I recently created a list of fictional novels I thought would help people learn how to be better romantic partners. It was featured here on shepherd.com. I was prompted to create this list when I was contacted by them to use their platform to promote my new book, Pretty Privilege. However, writing this list of book recommendations got me thinking. What can people learn from fictional characters to become better romantic partners? To answer this question, I'm going to use the list of book recommendations I created for shepherd.com. First, I want to pose another question. What qualities make a person a better romantic partner? Well, if I were to go out into the world and ask random people this question, I'd probably hear things like patience, unconditional love, understanding, compassion, trust, and loyalty, amongst other things we'd all want in a partner. While I agree with all those things, I'd like to take a look at what a relationship expert thinks makes a person a better romantic partner. In an article titled Dating Resolutions: 7 Characteristics of an Ideal Partner on psychalive.org, maturity, openness, honesty and integrity, respect and independence, empathy, affection, and a sense of humor were named as qualities that make a person an ideal partner. After reading this article, I'd have to conclude that each partner possessing all seven of these characteristics would make any relationship (romantic or otherwise) nearly perfect.
Maturity is imperative in a romantic relationship, especially emotional maturity. Partners should exercise emotional maturity when problems arise to keep from doing the immature thing in an argument like making it all about you, like your partner's feelings don't matter, even if they were the one in the wrong. You can see an example of this in Adultery by Paulo Coelho when the husband demonstrates emotional maturity when he puts his feelings aside to understand what his wife was feeling when she cheated on him after being bored with their marriage. He could have done what most of us would have done in that situation-- either punish our partner or leave them, and he would have been well within his rights to do so. However, he decided to look past his heartache and bruised ego to empathize with his wife, which is another quality that makes a person a better romantic partner, according to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. (author of Dating Resolutions: 7 Characteristics of an Ideal Partner).
Empathy helps us to understand our partners without the bias anger or hurt may give us when we are wronged in a situation. You can see an example of this in Damaged Intentions by Monica Walters when the main character Kema is able to extend support to her husband Philly when he is shot by a rival while attending her rodeo. Kema's first instinct is to be disappointed in Philly for bringing his street activity to an event that was supposed to be about her even when she knew he had no control of the shooting since he was the victim. However, she decides to put her pride to the side to help him recover from the gunshot wounds, inevitably opening the door for their relationship to continue where it left off after their legal separation. Although Philly was the reason they were separated in the first place, empathy and understanding were things he needed from Kema to give him hope that he could get his wife back someday. It was what kept him from giving up on their relationship since it made him realize Kema was the only woman for him. After coming to this conclusion, Philly decides to grant Kema honesty and integrity by telling her he was still in the drug game, but he promised her he'd get out of the game to have her back in his life.
Honesty and integrity are essential to a relationship because it gives each partner clarity and allows them to trust their partner, which is one of the most important things in relationships. We've all heard the saying, "If we don't have trust, we don't have anything," so we know without trust a relationship is nothing. You see another example of this in Bitter Sweet by Monica Walters when Shawn is honest with Serita about the illegal activities he is involved with and in turn, she is honest with him about her past, growing up in the system after being abandoned by her drug-addicted parents when she was an infant. Given this exchange of information, Serita is clear about the risks she's taking with Shawn since she works in law enforcement, and Shawn understands why Serita is as fragile as she is when he met her. However, the two of them choose to take a chance on love with each other. Their relationship moves quickly, but since the two of them had the integrity to be honest, things aren't as difficult as they could have been if they lied to each other. So, for this couple, things are out in the open, but of course, problems still arise. However, Shawn and Serita continue to be honest with each other, so they could tackle things together. This makes their relationship strong and durable and also makes them develop respect for each other. Thus, making them ideal partners for each other.
Respect and independence keep individuality present in relationships, so one or both partners won't become codependent on one another. Respect helps us to value our partner's existence in and out of the relationship, and independence promotes a healthy balance in the relationship because it helps us to avoid losing ourselves while building a life with someone. You see this example in Two Monogamous by S. R. Graham (me) when Jarrah and Dustin support each other in their career endeavors and give each other space to maintain their relationships with their friends and family. Instead of demanding to be the priority in each other's lives, they show up for each other when necessary and are receptive to each other's need for space. When Jarrah needed a break from Dustin after finding out she was pregnant for him, Dustin gave it to her without taking offense to it. He understood their relationship was moving fast, so she needed time to process things before she could move forward with him. He also needed space to deal with the secrets he was keeping from her because he had gotten in too deep by getting her pregnant. Although he was happy about being a father, it made things more complicated than he would have liked because it could expose the secrets he hoped he'd never have to disclose to Jarrah. Even through this, Dustin makes a sacrifice to allow Jarrah to receive the affection that brought them together in the first place, even though it means him being vulnerable and exposing both sides of himself. Jarrah's sense of humor, compassion, intellect, kindness, and inner and outer beauty makes her the perfect woman for him, so he'll do anything to have her in his life, even if that means sharing her with the person he resents most.
Affection may be the quality that drives connection and makes romantic relationships romantic. Sex is an important component of a healthy relationship because it transcends our connection with our partner. You see an example of this in Crane's in the Sky by Keisha Ervin when Shyheim crawls into Messiah's heart a little more every time they are intimate with each other. At first, Messiah is closed off to Shyheim because she is riddled with fear of heartbreak after losing her unborn child, mother, and father in a tragic accident she blames herself for since she was arguing with her parents when her father lost control of the car and crashed it. Messiah was a teenager when the accident happen, so she had a hard time breaking free of the shackles the guilt had on her until Shyheim comes into her life and shows her how deserving she is of his love and affection. Shyheim's persistence and empathy inspire Messiah to grant him openness, which is important to him because he wants nothing more than to learn everything there is to know about her. Openness helps us to get to know our partners in ways no one else does and it helps us to be understood by them as well. That's why it's important to be forthcoming with who you are from the very beginning. Once Messiah is open with Shyheim and he with her, their bond becomes unbreakable, even in the midst of obstacles. These two characters also have a sense of humor that strengthens their bond with each other because when you can laugh at things with your partner it makes getting through life easier. With laughter and affection, they truly become each other's one true love.
These fictional novels make becoming a better romantic partner seem difficult, but having a healthy relationship isn't without its difficulties. However, your willingness to be a better partner to the love of your life should make it easy. When you exercise maturity, openness, honesty and integrity, respect and independence, empathy, affection, and a sense of humor, your partner will appreciate you so much more. Plus, the gratification that comes with sweeping your significant other off their feet by being sensitive to their needs through the trials and the victories should be enough to encourage you to try to be an ideal partner. I'm not a relationship expert and quite frankly, I am without a partner right now, but it is never a bad moment to learn how to be a better romantic partner.
Don't forget to check out my list of book recommendations of the best fictional novels to learn how to be a better romantic partner by clicking here. Also, visit Psychalive.org to check out the article Dating Resolutions: 7 Characteristics of an Ideal Partner by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.