8 MIN READ

Looking for Love? Make Sure Your Partner Has These 5 Traits

When someone asks me about the most important factor for achieving financial success, my response usually takes him or her by surprise.

You might expect me to say that what’s most important for your financial health is living within your means, investing early or creating a financial plan. While those are important, in my opinion, nothing is more essential to your financial success than the person you share your life with.   

In this post, I’ll tell you five important traits to look for when you’re choosing a life partner, plus many to avoid. Not only will these characteristics help you choose a great partner, but you’ll also be more likely to have a successful financial life together.

And if you’re already married or have a long-term partner, reviewing these five traits will be a great reminder for how to keep your relationship as healthy as possible.

How to Choose the Right Life Partner

Full disclosure: I’m not a psychiatrist or a marriage counselor. However, my authority on choosing the right life partner comes from being happily married for over two decades!

I met my husband in college and we got married right out of school. I feel very lucky that our relationship has remained super strong, even though we got married so young. I’m certain that I could never have achieved a fraction of my career or financial success if our relationship hadn’t turned out so well.

Not only can a bad relationship prevent you from making good decisions and reaching important financial goals, getting divorced can be a huge financial setback. Splitting up can leave you with a financial mess that’s extremely stressful and could take years to recover from.

I hear from divorced men and women all the time about financial struggles that resulted from their splits. So, my goal is to get you thinking about how to pick the right partner to begin with or how to turn around an existing relationship that isn’t going as well as it should.

In the beginning of a relationship, you generally have romantic chemistry with someone because of his or her physical traits or perhaps how they interact with you. It’s important to separate those who are fun to date from those you’d want to marry or settle down with for good.

So, what I’m recommending is that you don’t get serious with someone unless they have a basic set of character traits that will also be good for your financial life together.

Here are five important traits to look for in a potential life partner:

1. High Self-Esteem

Having self-esteem means you take pride and value yourself without being arrogant. You don’t let other people mistreat you or take you for granted.

People with high self-esteem might be described as confident, self-aware and cooperative. But they can also say “no” when it’s appropriate.

Someone with high self-esteem typically has a good sense of his or her strengths and weaknesses. They accept their mistakes and try to learn from them so they never happen again.

On the other hand, having low self-esteem means you feel unworthy and incompetent. You may depend too heavily on other people to make decisions for you, have a fear of taking risks or tend to blame others for your mistakes.

Having a life partner with high self-esteem could translate into him or her being motivated to move up in their career quickly and seek more lucrative job opportunities.

They may also have the confidence to negotiate for a higher salary or seek out help with your personal finances when you need it.

2. Responsibility

Responsibility means you follow through on promises and don’t let other people down. For instance, a responsible person will feel compelled to show up to appointments on time because they respect other people’s time and feelings.

Being responsible is taking care of yourself without relying on other people to remind you when to be somewhere or what to do. Responsible people know they’re in charge of their lives and get things done on time, like showing up for work, paying bills and managing finances.

Another aspect of responsibility is to avoid saying what you shouldn’t. In other words, if someone tells you something in confidence, keep it to yourself. Otherwise, people will figure out that they can’t trust you.

3. Honesty

One of the biggest financial problems a couple can face is dishonesty about money.

Honesty is a fundamental character trait in a life partner that’s non-negotiable, in my opinion. If you catch someone in a lie and they don’t have a really good excuse, like not wanting to spoil your surprise birthday party, I’d be ready to move on.

Now, I’m not talking about a white lie, like telling a friend that her new haircut looks great if she asks what you think. We all tell those kinds of half-truths from time to time to avoid unnecessary conflict.

But if someone is deceptive about places they go, people they’re with, how they spend time or their personal history, that’s a major red flag that you should never ignore.

One of the biggest financial mistakes couples make is being dishonest about money. It’s not uncommon for one partner to hoard it from the other, open up secret credit accounts or lie about their spending. This kind of behavior can obviously devastate your financial future.

It’s possible, but pretty unlikely, that a dishonest person could do a 180 and completely stop lying. The reality is that building your life around someone who just isn’t honest will probably end in disaster, so I’d steer clear.

One of the biggest joys in my relationship is having 100% transparency. Knowing that my husband and I will always be honest with each other, no matter what, gives me a huge sense of peace and happiness.

So, never settle on a partner who lies to you or plays games about how they feel or what they want. Life is too short to live with someone who doesn’t know how to be direct and honest with you.

4. Openness

Openness is a trait that’s similar to honesty, but has more to do with emotional intelligence. An open person is aware of his or her feelings, can express them and wants to communicate in order to keep an emotional connection.

Being open can seem risky because you make yourself vulnerable to another person. For instance, telling your partner that you’re worried about your financial situation or are unhappy with your career path.

He or she may accept your concerns and want to explore it further with you or completely reject what you say. Being open can take some maturity, and we’re all wired differently when it comes to our comfort level with emotions.

What’s important to remember is that choosing a partner who tends to be closed emotionally could make communication about many issues, including finances, very difficult.

In order to share an authentic life with a partner, each of you needs the ability to share your emotions openly and with ease.

5. Curiosity

Being curious means that you’re interested in life, new ideas and other people. You might enjoy adventure, learning new hobbies and skills or asking questions to dig deeper into topics.

Curious people usually enjoy personal growth and want to look beneath the surface to see what’s possible for their lives. You want to learn new concepts and become a better person and partner.

I’ve found that curious people don’t assume they have all the answers. They’re open to new ideas and the possibility of relearning something or changing their mind about it.

On the other hand, someone who isn’t curious probably views learning as a burden. Having a partner with little curiosity could mean that they don’t get interested in personal finances and never want to improve their ability to manage money wisely.

What Do You Look for in a Life and Financial Partner?

To sum up, high self-esteem, responsibility, honesty, openness and curiosity are my top five recommended traits to look for when you’re choosing a life partner.

Of course, there are many more traits that many of us want such as intelligence, sense of humor, positive attitude, common interests and similar backgrounds.

My biggest recommendation when choosing a life partner is to really know yourself first. Figure out your own values, wants and goals so you can choose someone who’s capable of understanding you.

Then be patient and take as much time as needed to get to know someone’s character, personality, personal history and goals, so you’ll know with absolutely certainty if you’re well-suited for a lifelong, quality relationship.

Your Turn: Are you considering finances in choosing your long-term partner? Or, if you’re already together, did finances play a role in that decision?

This post originally appeared at Quick and Dirty Tips, a network of podcasts and digital content offering short, actionable advice from friendly and informed authorities. Laura Adams, host of the free Money Girl podcast, is a personal finance expert and award-winning author.

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