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This Is the Most Important Quality in a Significant Other

I grew up in the hills of Los Gatos, California. It was an idyllic childhood of playing Tarzan in the woods, competitive tennis at school and goofing off on the weekends.

I was blessed to grow up with a loving family in a comfortable, safe home. I knew little about crime and the darkness in some people’s hearts.

I enjoyed watching police shows like Adam 12, The Streets of San Francisco and Hill Street Blues. In my senior year of high school, a sheriff deputy visited our government class and talked about police work. It was fascinating to me.

I went off to college and studied criminal justice administration, eventually earning a master’s degree. I entered the police academy, and before graduation, was hired by the Scott Valley Police Department.

I was in my early twenties and thought I knew a lot about people. Armed with a graduate degree and academy training, I figured I was well equipped to deal with people and enforce the law.

I was wrong.

It’s not what they say, it’s what they do

The police academy is designed to familiarize recruits with the basics of law enforcement. The equipment, skills and endless laws.

Recruits not only train physically every day, they take regular tests on the vehicle code, penal code and nuances of the law. They learn arrest control techniques, firearms, interview techniques and high speed pursuit driving.

Police recruits are taught about escalation and deescalation of force, report writing, mental illnesses, domestic violence and more. Many California recruits attend the museum of tolerance, and learn about the hidden biases we all have.

In short, the police academy is a rigorous, six months immersion in all things law enforcement. Following graduation, recruits embark on months of in-house, field training at their respective police departments.

Field training was where I discovered how little I knew about people, crime and the complexities of human nature.

My field training officers taught me to observe unusual patterns. They showed me cars parked at night, in residential neighborhoods, nowhere near the houses. We later caught two prowlers, looking for homes to break into.

I learned to pick up on small things, like cars turning into closed shopping centers at night. Sometimes, the drivers were pulling over to check directions or make a phone call. Often, they were suspended drivers or people with arrest warrants, trying to evade my patrol car.

I learned that it’s not what people say, it’s what they do. I once observed a woman in a BMW race through a red traffic light. When I pulled her over, she vehemently denied it.

A grocery store called in a suspicious person who was possibly shoplifting. I arrived and entered the business from the rear. I was able to observe the man stuffing merchandise in his backpack.

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When he exited the store and I confronted him, he denied any wrongdoing. Even after I searched his backpack and showed him the stolen items, he claimed he “found the backpack.”

What I learned as a young cop is that people lie all the time. Far more than I ever realized. Rich people, poor people. They lie about everything and refuse to take responsibility for their actions, even when confronted with irrefutable proof.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” — Friedrich Nietzshe

A lot of people lack character. As long as they don’t get caught, they figure anything goes.

Of course, there are lots of good people out there. People of high character who you’d be proud to have as your friend or significant other. People who will be there for you when the chips are down.

The challenge is finding them.

The maintenance costs are substantial

I’ve seen my share of dysfunctional relationships. Sometimes the domestic fights were isolated incidents, fueled by alcohol. Unfortunately, many of the fights were “frequent fliers.” Couples who regularly fought, in a seemingly endless cycle of animosity and hatred.

I learned that some people are incapable of honest, self evaluation. They blame everyone and anyone but themselves for their troubles. When adversity comes into their lives (like it does to all of us, sooner or later), they fall apart.

Again, the underlying issue is character. Sadly, these individuals never learned personal accountability. They never acquired the resiliency to handle adversity. So they take it out on their spouses, significant others, friends and co-workers.

“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” — James Lane Allen

Responding to countless domestic fights over the years gave me some deep insights. I realized that men and women focus on the wrong things when dating and seeking a significant other.

A lot of men and women focus on physical appearance, which is not a reliable measure of relationship success. Don’t get me wrong, you definitely want to be attracted to the person you’re dating, but not at the expense of more important qualities.

There’s nothing wrong with being attractive and physically fit. We all aspire to look and feel our best. But some people are narcissistic. Beyond their appearance, they become self-absorbed and egocentric.

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Such individuals may present well in the beginning. It’s easy to become bequiled. But with time, you’ll start seeing past the looks. They may feign interest in you, but only superficially. In the end, it’s all about them.

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Dating is a lot like buying a car. You can have that Italian Ferrari if you want to, but the maintenance costs are substantial. Over time, that sexy car begins to lose its shine. You realize you would have been better off with a nice, attractive, reliable Toyota.

The most important quality in a significant other

Some people focus on money. This one is a slippery slope. Money is nice but doesn’t guarantee a happy relationship. As a cop, I visited many homes of wealthy couples who were fueding and unhappy.

There’s nothing wrong with wealth and the security it can bring. But more important than money is the character of the individual.

There are many wealthy people whose empires keep them away from their spouses and family. What fun is wealth if you’re never around to enjoy it with the ones you love?

Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time. — Jim Rohn

Shared interests can increase compatibility, but even they are not the most reliable predictor of a strong, loving relationship.

So, what’s the most important quality in a significant other?


I have found kindness to be the most consistent indicator of character in a person. It’s not absolute, and I’m sure you can find examples to refute me. But on balance, kindness is huge in my book.

When dating or trying to meet new people, there are things you should pay attention to. Behaviors and actions that say volumes about someone’s kindness.

Look for how your date treats other people. Does she thank the water boy at a restaurant? Is he an impatient driver, cutting people off and yelling?

How does she treat her parents? Does he tend to speak well of others or gossip and always see the worst in people?

I can’t think of a single domestic violence case I ever handled that was started by a kind person.

Sure, even kind people can have their shortcomings. A person can be kind and also be a slob. For that reason, kindness alone doesn’t seal the deal in a relationship. But more often than not, a kind person will bring you a much more pleasant life than a narcissist or “always gone” rich person.

Be aware that people always try to put their best foot forward when meeting others. Some potential suitors may appear kind at first, but give it time.

A person’s past history is hard to hide for long and his/her true stripes usually manifest before long. So take your time, and observe.

The world is full of so many angry, maladjusted, entitled, shallow and opportunistic people. It’s sad, because they were all children once. Somewhere, along their journey, things derailed.

It’s possible for such people to change, but it’s up to them to look deep inside themselves. They must do the hard work of fixing what’s broken. If you chose to be with such as person, instead of a kind person, then it’s “buyer beware.”

What we desperately need more of in this world is kindness. Check out this wonderful video about kindness and ask yourself, wouldn’t you want your significant other to behave the way these people do?

If you are single and searching for that perfect someone, make sure you put kindness at the top of your “must have” qualities in a significant other.

Doing so just might spare you a lot of pain, heartache and unhappiness.

Before you go

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I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint and write about life. Thanks for reading!

Writer & Artist

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