4 Personality Traits of the Best Romantic Partners
4. High conscientiousness.
Posted November 15, 2022 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
- The happiest couples tend to be low on neuroticism and high on agreeableness, extraversion, and conscientiousness.
- While there are significant effects of personality on relationship satisfaction, the effects tend to be of modest size.
- People of all personality types are capable of having strong, meaningful romantic relationships.
A large number of studies suggests that personality is a key factor in determining the quality of romantic relationships—for better and for worse. Researchers in Australia combined the results from 19 studies that included over 3,800 participants; four personality dimensions were significantly linked to relationship satisfaction among intimate partners (Malouff et al., 2010).
The strongest personality predictor of greater relationship satisfaction was low neuroticism. Neuroticism is defined as the tendency to experience negative emotional states. High neuroticism is associated with things like depression, impulsiveness, and hostility.
What to look for: People low in neuroticism don’t tend to be easily upset, and can recover relatively quickly from difficult emotions like anger or sadness. They aren’t often overwhelmed by anxiety, and are able to experience a lot of happiness and contentment.
People high on the trait of agreeableness are easy to get along with, which can make them very attractive romantic partners. Those who are low on agreeableness, in contrast, are often arrogant, selfish, or mistrustful.
What to look for: Agreeable partners maintain several strong, healthy friendships, and their past romantic relationships ended relatively amicably. They aren’t easily upset with you, and you don’t feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them. They tend to prefer to avoid arguments and conflict, and rarely seem to take things the wrong way. If they do experience jealousy in the relationship, they can express it calmly and constructively.
Partners of extraverts report more relationship satisfaction, on average, than those who are with introverts. Extraverts feel energized by the company of others, and generally prefer to be with other people rather than being alone. Introverts, on the other hand, are more comfortable by themselves, and feel depleted by social encounters, even if they enjoy them. Highly introverted people tend to be reserved, emotionally cool, and struggle with assertiveness.
What to look for: An extraverted partner prefers to go out versus staying in all the time, and social commitments often leave them feeling energized and alive. They probably don’t need more time by themselves than you do, unless you’re even more of an extravert than they are.
A highly conscientious partner is dutiful and responsible, and consistently fulfills their commitments. They do what they say they will, pay their bills on time, show up on time, and take care of their belongings. Conversely, those who are low on conscientiousness tend to be careless, underachieving, and irresponsible.
What to look for: A highly conscientious partner washes dishes right away instead of letting them pile up in the sink, and doesn’t blow off commitments or miss deadlines. They’re rarely late for appointments or dates (and have a good reason if they are), and don't tend to misplace things.
These patterns of findings were consistent across married and unmarried couples, and held for both male and female partners in heterosexual relationships. More research is needed to determine if these results generalize to same-sex couples.
It is also important to keep in mind that these personality traits played a relatively small role in relationship satisfaction. For example, neuroticism had the largest effect with a correlation of r = -.22, which by convention is considered a small effect. Indeed, a correlation of that size accounts for only about 4 to 5 percent of the variability in relationship satisfaction.
While the researchers weren’t able to determine potential compounding effects of these personality traits, it is likely that the combination of multiple traits like low neuroticism plus high extraversion leads to even greater relationship satisfaction than does each trait by itself.
These findings notwithstanding, people of all personality types can have meaningful, satisfying relationships. Additionally, as the authors point out, “Individuals might be able to improve their intimate relationships by changing behavior related to characteristics such as neuroticism.” This possibility is supported by the fact that personality is more malleable than previously believed (see this post, “Do People Really Change?”). In any case, personality appears to be one important contributor to the relationship well-being of intimate partners.
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Malouff, J. M., Thorsteinsson, E. B., Schutte, N. S., Bhullar, N., & Rooke, S. E. (2010). The five-factor model of personality and relationship satisfaction of intimate partners: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 124-127.