4 signs your partner is more emotionally intelligent than most: ‘They're happy to let you be you'

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Long touted as an essential skill for professional success, emotional intelligence is just as vital for the longevity and quality of our personal relationships.

Every relationship — from romantic to platonic to professional — has its ups and downs. As a researcher who studies emotional intelligence, resilience and burnout, I know that it takes emotionally intelligent people to communicate effectively and sustain a healthy, respectful and mutually supportive connection.

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This "super skill" gives you the ability to perceive, understand and regulate your own emotions, as well as to recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.

Research has shown that those who have it are better at empathetic perspective-taking and self-regulation, have better social skills, are more cooperative, have closer and more affectionate relationships and enjoy greater satisfaction in their partnerships.

So it tracks that you'd want to keep an eye out for emotional intelligence in a romantic partner. Here are four key signs they've got it: 

1. They can engage in healthy conflict with you

Navigating inevitable moments of conflict with emotional intelligence means that you and your partner don't avoid them.

Conflicts that are left unaddressed eventually curdle into resentment, and are usually what's behind angry outbursts that seem to erupt out of nowhere — like when one partner explodes because the other isn't folding towels the "right" way.

A partner who engages in healthy conflict isn't conflict-averse or passive-aggressive. They don't dominate the conversation, attack your character or engage in abusive language or behavior. 

They may get angry and perhaps even yell, but they calm down quickly and are able to take responsibility for the role they played in the conflict, apologizing when necessary. Research shows that it's not the couples who fight who face the highest risk of breaking up, but those who don't make up and reconnect afterward. 

2. They're able to see things from others' perspectives

One of the key attributes of emotional intelligence is empathy, which is necessary to form trust, facilitate bonding and help partners relate to each other — even when they disagree. 

Empathy can be expressed in everyday actions. Does your partner ask questions and show curiosity about your thoughts, feelings and experiences? Do they engage in active listening? Do they refrain from interrupting or frequently turning the conversation back to themselves? These are all indications of empathy and emotional intelligence. 

Empathy can be especially challenging when you're in conflict, but those with high emotional intelligence are able to see where their partner is coming from.

That's the key: You're not aiming to be in lockstep 100% of the time. The goal is to be willing to see and consider each other's perspectives when you're not on the same page.

3. They can manage their emotions in a healthy, productive way

The ability to regulate your emotions doesn't mean you should suppress or deny your feelings. It means you're able to tolerate negative emotions and stressful experiences without reacting impulsively. Knowing how to self-soothe after an upsetting experience is an essential component of emotional regulation and healthy relationships.

If your partner is able to return to their baseline through healthy coping outlets such as exercise, deep breathing, a walk or meditation (as opposed to unhealthy means such as withdrawal, substance use or an expectation that you'll solve their problems), that's strong emotional regulation and high emotional intelligence at work.  

You can also look for longevity in their other important relationships. Does your partner have enduring friendships? Do they get along well with co-workers? Do they maintain healthy relationships with their family? People need strong emotional regulation skills to manage the natural fluctuations and challenges that occur in any long relationship. 

4. They let you be you

Emotionally intelligent partners aren't threatened by differences, and they don't demand exclusive attention. 

They don't expect you to be perfect, to change to please them or to mold your likes and dislikes to theirs. 

They do honor your interests, boundaries and desire to do things on your own, such as see friends, pursue a solo hobby or simply enjoy some time alone. 

In short, they're happy to let you be you — and actively support the conditions you need to be your best you. 

Kandi Wiens, EdD, is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the author of "Burnout Immunity: How Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Build Resilience and Heal Your Relationship with Work" (HarperCollins, 2024). A researcher and speaker on emotional intelligence, resilience, and burnout, she developed the Burnout Quiz to help people understand if they're at risk of burning out.

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