Written By: Dr. Gloria Lee, Registered Psychologist
“How do I find the ‘right one’?”
I often get asked this question from people who are single, dating, divorced, had a string of unsuccessful relationships, considering engagement, or contemplating re-marriage.
So, what is the best relationship advice I can give to someone who’s trying to find the right partner and create a happy, healthy, long-term relationship?
Before I answer them, I usually ask what they are looking for in a partner. The answer is typical. “I want someone who is… (fill in the blank).” E.g., tall, educated, has a good job, pretty, smart, funny, rich, athletic, dresses well, kind, caring, from a good family…. You get the picture.
Unfortunately, none of these things will help you attain a close and connected lifelong bond.
This is what I say will help instead:
1. Look for the real, not for the ideal.
Focusing on the ideal is akin to finding a partner who will look polished and beautiful first thing in the morning when they wake up. Unless your partner is Barbie or Ken, the ideal doesn’t exist.
People are much more complex than a list of desirable traits. At our best, we can be caring, kind, and loving. At our worse, we can be irritable, gossipy, and jerkish. We all have our good days and our bad days, you included. This is the human experience.
When you look for the ideal, you are setting yourself up for failure. Your shiny new partner will ultimately disappoint when they start to show their “human” side.
Furthermore, the ideal doesn’t allow for either partner to be real and let their guard down because of the fear of not being good enough and disappointing the other.
2. Take your list and become this list.
Don’t ask for something that you are not. That’s hypocritical. You need to be a good partner to attract a good partner. Whatever you’re looking for in a partner, make sure you have those qualities first. If not, start developing them. If it’s impossible to be all those things on your list, you are correct. Perfection doesn’t exist. Progress does.
What actually makes for a happy long-term relationship is more about WHO YOU ARE and how you aspire to learn and grow throughout the years to be the best partner rather than finding someone who checks off your list.
You’ve been an individual all your life, so learning how to be partners will take practice, intentionality, and consistency. We all suck at it, at first. That’s reality. But if we work at it long enough, we’ll achieve mastery over time.
3. If you must make a list, then make a list of questions.
These are questions that could help you determine if you can get along with this person long-term. Here are some examples:
- What were their relationships like with their caregivers growing up?
- How do they handle stress?
- How do they deal with conflict?
- How do they receive feedback?
- Are they able to laugh at themselves?
- How do they take care of themselves?
- What do they value and how do these values align with their daily life?
- Do they give more than they receive?
Note: you may want to ask yourself these same questions. Remember, to find a good partner, you must first be a good partner. Focus on these three areas and you just might find the “right one” someday soon.
To learn more about the key principles and practices of becoming a close and connected couple, click here.