What I really want in a partner…
I keep reading articles about relationship red flags to look for in your partner. There are lists of things NOT to do in a relationship, or people to avoid. These articles catalog ways to know if your partner is not into you, or is narcissistic, or just biding time. It makes sense to me that we want to know the danger that awaits us in our relationships because our brains are wired for a negative bias. We are on alert to see what signs are out there in the ether so that we can protect ourselves and survive.
There are not a lot of articles that suggest looking for what is right, rather than what is wrong. My therapist often nudges me to “ask for what I want.” I tend to frame things in terms of what I DON’T want. When I change my thinking to look for the good in others, the things that are working well, the ways that you are turning towards me, I am more likely to be unconsciously cued to see the very thing I long for in you.
It’s me, AND it’s you!
What exactly is it that I long for in my partner? What are the behaviors that invite me to be present and engaged in our relationship? And why do these behaviors make a difference? Let me be clear: I am not talking about a perfect, nirvana-centric connection, that never falters. I am talking about the ways that we aspire to be our better selves and put that energy of positive, connective joy into the space between us. When we do this, I feel safe, capable of being vulnerable, and open to trying things in new ways. I am more curious, more flexible, and more at ease in our relationship.
My recipe for my dream relationship includes a partner who:
1. Looks for ways to resolve differences
Having a partner, who is quickly and easily resolves differences means that it is okay for us to take turns, have different opinions, trust that sometimes I get what I want and sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes we compromise. Couples researcher, John Gottman says that 67% of the differences between us are unresolvable- and that is the good news. Having differences helps us to differentiate from one another. Differences are not the same as right and wrong. My way is mine and yours is yours. We can hold them simultaneously. When we differ, we look for ways to meet.
2. Lets you know how attractive you are
My partner lets me know in a million ways that he wants me and finds me to be attractive. He initiates tender touch, sweet humorous innuendos, and sexy references. He looks at me with desire; you know that look. He welcomes me into his arms when I initiate contact. He tells me I am beautiful and that I have the softest skin. He plays with my hair and rubs my feet. He appreciates my availability to him. He validates my desires.
3. Tells you what they want and feel
I want my partner to directly ask for what he wants. While it is not always going to happen when and how one expects, it is critical to ask. Asking for what you want suggests that you know what you want. Asking goes a long way towards knowing, and that begins to be the basis of being known by your partner. The same is true regarding feelings. When she clearly says I am angry, disappointed, sad, lonely, elated, ecstatic, or satisfied, you become tuned to her expression of her emotions. We are better able to understand emotions that are articulated over those that are off-loaded on to us.
4. Shares in the load
Often, I hear the complaint of unequal burden of household tasks falling on one person in the relationship. Perhaps it is a generational bias. While I wholeheartedly support that tasks should be shared, some things are easier to do than others. My partner is an ardent gardener and will happily mow the lawn each week. I will die before I mow a lawn. We each do our own laundry-because I am picky about my laundry. I do most of the cooking. He does a tremendous amount of the cleanup. Is it equitable? Probably not. But when he has a busy week or extra concerns, I am happy to pick up the slack. When I need extra support, he shows up to listen, take care of things I need to set down and offer alternatives when I ask. Sharing the load acknowledges that things are not always balanced, and we take turns as needed.
5. Has resources, beyond you, to manage challenges
Partners who have a plan for what they need are more available to support you when you ask for help. Self-care is the only successful path to relationship resiliency. You cannot tend the space between us if you are working from your reserves. When I eat good food, get enough sleep, spend the right amount of time with good people, I am more likely to show up as my better self when it comes to the care and tending of us. A partner who practices good self-care knows what things are appropriate to bring to me and what things may require an outside expert, family member, or friend.
6. Is sensitive to your vulnerabilities
Caring, attuned partners recognize your vulnerabilities and move softly and gently about them. They are conscious of their word choice and body language. They notice response cues. They check in to see if you are still present and able to engage. Sensitive partners can pause and move at the pace that is best for the most vulnerable person. They slow down and trust that what needs to be said and done will happen in good time.
7. Makes you and the relationship their Number 1 priority
A partner who makes tending to the relationship the Number 1 priority, after self-care, understands that we are better together. All else comes after this imperative. Work demands, friends, family of origin, hobbies, interests, mind-numbing scrolling are all second to the connection between us. And it is clearly demonstrated through eye contact and the act of doing one thing at a time. When he sets down his phone and physically turns to me, I know that he is making us the priority. When I ask for his opinions about how we spend money, time, or energy, he knows that I want what is best for us.
8. Seeks to reconnect after ruptures
A partner who want to be connected more than she needs to be right will work towards repair when things go off the tracks. Having a system of time outs or a reset button is valuable. Repairing ruptures means being willing to say: “Let’s try that again.” “I think I can do that better.” “That is not actually what I meant to say or do.” “Can we reset?” “I can see that my words upset you, help me understand why.” “You may be right.” “I may be wrong.” Making the space between stimulus and response big enough to be thoughtfully receptive and not so great as to activate abandonment is the key. Return to the scene as soon as you both can and try to do it with the goal of understanding the other person. When we are against each other we are not together.
9. Understands you from your perspective
A person who wants to take the time to hear and understand is a treasure! Being seen and heard are at the heart of being understood. And being understood is the very soul of being loved. He can communicate in the language that you speak. The more you know about his ways of being, thinking, feeling, and sensing, the more you will truly empathically understand him as he understands themself. Walking in your partner’s world, learning about how she came to have particular beliefs, practices, and certainties shifts you away from seeing your partner through the lens of your beliefs, experience and understanding and towards hers. Real connection is based on real understanding. When the connection feels weak, be curious. Wonder what it is that you do not know that is preventing you from understanding your beloved.
10. Expresses their appreciation for things you say and do!
Verbally expressing appreciation on a consistent basis brings things we think about each out into the space between us. When you appreciate him, your partner feels seen, validated and motivated to do these things more. If you do nothing else to change your way of being in your relationship, try exchanging just one daily appreciation with mirroring and a hug. It will take all of five minutes and will be transformational!
“Are you available to receive an appreciation?”
“One thing I appreciate about you today…” (Your partner mirrors what is said.)
“When you do (or say)…I feel…”
“Thank you for being you!!”
Switch, repeat and end with a ONE MINUTE (longest minute in the world!) silent HUG.
What we really want…
What we most deeply long for is to be loved. If you would be loved, be more loving and lovable. If you are bringing these traits to your relationship, chances are your partner will meet you there and stretch and grow with you. This vision of our relationship is always sitting before us, urging us towards greater safety, consistent warmth, and reliable attunement. This is the connected relationship that brings out the best in me.
Learn more about yourself and your relationships, join us for an Imago event:
Getting the Love You Want Workshop May 15-16
Keeping the Love You Find workshop Aug 28-29