11 Life Skills You Should Have Before Getting Into A Relationship

By Carina Wolff

It’s exciting when you meet someone you want to date, but in order for the relationship to be successful, you want to make sure you’ve done the proper work on yourself first. There a number of life skills that will let you know if you’re ready for a relationship because they will not only make life easier for yourself, but will help strengthen any relationship you may develop. According to experts, having these skills can help increase the chances of a relationship working out long-term. And even if you haven’t perfected all of them by the time you commit to someone, it’s good to start developing them before you enter a relationship.

“You need to come into a relationship having some things figured out if you want a healthy and successful relationship,” psychotherapist and relationship expert Avery Neal, M.A., LPC tells Bustle. “You don’t want to be looking to the other person to save you or to make you whole. Over time this doesn’t work well and it only fosters codependency. Ideally you want to have a pretty strong sense of self, an idea of what you are willing to give in your relationship and what you know you need to receive in return.”

Here are 11 life skills experts say you should try to have before getting into a relationship.

1. Knowing How To Manage Your Emotions

All emotions are valid, but it’s important to learn how to manage your mood when it may potentially affect your behavior within a relationship. “It is OK to be angry, but you must learn to be angry while problem solving,” relationship expert and therapist Kia James tells Bustle. Unpredictable emotions can make it more difficult to weather issues together, so be cognizant of how you react when times are tough, James says.

2. Feeling Comfortable Being Alone

Getting comfortable with yourself can ensure that you won’t settle for the wrong relationship just because you don’t want to be alone. “You’ll also feel stronger to walk away from an unhealthy relationship knowing that you can handle things on your own,” says Neal.

3. Knowing How To Be A Good Listener

We all want to feel understood, and the best way to connect with someone is to show them that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. “When you can truly be in the present moment and listen to your partner express him or herself, you build intimacy and trust,” says Neal.

4. Being Able To Apologize

Being able to own your actions and apologize for them is an essential skill for life and relationships. “We all make mistakes, so what’s important is how we deal with them,” psychotherapist and relationship coach Rachel Dack, MS, LCPC, NCC tells Bustle. “Hurting your partner’s feelings, even if unintentionally, is an inevitable reality of being in a relationship, so being able to apologize and really mean it will go a long way in reconnecting after hurt feelings and keeping peace.”

5. Being On Time

Being accountable about time is an important life skill that is also needed in dating and relationships. “Although it may be impossible to always be perfectly on time, having a pattern of being constantly tardy will affect how first dates go, as well as a potential partner’s first impression of you,” says Dack. “Once in a relationship, not being on time can cause problems because your partner may not feel you value [their] time.”

6. Stress Management

Relying solely on your partner to help with stress isn’t healthy — for you or your partner. “It is important to have a toolbox of strategies that help you feel calmer and less stressed or anxious,” says Dack. “If you don’t know how to manage your stress, you will not be able to bring your best self into your relationship, and you will likely take your emotions out on your partner, which will then create relationship conflict.” Dack suggests trying stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, journaling, exercise, psychotherapy, walking, and more.

7. The Ability To Say No

“Saying no is important, because when you are in a relationship you need to have the skills to develop and establish boundaries,” says James. “If you are unable to say no, you will end up doing many things that you don’t want to do. This leads to unhappiness and losing yourself.”

8. Managing Your Money

Controlling your own finances is important both for yourself and your relationship. “You are in a better position to merge your money with your partner’s when you understand your finances,” says James. “If you are unaware of how to manage money, your partner may not feel comfortable with your financial decision-making ability. In addition, mismanagement of money is a relationship stressor that can lead to many problems in the future.”

9. Cleaning Up After Yourself

Cleaning up after yourself is essential, especially if you want to live together in the future. “Having the responsibility to keep your own place clean and neat, do your own laundry, change the sheets, etc. is as important as your personal hygiene,” psychotherapist Judi Bloom,PsyD, MFT tells Bustle. “Your significant other isn’t your maid or personal assistant.” It also shows your partner that you are responsible.

10. Practicing Self-Care

You need to know how to make yourself a priority both when you are single and in a relationship. “Self-care is what allows us to keep up with all the demands upon our time and energy,” therapist and relationship expert Sarah E. Clark, LMFT, LMHC, CVRT tells Bustle. “It’s much easier to develop good habits when we are single and can focus completely upon ourselves, rather than when we are at the beginning of a relationship.”

11. Balancing & Prioritizing

You need the skill and ability to prioritize all the different aspects of your life that are important to you. “Relationships take work, and if you are not able to prioritize the relationship, the relationship will not live up to its potential,” says James. “Even if you have a busy schedule, neglecting your relationship is not an option if you want it to work.”

It might take some time, but these skills are crucial to work on when you’re single — and you can even continue to improve on them once you get into a relationship.

Avery Neal, PhD is a practicing psychotherapist, international author and speaker. In 2012 she opened Women’s Therapy Clinic, which offers psychiatric and counseling support to women. She specializes in depression and anxiety at all stages in a woman’s life.

Dr. Neal is the author of, If He’s So Great, Why Do I Feel So Bad?: Recognizing and Overcoming Subtle Abuse, which has been translated and published in twelve languages. Her articles and interviews have been published by Oprah.com, American Counseling Association, Counseling Today, BookTrib, Best Self Magazine, Hitched Magazine, Bustle, POPSUGAR and PKWY Magazine, and her courses have been taken by over 18,000 people worldwide. The International Association of HealthCare Professionals nominated her as one of the top psychologists in Houston.