10 non-obvious things that people really want from relationships

When renowned psychologist Dr. Robert Waldinger conducted one of the longest-running studies on human happiness, he discovered that our relationships have a profound impact on our well-being. During his extensive interviews, Dr. Waldinger found that what people crave in relationships isn’t always what you’d expect.

Being a pioneer in the field of relationship psychology, Dr. Waldinger often discusses the importance of meaningful connections. Yet, in an era where many relationships are defined by social media interactions and fleeting connections, he noticed a shift in what people truly want from relationships.

During the pandemic, Dr. Waldinger observed a significant change in people’s relationship dynamics. While everyone was confined to their homes, many started to reassess what they really valued in their relationships.

This introspection led some to surprising conclusions – they sought more than just love and companionship from their relationships. They craved understanding, acceptance, growth, and even solitude at times.

These observations prompted me to think a bit more deeply about this topic and compile a list of ten non-obvious things that people genuinely seek from their relationships.

Are you curious to know what these unexpected desires are? Or perhaps you’d like to reassess your own relationship expectations?

This article will provide a comprehensive yet succinct exploration of these ten non-obvious things that people deeply yearn for in their relationships.

1) They seek authenticity, not perfection

People in meaningful relationships aren’t searching for a flawless partner. On the surface, it may seem like we all want the perfect significant other—someone who’s good-looking, funny, kind, and successful.

However, what people truly desire is authenticity. They want a partner who is genuine and real, not a carefully constructed façade of perfection.

Humans are inherently flawed and everyone comes with their own set of quirks and idiosyncrasies. Authenticity means acknowledging these imperfections and embracing them wholeheartedly.

People want to feel seen and accepted for who they truly are – quirks, flaws, and all. This acceptance provides a sense of security and fosters a deep emotional connection.

Authenticity in a relationship also means being honest about feelings and emotions. It involves expressing oneself openly, even when those expressions might be messy or uncomfortable.

Ultimately, authenticity creates an environment of trust and openness where both parties feel safe to be their true selves. This level of comfort and acceptance is something that people deeply crave in relationships – far more than any illusion of perfection.

2) They desire growth, not stagnancy

In a relationship, people aren’t simply looking for someone to grow old with—they’re searching for someone to grow with. This means they want a partner who is not only willing to accept change but actively encourages it.

Growth doesn’t necessarily mean big, life-altering transformations. It can be as simple as learning a new skill, adopting a healthier lifestyle, or challenging oneself to step out of comfort zones.

Having a partner who supports and participates in these pursuits can make the journey towards self-improvement much more fulfilling. It allows both individuals in the relationship to evolve together, building a deeper bond in the process.

Moreover, being in a relationship that promotes growth helps individuals to better understand themselves, their goals, and their aspirations. It provides a space for them to explore their potential and become the best version of themselves.

It’s this continuous evolution—and the shared experiences that come with it—that people truly value in relationships. After all, growth is a vital part of life, and having someone to share and support that journey makes it all the more meaningful.

3) They crave emotional safety, not just physical security

While physical security in a relationship is important, people often deeply desire emotional safety. This means being in a relationship where one feels free to express their emotions without fear of judgment, ridicule, or dismissal.

Emotional safety includes feeling comfortable to share fears, insecurities, and dreams with a partner. It’s about knowing that even in disagreement, the respect and love for each other will not waver.

This sense of safety fosters an environment where individuals can be vulnerable, which is pivotal for intimacy and connection. When people feel emotionally safe, they are more likely to open up and show their authentic selves, deepening the bond between them and their partner.

4) They want shared values, not just shared interests

While having shared hobbies or interests can bring couples together, what people often seek in relationships are shared values. Values act as a compass that guides us in life— they reflect what we deem most important.

Having a partner who respects and shares these core values can create a strong foundation for a relationship. It’s not about agreeing on every single detail but more about having alignment in fundamental beliefs and principles.

Shared values contribute to mutual understanding and respect. They help navigate through conflicts and make important decisions together. In the long run, having shared values can lead to a more harmonious and fulfilling relationship.

5) They value emotional intelligence, not just intellectual compatibility

While intellectual compatibility can make for stimulating conversation, what people often seek in relationships is emotional intelligence. This refers to the ability to understand, use, and manage emotions in positive ways.

A partner with high emotional intelligence can recognize their own emotions and those of their partner. They’re capable of empathizing with their partner’s feelings, validating them, and responding appropriately.

Emotionally intelligent partners are also good at managing emotions. They can handle stress, control impulses, and navigate through emotional complexities in the relationship. They also tend to be excellent communicators and problem-solvers.

Being with someone who understands and handles emotions well contributes to a healthier and more balanced relationship. It allows for better conflict resolution, improved communication, and a deeper emotional connection. That’s why people deeply value emotional intelligence in their relationships.

6) They appreciate independence, not just companionship

While companionship is a beautiful aspect of any relationship, people often value their independence as well. This means having the freedom to pursue personal interests, maintain individual identities, and make decisions independently.

Independence in a relationship doesn’t imply emotional distance or lack of commitment. Instead, it encourages personal growth and self-confidence. It’s about being two separate individuals who choose to be together, rather than being co-dependent.

Having a partner who respects and encourages this independence can lead to a healthier and more balanced relationship. It allows for personal space and fosters mutual respect.

7) They seek consistency, not intensity

While intense romantic gestures can be thrilling, what people often yearn for in relationships is consistency. This means having a partner who is reliable and consistent in their actions, words, and emotional availability.

Consistency creates a sense of stability and predictability in a relationship. It’s about showing up for each other every day, in both big and small ways. It’s about maintaining effort and showing continual love and respect for each other.

Consistent actions over time build trust and show commitment. They provide reassurance of a partner’s feelings and intentions. So, while grand gestures might be exciting, people highly value the comfort of consistency in their relationships.

8) They desire deep listening, not just hearing

While communication is often hailed as the key to a good relationship, people deeply value being heard, or more accurately, being listened to. Deep listening goes beyond just hearing words; it involves understanding the emotions and intentions behind them.

A partner who practices deep listening can provide validation and empathy. They can create a safe space for open dialogue and honest expression. It’s not about offering immediate solutions or advice but about understanding and acknowledging each other’s feelings.

In a world where everyone is quick to speak and slow to listen, having a partner who genuinely listens can be incredibly comforting and bonding.

9) They crave acceptance, not just tolerance

People in relationships seek acceptance from their partners, not just tolerance. Acceptance goes beyond merely putting up with each other’s quirks or flaws. It involves embracing and appreciating one another for who they truly are.

A partner who offers acceptance provides a sense of belonging and security. They affirm their love and respect regardless of disagreements or differences. This fosters an environment of love and respect where individuals feel valued and loved for their authentic selves.

10) They need emotional resilience, not just emotional support

While emotional support is vital in any relationship, people often value emotional resilience in their partners. This means having the ability to bounce back from setbacks, disagreements, or emotional upset.

A resilient partner can maintain a positive outlook even during difficult times. They’re able to cope with stress effectively and work through challenges without falling apart.

Having such a partner can inspire strength and positivity. It can lead to a relationship that is equipped to weather the storms of life together, making it stronger and more satisfying in the long run.

In conclusion: It’s all about harmony

Understanding the nuances of human desires and relationships often boils down to our innate need for harmony.

One such harmony is the balance between our individual needs and our shared goals with a partner. This equilibrium is crucial in fostering a healthy, satisfying relationship.

Famed relationship therapist, Esther Perel once said, “The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” And she couldn’t be more right. It’s not simply about finding someone to share life with; it’s about cultivating a relationship that enriches life.

Whether it’s seeking authenticity over perfection, valuing emotional intelligence over intellectual compatibility, or craving emotional safety over physical security – these non-obvious desires all contribute to achieving that harmonious balance in a relationship.

At the end of the day, understanding these deeper desires can help us navigate our relationships better. It can guide us in seeking and fostering connections that not only satisfy our romantic ideals but also contribute to our personal growth and happiness.

So as we reflect on these non-obvious things people want from relationships, remember: It’s not just about finding the right partner. It’s also about being the right partner, meeting each other’s deeper needs, and nurturing a relationship where both individuals can thrive.

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