When I ask new clients what they want in a partner, most of them say they want someone who's loyal, romantic, intelligent and cultured. These are all worthy attributes that are great to have - but actually, the key to a happy, long lasting relationship is kindness.
A study by Elite Singles shows that 81% of women and 62% of men consider kindness to be the number one personality trait - ahead of emotional connection, moral values and even sexual compatibility! Their in-house relationship psychologist explains, ""After couples have been together for a while, they can begin to lose respect for each other. They tend to become careless with how they speak to one another and this can seriously harm the relationship."
This is a pattern I've noticed myself. A male friend of mine (I'll call him Tim), couldn't understand why his relationship was crumbling. He worked hard, and took his family on luxury holidays (less Camber Sands, more Conde Nast Traveller). He bought a new car for his wife and himself each year, and their house would've made David Beckham book a decorator - OK! mag could've done celeb shoots there!
But while Tim felt he was ticking all the boxes, the fact is, he wasn't very kind. His wife was in pieces when her mum died, but instead of holding her hand at the funeral, he told her he didn't do PDAs (public displays of affection) and nudged her to stop making a spectacle of herself. Two weeks later, when she missed her monthly wax, he joked that her mum's fanny wasn't the only one buried beneath the undergrowth.
I explained to Tim that although he was a great provider, he needed to be more supportive, and consider his wife's feelings. He needed to meet her emotional needs - he needed to be kind. After a lengthy chat, I left Tim with this to take away: "forget about the cash and focus on the cuddles!" It's early days, and he isn't always thoughtful (his wife has caught him whistling "Ding dong the witch is dead") but he's started making an effort - and it's made a difference to his marriage.
Whatever boxes you're ticking, you only make it to your ruby wedding anniversary if you're actually kind to each other! Some former neighbours of mine are in their seventies and I hold them up as an example to all my clients. When June's doing the gardening, Cyril brings out the knee pad, and follows her round the garden, helping her up and down as she prunes her prize winning rose bushes. When they go out and it's raining, Cyril holds the brolly over June's head. And June keeps Cyril so well fed, he thinks Mary Berry's been in the kitchen!
Whatever you want from a partner - and whatever it is you have to offer - don't underestimate how much kindness matters. And the good news is, it's never too late to learn to be kinder to your partner, and to yourself. Remember - kindness conquers all!