Chiseled cheekbones? Dog-loving tendencies? A compatible star sign? Sure, all of these things might initially attract you to a potential partner. But to build a long-lasting, fulfilling romantic relationship, you’re going to need to look a little deeper. 

You see, over the years, scientists have uncovered the fail-safe formula for enduring love, and it has nothing to do with looks or shared interests. In fact, the secret to a satisfying relationship is entirely cognitive. 

We’re talking about emotional intelligence (EQ), the number one characteristic everyone should look for in a potential partner – and aim to develop in themselves. 

What is EQ? 

Coined by Yale researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer in the 1990s, emotional intelligence refers to a span of competencies that measure an individual’s capacity to understand and manage their emotions, communicate how they feel, and relate to others. 

Far beyond being nice to have, research shows that a high EQ strongly determines life satisfaction, workplace success and – you guessed it – the quality of interpersonal relationships.

But what does a high EQ actually look like in practice? At Truity, we’ve developed a free EQ test that enables individuals to gauge an understanding of their score based on five essential skills:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to check in with your emotional state and understand the emotions you’re experiencing and, more importantly, why you’re feeling them. Self-awareness also enables you to understand your strengths, weaknesses, needs and intrinsic motivations. 
  • Other awareness: The skill of tuning into how other people are feeling, gleaning their thoughts and feelings by analyzing non-verbal cues like body language. 
  • Emotional control: This is about being able to regulate negative emotions like stress, fear and anxiety, leading to enhanced resilience and better impulse control.  
  • Empathy: The capacity to relate to another person’s emotional experience without judgment. People who score high in this facet of EQ are compassionate and caring. 
  • Wellbeing: This facet of EQ relates to your overall psychological health. A strong score indicates an optimistic attitude, strong interpersonal relationships and a sense of purpose. 

EQ and relationships: The science

In the world of dating and romance, having a high EQ score doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll avoid heartbreak altogether, but it does give you a better chance of finding a compatible partner and navigating the ups and downs of romantic relationships with grit and grace. Here’s a look at why: 

Better stress management

When you’ve had a bad day, it’s all too easy to take it out on your significant other or retreat into yourself. But, unsurprisingly, numerous studies show that poorly managed emotions can take a toll on the health of relationships. 

That’s not to say that couples with high EQs never experience negative moods. Rather, they’re much better at regulating and expressing these emotions. By calmly discussing their emotions and not letting negativity take over, they create a supportive atmosphere even during challenging times, benefiting both themselves and their partners.

A foundation of empathy

Relationships are all about give and take. If one partner is self-centered and unwilling to compromise, it can leave the other feeling hurt and lonely. This is where the EQ skill of empathy steps in to save the day. 

Empathy enables partners to overcome their differences, understand each other’s needs and foster a deep sense of care. In fact, science shows empathy is the foundation for trust, respect and intimacy. 

Collaborative conflict resolution

High EQ couples aren’t immune from disagreeing with each other, but what they don’t do is let disagreements turn into anger-fueled arguments. Instead, they use what’s known as collaborative conflict techniques. 

Put simply, this means they look for win-win solutions rather than take a competitive win-lose approach. By shifting their perspective to "us vs. the problem," high EQ individuals remove hostility and aggression from conflicts, turning them into learning opportunities.

Purpose outside of the relationship

While being your partner’s be all and end all might sound like a romantic notion, it also puts a lot of pressure on the relationship and isn’t very healthy. Thankfully, people with high EQs understand the value of maintaining a strong sense of self and contributing to wider society. 

This is because, thanks to their intrapersonal awareness, they are keenly in touch with their emotions, motivations, and values, which empower them to pursue personal growth and fulfillment. As a result, high EQ individuals are proven to be more motivated, happy and successful – even benefiting from higher salaries than the average person. 

Open and honest communication

Research shows that communication problems are the number one factor that leads to divorce. When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why. A lack of communication can lead to all sorts of negative feelings: resentment, anxiety, blame and even depression. 

Thankfully, high EQ individuals are skilled in the art of communicating. One study even called a high EQ the “sine qua non for any kind of effective communication to materialize.” 

By using a combination of skills like self-awareness, other awareness and empathy, these individuals are able to communicate their needs – and understand others’ – tactfully and compassionately, creating a safe space for sharing feelings, thoughts and ideas. 

Ready to boost your EQ?

The best thing about emotional intelligence is that it’s not a static score. No matter where you fall across the competencies above, you can improve your EQ skills over time. It’s just like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument. With dedication, practice and effort, you’ll get better and better at EQ. 

Curious how to begin? As a first point of call, we recommend taking an EQ test to understand your strengths and where you need to improve. Beyond assessments, numerous resources, including books and journals like ours, are available to guide you in proactively developing your emotional intelligence. 

While learning anything new takes a little hard work, by putting in the effort to better understand yourself and the emotions of the people around you, you’re sure to lead a happier life – and your relationships will thrive too! 

Hannah Pisani
Hannah Pisani is a freelance writer based in London, England. A type 9 INFP, she is passionate about harnessing the power of personality theory to better understand herself and the people around her - and wants to help others do the same. When she's not writing articles, you'll find her composing songs at the piano, advocating for people with learning difficulties, or at the pub with friends and a bottle (or two) of rose.