Before I got married, I had dating down to a science.
I knew where to meet people. I had an excellent online profile. I had the clothes I needed to impress a man, and I was an excellent conversationalist.
What I did not have was a understanding of what I was looking for. I just wanted to be wanted. I just wanted to impress someone. I wanted a handsome man on my arm. I wanted a lot of things, but I had no real conception of what would make me happy.
I was not dating with purpose.
Dating with purpose is reserved for those who are making a concerted effort to find out if there is enough compatibility to sustain a healthy relationship: a relationship that includes romantic love and excitement, but also involves getting along and having a shared desire to build a future together. In other words, dating with purpose is like interviewing someone for the most important role in his or her life as your partner.
Dating with purpose is not easy. It takes effort, patience, self-discipline, and the wisdom of others who have gone through this process themselves and been successful.
For those of us who wish to find someone with whom to share the rest of our lives, dating with purpose is essential. I have created the following list of qualities one should look for in a relationship with a potential life partner.
May it be of benefit.
20 Traits of a Quality Relationship:
1. Honesty that engenders trust.
Our greatest contentment comes from loving someone that we can also trust. Keep an eye on this. Even little things count. Honesty means being truthful and transparent. It is not honesty if you withhold information that affects the relationship.
2. Readiness for a relationship on the part of both partners.
This means maturity. We need to be with someone who understands how a relationship really works and is not wrapped up in idealistic fairytales or is just interested in staying around for the honeymoon. An important way to tell if someone is ready for a healthy relationship is to determine whether they have worked through (or are in the process of working through) issues from childhood or previous relationships—issues that most of us have in some form or another.
3. The ability to negotiate or compromise.
In a modern relationship, compromise is imperative. Sometimes, this means finding middle ground. Sometimes, it means accepting the other person’s terms. Regardless, the willingness to negotiate must start in the beginning of the relationship and continue throughout its lifespan—and according to Judith Sills in A Fine Romance, this should include a sit-down conversation before marriage.
This means both partners know who they are and what they want. We often don’t start out being self-aware. We often neglect ourselves and focus on others. In a mature relationship, we understand ourselves and what we want. Then we stick to our guns and look for this in a relationship before we commit.
This means both partners feel good about themselves and are able to engage as equals. If we don’t have it, we might let our partner dominate us, losing sight of ourselves in the process. Before we are ready for a relationship, we must actively work to esteem ourselves (practicing self-love is an important part of this). Added bonus: our own self-esteem will attract a better quality partner.
6. Communication skills.
Communication is a major topic in relationships. Good communication means asking for what you want, but not being addicted to getting it. It means fighting fair: expressing your opinion without attacking the other person. It means reporting your real feelings and saying what you mean, instead of beating around the bush. And good communication would not be complete without listening.
7. Sexual compatibility.
This means similar values and preferences. Sex is not the most important thing, but it can be a deal breaker. If one likes to experiment and the other partner doesn’t, someone will end up feeling rejected. This is also true if one partner simply wants more time spent in the bedroom than the other.
8. Inner child recognition.
There should be a recognition of the fact that there are four people in the relationship: two adults and two children—one inner child per adult.
This means understanding that we might trigger childhood wounds in each other, so we must be able to to articulate what those are and create sensitivity strategies together. It means that rituals from your family of origin might need to be re-negotiated, that you’ll need to create new rituals as a couple. Finally, it means that the wounded inner child must be kept in check. In other words, love your inner child, but don’t give him or her the keys to the car.
9. Similar (but not necessarily identical) values.
Sharing similar values about such issues as money, monogamy, and parenting is important when determining if someone is a good potential match. More people divorce over money than anything else, so we must be able to talk openly about our financial goals and habits. One partner should not believe in monogamy while the other hopes to entertain side flings. When it comes to the children, it will be easier if you both agree on the parenting style, as this can avoid needless conflict within the whole family system. You don’t have to agree about everything—just what’s most important to you.
10. Patience and tolerance.
Patience is one of those things that comes and goes. We are all human, and no one will be calm and understanding in all situations. But we can take steps to actively cultivate patience in ourselves, and seek out this quality in a partner. We should also work to practice tolerance for the unimportant things (we absolutely shouldn’t tolerate neglect and abuse—get out if those begin to appear!).
11. Acceptance of the ordinary.
It is important to accept the fact that there will be days when the relationship seems very ordinary—even boring. Many people tend to have an “all or nothing” mentality: they either want a relationship to be exciting all the time or else not at all. Conversely, others end up living with unbearable pain instead of moving on (see number 5). Healthy relationships are sometimes lukewarm—and both parties need to understand that.
12. The willingness to choose “influencing” instead of “controlling.”
This means that after saying something once, they let it go. It also means that they choose to display their values by acting as a role-model, rather than nagging you (or others) to change.
13. Personality boundaries.
This is especially important if you feel like losing yourself in the other person. Codependents have no boundaries and neglect themselves. Love avoidants have rigid boundaries and won’t let you in. What we need is someone who let us in, but knows when they need some space to take care of themselves. Healthy relationships are like a dance. You come together and pull apart as the relationship unfolds.
14. Devotion and quality time.
How can an intimate relationship feel good if we aren’t special to each other? Devotion means choosing to spend special time with our partner so we feel each other’s devotion. It means pulling out the calendar and making dates. It means lovingly sitting down together after a hard day of work. It means sometimes putting our partner ahead of others things we want to do—and appreciating it when our partner does the same for us. It means remembering things like birthdays and anniversaries.
15. Knowing when to stay and when to leave.
This means staying when things are going well (and you feel like running), and being willing to let go of the relationship if it is unhealthy. This is going to take some effort if you have a history of ambivalence. Make a decision to stay involved if things are going well most of the time. Make the decision that you will leave if there is any sign of abuse.
16. A sense of ease and compatibility.
It is also important to have “ease” in a relationship—while at the same time, understanding that no relationship is perfect or easy all the time. Compatibility comes from both sharing similar traits and from having tolerance and patience (see number 10) for your partner’s differences. Nothing is more rewarding than compatibility. I used to look for romance alone, and it never worked out long-term. Then I fell in love with a man because all we did was laugh and get along—and we are still together.
17. A willingness to face your problems.
Problems come up in every relationship. Love avoidants want to run for the hills, while others might overreact and start a big fight. We should look for someone who will stick around and discuss what’s wrong, and then is willing to work as a team to come up with a plan to fix it.
A sense of reciprocity, or “give and take,” is critical to a healthy relationship. We must be willing to make sacrifices now and then. If you are a people-pleaser or have narcissistic qualities, this will be strange to you. The hallmark of a healthy relationship is being with someone who can give us as much as we give them.
19. Realistic expectations about happiness.
Each person must have realistic expectations for how happiness should come from the relationship: not too much, and not too little. We tend to romanticize relationships because of the happy endings we see in so many movies, but life is not like this. The majority of our happiness should come from a healthy relationship with ourselves. We should also have friendships and family relationships that bring us happiness. The rest can come from our partner. The key is finding the balance here: we can’t depend on our relationship for too much happiness and we should not settle for too little.
These guidelines worked for me, and today I am happily in a partnership with Frank. He is not who I was looking for until I realized what was really going to make me happy over a lifetime. I started dating with purpose, and I found my man.
Author: Susan Peabody
Image: Jeremy Wong/Unsplash
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina