Romantic competence may be a key component to relationship fulfillment


**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

When I met my partner, we were both gunshy about being in a committed relationship. After being in unhealthy relationships that lasted for longer than they should have, neither of us was interested in repeating the same mistakes.

So we decided to take a different approach.

We sat down and figured out what we both wanted and needed from a relationship, and then we communicated those things to each other. We also decided to check in regularly to ensure that our needs were still being met and talk about any changes that we might need.

So far, this approach is working well for us. We’ve built a solid and healthy relationship by ensuring that we’re always on the same page. And when we run into problems, we communicate openly and honestly with each other to figure things out.

Some therapists would say that we’ve achieved “romantic competence.”

What is romantic competence, and why is it important?

“Romantic competence is the ability to function adaptively across all areas of the relationship process, from figuring out what you need, to building a healthy relationship, and to getting out of relationships that are unhealthy.” — Joanne Davila, Ph.D.

People in romantic relationships often face difficulties communicating and resolving conflict constructively. Romantic competence is the ability to effectively manage these challenges to lead to a mutually satisfying outcome for both partners.

There are several reasons why developing romantic competence can be important.

Research has shown that couples who communicate effectively and constructively resolve conflict are more likely to be satisfied with their relationship.

Conversely, couples who lack romantic competence are more likely to experience relationship difficulties, such as conflict, communication problems, and even divorce.

Finally, developing romantic competence can help people feel more confident and secure in their relationships, leading to greater relationship satisfaction.

According to psychologist Joanne Davila, three core skills make up romantic competence:


The ability to be aware of your emotional landscape and the emotions of others is critical to romantic competence.

You will be better able to communicate effectively and resolve conflict constructively if you understand your feelings and your partner’s emotions.


Relationships are more about equity than equality. But when it comes to feelings, romantic partners should feel that their feelings are as important as their partner’s.

Maintaining a high degree of mutuality in your relationship will make you more likely to consider your partner’s needs and your own. Because when you’re able to factor your partner’s feelings into your decision-making process, it’ll be easier to meet in the middle and find a resolution that works for both of you.

Emotional Regulation

One of the most challenging things about being in a relationship is feeling the complexities of emotions. You not only have to deal with your own emotions, but you also have to navigate your partner’s emotions.

The ability to remain calm when things are heated and see both sides of the issue is key to romantic competence.

Regulating your emotions can prevent petty arguments from escalating into full-blown fights. The more emotionally balanced you are, the easier it is to keep anxious or unpleasant feelings at bay when things come up unexpectedly.

“The more romantically competent men and women felt more secure in relationships. They also reported making better decisions … They were also better at seeking and providing support to their partners, so they were more willing to ask for what they need and use what their partners give them. And they were better at providing helpful support when needed.” — Joanne Davila, Ph.D.

In conclusion, the more we practice the three skills mentioned above, the more romantically competent we will become in our relationships. And when we’re more emotionally competent, we’re more likely to have healthier and happier relationships.

Do you agree that romantic competence is important in relationships? What other skills do you think are important for a healthy relationship? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA

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