What do you believe most college students are looking for in a mate? A recent study published by the Journal of Personality done by Swansea University looked at the characteristics students seek in a long-term partner. The study compared dating preferences of students from both Eastern and Western countries. While there were some differences between the countries, there were also some significant similarities. The one trait that was universally selected as the top priority was kindness. This may be surprising to some. Although physical attractiveness (more for men) and financial prospects (more for women) matter, kindness was the top quality that these students desired in a potential mate. Ironically this trait cuts across cultures and helps us in further understanding how human behaviors impact relationships. These results are similar to the studies done by Dr. John Gotten who identified both kindness and generosity as important traits to ensure marital success and satisfaction. Why do people value kindness so highly?
Often couples who enter therapy arrive in a crisis. They tend to blame each other, and defend and justify their own position which only keeps them stuck in conflict and turmoil. The kindness that is usually present in healthy relationships has completely disappeared and been replaced with anger and resentment. As couples lose the "like" part of the relationship, they find it more and more difficult to be caring and empathic towards each other. When couples are in perpetual conflict and focus on each other's negative traits, they lose the ability to be compassionate, respectful, and kind. Often their frustrations bubble-up over the smallest things which in turn feed the disconnect and detachment. Ultimately, couples benefit when they show kindness and respect even when they are in conflict. Communicating respectfully and assertively about difficult situations around a hurt or disagreement can be difficult. Our delivery really matters! Kindness is shown by expressing oneself in a respectful manner, forgiving each other, and acknowledging the good in our partner.
It is easier to be kind when we've let go of our hurt, anger, and bitterness. And of course kindness is easier when our partner reciprocates it, but that shouldn't be a prerequisite to offering it. We can show kindness by helping our partner with tasks, encouraging them, and supporting their endeavors. When we validate our partner's feelings and show compassion or understanding for their emotional pain, that can be an expression of love. Offering spontaneous affection and comfort can also bring us closer. Being a good listener without attempting to fix or solve the problem can provide a deeper connection. Kindness can also be shown by identifying our partner's needs and attempting to meet them. Spending time engaged in activities that our partner enjoys even if we don't can be another form of kindness. Making your relationship a priority and placing a high value on being together creates a sense of commitment for each other. Kindness ignites the fire to building stronger relationships.