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If you are like me, no one ever sat you down and instructed you on how to choose a life partner. Yet, this is one of the most critical decisions we will ever make in life – with potentially huge repercussions for a less-than-ideal choice. A long-term relationship can be one of the most joyous and fulfilling experiences life has to offer. Although you may not have learned it from your mother, here is what you need to know to choose the life partner who is right for you.
Consider qualities that are important to you
First, become familiar with the qualities that you desire in a partner. It doesn’t matter what they are – what matters is that you are consciously aware of what is important to you. Take some time to reflect, write a list if it helps you, and keep at it until you are clear about what you want. Two qualities you might seriously consider are honesty and openness/flexibility. You need to be able to trust your partner to be straight up with you – about money, preferences, things they are doing, people they are spending time with. In addition, you will want to choose someone who is open to examining themselves, willing to take responsibility for their own behavior, and able to move with the ebbs and flows of life.
Remember these qualities when you are dating
Now that you have developed a list, have the wisdom to use it. We all know how easily we are sidetracked by sexual attraction, the blush of a new romance, relationship melodrama. If what you want is a partner for life, forget romance and be logical and realistic. As you are getting to know your potential partner, take some time to sit by yourself and determine if he or she possesses the qualities you desire. If so, happily continue dating. If not, find the strength within yourself to stay aligned with what you really want, say a kind goodbye, and move on. Abandon hope that things will change in the future. Base your decision on what you are certain of, which is what you know to be true now.
Discuss the big issues
I find myself in disbelief when I hear of newly married couples discovering monumental differences on some of the most essential life choices. Spare yourself this challenge by initiating open discussions about children (if, when, how many), child-rearing, money, work, religion, where to live, and relationships with extended family. The purpose of these discussions is to uncover any fundamental differences between you so you can decide if you want to continue the relationship. Do the research thoroughly, but also realize that priorities and preferences have a way of changing over time. This is why openness and flexibility are important. Learn all you can about your potential mate, and have the courage to walk away if the fit is not right for you.
Find a good friend
Sharing your life with the right partner is a joy. The intensity of the initial attraction will subside, so make sure that the friendship is strong. Do you have common interests? Is your conversation enjoyable and stimulating? Would you choose to spend a free day with this person? If your answer is “yes” to these questions, you have in place an important element that can make your relationship stand the test of time.
Find a lover
You really want the sexual part of your relationship to work, as stumbling in this area can cause great conflict and dissatisfaction. Appetites will change – often once children arrive or hormones begin to dwindle. Start off with sexual compatibility, and you are building a strong foundation now and for the future.
Don’t think that love, or sexual attraction, is enough
How often have you heard, “But I love him?” A long-term relationship involves so much more than love. A successful relationship requires communication and problem-solving skills, the ability to manage your own emotions, patience, selflessness. You end up dealing with child-rearing, balance between work and home life, crises that inevitably arise. Love and sexual attraction are beautiful expressions, but they are not enough for choosing a life partner.
Determine if you can solve problems together
Notice how you disagree, and how you recover from disagreements. If you or your partner defend your own positions, you will have difficulty coming to a resolution. The need to be right limits good communication. Look for, and be, someone who speaks respectfully and is open to other points of view.
Decide if you can accept your potential partner’s idiosyncrasies
We all have them. Ways of being, things we do, that are our personalities and quirks. Take the blinders off, and see with your eyes wide open to determine if the person you are considering is someone you can actually live with on a daily basis. Reflect on their energy level, preference for time alone, desire for social interaction, ways of handling stress, and level of cleanliness. Don’t be caught by the trap of hoping they will change, and don’t fool yourself into believing that something that bothers you now won’t continue to fester over time. People do change, but there is no guarantee. Contemplate within yourself to see if you can accept your potential mate as is.
Know your dealbreakers
Only you can know your bottom line. You deserve to be with someone who is truly interested in making your relationship thrive. If you are mistreated or disrespected in any way, think twice before moving forward. Take very seriously problems such as addiction, large debt, uncontrollable emotions, or severe mental illness. You can have tremendous compassion for people with these issues, but the likelihood of being in a satisfying relationship with them is negligible.
Be an amazing partner
While you are looking, use your time wisely. Reflect within yourself to become aware of the difficulties you might contribute to a relationship. Are you too clingy or afraid of getting close? Are you overly passive or controlling? Do you need to get your own life on track in some important way? Are you attracting, and choosing, people who aren’t right for you? Do you have annoying habits? Are you a grownup, able to make your relationship with a partner a priority over your immediate family? Be happy in your own life, and you will effortlessly bring happiness to others.
In choosing your partner, I’m inviting you to use your head as well as your heart. When you do, you are opening yourself to the possibility for the deepest intimacy and celebration of life. Allow your heart to expand in every direction, and enjoy the journey!
What have you learned about choosing a life partner? I’d love to hear your reactions and experiences.
Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a guest blogger for PickTheBrain. She offers practical and inspiring wisdom for realizing true happiness at her blog A Flourishing Life, focusing on real solutions for self-defeating habits.
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