A new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality explains the benefits of romantic competence, which refers to the multifaceted repertoire of skills and abilities that empower individuals to assess various relationship scenarios and adapt their behaviors accordingly.
According to a 2020 study, romantic competence skills include:
- Insight, which refers to the capacity to introspect and thoughtfully consider how one’s actions might influence the overall quality of their relationship.
- Mutuality, which involves acknowledging the needs of both partners and balancing the give and take in a relationship. It is characterized by reciprocity, mutual appreciation, commitment and support.
- Emotion regulation, which entails being attuned to your own emotions and having the ability to manage them effectively to maintain a harmonious and healthy connection with your partner.
Romantic competence encompasses everything from finding the right partner to building a healthy relationship, solving problems and knowing when to exit an unhealthy dynamic.
Research shows that individuals who are high in romantic competence feel closer to their partners, hold a more positive perception of their relationships and experience a greater sense of security and satisfaction in them.
Here are four ways to raise your romantic competence and improve your relationships significantly.
1. Engage In Regular Self-Reflection
At the core of romantic competence lies self-reflection, which provides insight into how your behavior impacts the quality of your relationships. This also gives you a deeper understanding of your needs, desires and intentions. For example, some introspection can help you recognize if you are projecting past relationship fears onto your current partner, allowing you to be more intentional and fair with them.
Research emphasizes the importance of self-reflection in relationships and how it allows you to foresee the positive and negative consequences of your behavior before you make decisions that could affect your partner or your relationship.
You may also understand your partner’s behavior more clearly, so that you can contextualize it rather than internalizing their actions. For instance, if a partner struggles with being affectionate, it can help to reflect on how they are generally a shy person and doing so is difficult for them, even if they love you.
Journaling is a valuable tool for self-reflection, and regularly checking in with your partner about how you both are feeling is a good starting point for a more mindful relationship.
2. Embrace The Power Of Support
Another vital aspect of romantic competence is mutuality, which requires equal value to be placed on both individuals’ needs in a relationship. Mutuality allows individuals to communicate clearly and have their own needs met, while also being able to take their partner’s needs into consideration and make healthier relationship decisions.
Individuals with high romantic competence are also more empathetic and trusting of their partners, which fosters deeper intimacy. They are responsive and adept at both providing and seeking support in a constructive manner. They are respectful, validating and encourage open discussions rather than being defensive or disengaged.
A supportive partner also learns to respond appropriately, based on what is required of them in a particular situation. One scenario might require advice or a more logical response from them, whereas another might require solely their empathy and a listening ear. Mutual support creates an uplifting atmosphere where both partners feel heard and valued, leading to greater relationship quality, commitment and intimacy.
Practice asking for support and checking in with yourself about what you need. While considering your partner’s needs, put yourself in their shoes to understand how your responses and decisions might impact them.
3. Learn The Art Of Emotional Regulation
Research shows that emotional regulation improves your ability to successfully navigate relationship challenges and conflicts. It involves being aware of your emotions and channeling them in ways that benefit both you and your partner. In moments of anxiety, frustration or impatience, this can look like making the effort to stay calm and rational, and learning to tolerate these uncomfortable emotions. It is an important way to maintain self-respect and as well as honor the commitment to your needs and those of your partner.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships and heightened emotions are an instinctive response to it. However, giving in to these emotions creates destructive communication patterns, hostility and even aggression.
Individuals high in romantic competence reflect on the long-term consequences of their emotional reactions, even in contexts where it is difficult to do so. Instead of resorting to blame or avoidance, they excel at respectful, open communication and navigating conflict constructively.
Practical steps to enhance emotional regulation include self-reflection, grounding techniques for staying present and composed, clear and patient communication, and challenging negative thoughts with a more balanced and realistic narrative.
4. Choose Your Partners Thoughtfully
While selecting a partner, a relationally intelligent individual places higher value on intrinsic qualities such as warmth, kindness and openness, compared to external attributes like attractiveness or wealth. This preference fosters a deeper emotional connection and significantly influences relationship quality.
To enhance your relational intelligence, consider adjusting your typical partner preference. Individuals with high relational competence often select partners who share similar qualities and are more adept at recognizing competence in others.
When both partners possess strong relationship skills, they are better equipped for effective communication, conflict resolution and supportive interactions. Such partnerships thrive on accessibility, responsiveness and engagement, resulting in healthier and more satisfying relationships.
Reflect on your past partner choices and assess their display of romantic competence. A 2021 study revealed that, in reality, most individuals are not very selective when it comes to choosing the right partner, which often leads to poor partner choices.
So, while getting to know someone new, focus on who they are and how their actions make you feel, rather than solely assessing what they may offer at a physical or external level.
Romantic competence serves as the cornerstone for nurturing healthy and enduring relationships while elevating one’s relational intelligence. It is worth taking the time to develop and nurture romantic competence as it might just be the key to a happier and more satisfying love life.
Unsure where your relationship stands at the moment? Take the evidence-based Relationship Satisfaction Scale to gain clarity.