Contrary to what our culture teaches, the most important quality to look for in a long-term partner is not

…common interests, physical attraction, sense of humor, chemistry, level of education, or confidence.

The #1 quality to look for in a partner is…


The willingness to learn.

The willingness to grow.

The willingness to face hard things.

The willingness to take responsibility.

And, if you hit a roadblock in the relationship, the willingness to get support.

The Intersection of Relationship Anxiety and Red Flags

When people struggling with relationship anxiety ask me what I mean by red-flags, I rattle off the typical list: addiction, untreated narcissism, unhealed betrayal, impassable differences around having children or religion. (You can read about the topic of red flags in more depth in this post.)

But I always follow it up by saying, “Almost all issues can be worked on if both people are willing.”

We all have our stuck places and blind spots, and I don’t think it’s possible to be in a long-term relationship without running into challenges, especially if you both come from trauma.

But not only can these collisions be addressed, they can lead to increased intimacy and growth both individually and together when you have the willingness to take responsibility, seek support, and commit to inner work.

Other important qualities are honesty, humility, and empathy – but these tend to go hand-in-hand with willingness.

Our Trauma Collisions

Like most couples, my husband and I have had our fair share of trauma collisions. We would not be standing here together today, closer than ever, had we not sought help when we needed it most.

There were many things that attracted me to my husband all those years (decades!) ago, but as I look back now, what stood out was his willingness to work on himself and his devotion to our partnership. I knew that no matter how hard things got, no matter how much we collided into each other with our deepest wounds that came out as our worst selves, he would always show up and be willing to look at how we could do better. And he sensed the same in me.

So when relationship anxiety wants to attach onto your partner’s perceived faults and foibles – the places where they fall short according to your anxious mind – you can respond by saying something like, “Those things might be true, or they might be distortions of fear. But the one question I can likely answer is, ‘Do I have a willing partner?'”

If your answer is yes, you have struck gold.


PS: If you missed on recent Gathering Gold episode on Healing Shame, you can find it here

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