Do you know what the “right partner” would look like if you met him/her today? What specific qualities are important to you in a romantic partner?
Most people don’t take the time to think about what they need in a romantic relationship (or in a partner) until they are already in a relationship, or until they are dealing with a relationship that doesn’t work. Before you jump back into the dating world (or if you’re already there, step back for just a few minutes….and) take the time to ask yourself: “What do I need or want in a partner?”
Defining the type of person you want to be with is a little like making a shopping list before you head out to the grocery store. It streamlines the process, keeps you from making random choices, and helps you to not waste time. To start, grab a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. This piece of paper will become your “these are the qualities I must have in my new partner” personal shopping list. Does the person’s age or physical appearance matter? What about their ethnicity or cultural background? Are they sensitive, inquisitive, strong-willed, or easy-going? Are they sexy or fun? Do they share any of your key life values?
In the left column, list partner characteristics that first come to mind. This list can be as long as you want. Then, in the right column, select the 15 qualities (no more, no less!) that you would like in a romantic partner. These are the characteristics that are a priority to you and they need to be very precise. For example, saying you would like someone “pretty,” “tall,” “handsome,” or “funny” is far too general. Instead, write down exactly what these words mean to you. If “tall” means “at least 5 feet 10 inches,” write that down. If “funny” means having a dry sense of humor, telling jokes, or being witty—be that specific. Remember, you need to limit the right side qualities to only 15 specific qualities, so make sure you prioritize.
Why do you need such a detailed list? It’s important to be specific because qualities like “funny,” “being good with children,” or “tall” mean something different to each and every one of us. Being specific will push you to reflect and think about which qualities you really want in a partner and which ones don’t matter at all. Making a specific list will also allow you to recognize and identify if someone you meet has the qualities you are looking for.
For example, if you have the word “successful” on your list, this could mean that you want someone with a “good respectable job.” It could also mean that your partner has a lot of friends, is happy with his or her life and job, or is optimistic about the future and has a clear set of goals and accomplishments. These are all very different definitions of the word “successful,” and, depending on which definition you go with, you’ll end up with very different people who would possess very different qualities. The big message here is that being specific makes you question the true qualities you want in a partner.
Once you have your list of qualities, share your list with a friend or family member. Use your friends or family as a sounding board, get their reactions and comments, and then revise your list accordingly. Listen to their feedback about why a specific quality may not be best for you. After your revisions are complete, keep your list close to you so you can read, review, and revise it regularly. Also, bear in mind that your list of desired qualities may change over time.
Once you start dating, your list will become an invaluable tool; it will remind you to make sure that your needs and desires are being met. Instead of worrying about what your date thinks of you, as you might have done before reading this article, your list will help you to determine if Ms. or Mr. Right will make you happy, and if he or she has your best interests at heart. You are looking for a potential partner who meets about 80 percent of these qualities (12 out of 15 qualities), as a better-matched partner is more likely to make you happy in a relationship. And most importantly, remember that as you date, no person is perfect and can match all of what you want or need in a partner. The list of 15 qualities requires you to prioritize what you desire in a partner.
Question: why 15 Qualities?
Answer: I’ve been studying the same 746 individuals for over 30 years now. It is a long-term research project, funded by the National Institute of Health. I started in 1986 following these people over time! One thing I’ve found is that when people identify specific qualities they need in a partner, they are significantly more likely to find love/relationship (again someone who matches about 12/15 qualities, 80% of the qualities). There’s something about the process of identifying those qualities (spending time thinking), writing the qualities down, and getting feedback from others on those qualities – that intensifies and strengthens who and what you need in a romantic partner (and ultimately then influences putting yourself out there, looking at others in a new way, and finding someone who matches what you need!). Also, it takes the focus off of “selling” you to others, and puts the attention on you and what you want!