Every relationship is inherently unique, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t underlying habits and skills that help differentiate those that are truly healthy from ones that, well, aren’t. According to some of the latest research done about relationships by psychologists, including Joanne Davila at Stony Brook University, having a healthy relationship ultimately depends on something called “romantic competence”. Romantic competence, according to Davila and her researchers, is comprised of three main skills: insight, mutuality, and emotional regulation. When you have romantic competence, not only does your romantic relationship flourish, but so do the rest of your relationships, too.

Whether you’re in a longterm romantic relationship, just entering a new relationship, or looking to have a romantic relationship in the future, developing these three competency skills will help determine how successful that relationship is — or will be.  These skills were developed after thoroughly reviewing theory and research, finding the commonalities behind what makes romantic relationships work — and what puts the proverbial nail in the coffin.

  • Insight. Developing insight means becoming more aware so that you can better understand what is happening in your relationship. In other words, “insight” is just constant learning. In order to really have the insight you need to have a healthy relationship, you need to be learning both about yourself and your partner. Knowing who you are and what you need will help you better understand what your partner needs to be bringing to the table in order to keep you happy. In turn, examining who your partner is and what they need will enable you to have the insight necessary to be the best possible partner for them, too.
  • Mutuality. As simple as it might seems, most romantic relationships have the tendency to get very one-sided. This can happen very quickly or over the course of years, or even decades. Mutuality is remembering that the relationship isn’t all about you — or your partner. Instead, mutuality ensures that there’s balance, especially in terms of importance — neither partner is more important than the other. In order to develop mutuality, there needs to be empathy, and excellent (i.e. clear) communication happening on both sides.
  • Emotional Regulation. Being able to control your reactions is essential to having a healthy relationship. This type of regulation allows you to stay calm so that you can gain the perspective necessary to respond (not react) appropriately. Developing healthy lifestyle habits, from a great diet to daily exercise, can help you improve your emotional regulation skills.

It takes time to develop romantic competence, but investing in these three main skills is worth it. According to some of the research done by Davila and her partners, the more romantically competent you are, the less you worry about rejection and the better mental health you have overall. Being romantically competent also boosts your confidence and security, which allows you to both enjoy being in a relationship — and for your partner to enjoy being in a relationship with you, too.