We have all made one. You know what I am talking about. THE LIST.
The one that we’ve made when we are single and looking for our next relationship. The one that has every quality and characteristic of our ideal mate. Perhaps if you are one of those few who actually haven’t made one, you have at least imagined what your ideal mate would be like at some point in your life.
To be honest, dating after creating one can tend to be quite disappointing because these lists tend to be unrealistic and the majority of people just don’t walk around having so many idealistic qualities all wrapped up in one person. So, we all eventually find someone who has at least some of those qualities…or at least probably none of our major deal-breakers.
Now, while you may have been great at listing the qualities (smart, funny, spontaneous) and characteristics (attractive, very tall) you were looking for, you maybe had not even given a thought about something that is perhaps much more important: what you are REALLY looking for in this relationship.
What do I mean by that?
Well, ask yourself the following:
- Why do you want to be in a relationship?
- What are you hoping being in one will bring to your life?
- Are you going in with expectations or needs you are hoping your partner will fulfill?
In all honesty, we are social animals and it is natural, healthy, and normal to want to connect with others and to not feel alone.
Most adults want to be in a partnership with another person and seek one out. But there can be problems when someone goes into a relationship with expectations of their partner to fulfill and provide for them the things that, quite frankly, they need to be able to provide for themselves.
Let me explain so this makes more sense.
There are people who are very independent. They rely solely on themselves to take care of the vast majority of their needs. Independent people have their own friends, interests, are responsible for their own self-care and self-esteem, mental health, and overall well-being.
Now, while people who are independent seem to be able to fulfill all of their needs, they actually can’t. There are just some that actually require being in relation with another person in order to be fulfilled. This is where interdependence comes in.
In a healthy relationship, because both people are independently fulfilling their own needs as mentioned above, they come into a relationship to get their sexual and emotional connection needs met. These needs simply cannot be met independently.
However, problems in relationships often arise when one partner is feeling like the sexual and/or emotional connection is not being met.
More often than not, people tend not to speak up right away when they feel deprived sexually or emotionally. They hold in their feelings, which can lead to them trying to communicate through passive-aggressive behaviors (i.e. not feeling emotionally connected and therefore withholding affection or sex), arguing, feeling resentful, or ultimately breaking up.
And then there are some people who come into relationships who appear to be independent in many ways, but actually are not. While they may have a career and friends and interests when they first meet someone, they really are coming into the relationship with expectations of their partner to fulfill needs that they really aren’t meeting on their own.
For instance, some people come into a relationship heavily invested in their partner and in the relationship providing them happiness and meaning in their life. Or, they really don’t feel financially stable and are looking to their partner to ultimately provide them with this and a feeling of safety and security that they just don’t feel on their own. Others may expect their partner to be “everything” to them: lover, best friend, confidante, cheerleader, mentor, etc…
All of the above are examples of codependent relationships whereby someone is expecting their partner to fulfill needs that they really need to be fulfilling themselves.
When their partners are unable or can’t fulfill all of these needs, they get hurt, angry, and resentful. Likewise, their partner can feel resentful because of the expectation and pressure they feel.
So, while there seems to be so much focus and attention on the qualities and characteristics people are looking for in a partner, there really also needs to be attention placed on how to actually have and maintain a healthy and happy relationship with someone. Even if you were to find that unicorn out there that has every quality and characteristic on your list, ask yourself if you are going into a relationship with too many unfair expectations and needs of your partner.
Creating and having a healthy relationship really is all about responsibility.
When both people in the relationship are taking responsibility for their own needs and well-being, then there is a healthier relationship. So much of your well-being comes from outside of the relationship you are in. Think friends, outside hobbies and interests, and doing things that bring you happiness and a sense of purpose and meaning in your life. While spending time with your partner can bring you happiness and fulfillment, you need to be able to find happiness in your life whether you are in a relationship or not. It cannot be your only source of that.