate, credible, loving, loyal, grown-up, open, great communicator, interesting, spiritual, or exciting. Need I go on?
Looking back over the most wonderful intimate partners I’ve observed in my life, I certainly could agree with that kind of a wish list. But I think there is a different and unique quality that not only talks to who a person is, but who he or she will become. And I have not found it on any site, nor heard it spoken of by any person. It is not so much an interpersonal quality as it is a way of being, and it gets more valuable as time goes by.
The most important quality a person can have that positively affects an intimate relationship over time is the ability to love more deeply following an irrevocable loss.
Though every person faces different adversities in their lives, everyone must re-create their lives in some way after he or she has faced an anguishing trial. Most people start life out with “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” but, over time, restrict their willingness to risk again because they feel they cannot once again bear the pain that loss creates. Slowly, with multiple heartbreaks, the average person moves to “Nothing ventured, nothing lost,” and measures life in terms of security and comfort, rather than risk and possibilities. It is a natural reaction for self-preservation but an emotionally life-destructive choice.
Perhaps, if people understand the gift of re-investing in life again no matter what it costs, they would not settle for a life that is pre-limited by fear of loss.
Read more: Randi Gunther, Ph.D., PsychologyToday