How to choose the partner that’s right for you

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30.05.2018 2015

It wasn’t the first time this question came up during a coaching session, when another one of my clients asked: “How can I make sure I choose the right person?” I began wondering how many people on earth go to sleep with this question in their heads


And it’s an absolutely valid question! Sure, under the idea of romanticism, modern society expects us to follow our gut feeling when choosing a partner. We’re supposed to just know. We’re supposed to choose the one with the ability to make us happy. But as you’re about to read, what we’re attracted to in a romantic partner, might not be a good guide to our personal happiness. Before we get into that, it’s important to understand how human attraction works and what mechanisms are at play when we’re choosing a partner. Among an abundance of psychological theories and countless research studies surrounding romantic love and attraction, there’s one particular mechanism that - if understood - can help you make a mature and healthy decision when choosing a partner:

    • As humans, we’re bound to seek consistency and familiarity

    - it’s simply how our brains work. We strive for consistency and familiarity with so much effort, we usually even prioritize it over happiness.

    What that consistency looks like for a person is defined during childhood. Most of the situations that profoundly influence the way we now seek connection happened so early on in our life, that it’s unlikely we even consciously remember. If you were brought up learning that you are valuable, you’ll likely choose a partner, who treats you consistently with that upbringing. If you grew up surrounded by conflict and drama, then that feels familiar. If you’ve learned that your caregivers frequently ignore your bids for attention, you’re going to gravitate towards a partner with whom you can recreate that sort of familiar reality.

    But even if your upbringing was mostly positive and your caregivers were normally responsive, the feelings experienced during childhood were rarely limited to just affection and care. Parents are only human themselves and even the best ones get tired, hungry and irritable every once in a while. That’s why, inevitably, our template of love is likely to be interwoven with a range of problematic attractions.

    Maybe you find yourself drawn to people who are always slightly distant or the ones you find most interesting frequently turn out to be jerks? At the same time you may discover that you reject certain candidates, who appear to be emotionally intelligent, mature and balanced, but you’re simply not attracted to them? The reason might be that too much maturity feels foreign, so you end up rejecting someone, not because they’re wrong for you, but simply because they’re not what you’re used to.  

    How the heck is that knowledge going to help me find the right partner, you wonder? Well, let’s have a look at a couple of things you can do to optimize your decision making process:

    • Learn about your patterns and liberate yourself from them

    The good new is, that it’s possible to emancipate oneself from learned behaviors and the first step is becoming very clear about one’s patterns. While most of our patterns are unconscious and will remain that way until after years of self reflection with the help of a coach or therapist, you can make first steps right now by starting to explore your inclinations. Sit down with an empty piece of paper on a free afternoon and list all the people you’ve found yourself attracted to over the last couple of years. Try to remember what drew you to them initially, as well as the reasons that led you to not being with that person today. Then think of people, who you’ve rejected, what you found unattractive about them and what they had going for them. Are you starting to notice a pattern?

    Maybe it’s the person, who always calls a day later than they said they would, the one you don’t feel equal to, because you think they’re completely out of your league or it’s the one who seems like they desperately need you to save them from whatever wrong choices they’re making - once you know what kinds of difficult behaviours you’re attracted to, you can start to let go. You will see that the clearer you become about what you consider to be normal, the more you will be able to make the distinction between what you’re drawn to and what you need.

  • Now, I’m not claiming that this process of self discovery is going to be easy (personal growth rarely is), but most certainly it’s going to help you make a more informed decision and is likely going to save you a ton of drama down the line.
    • Give people a chance you don’t think are your type

    After you’ve done some reflecting and discovered the features that you’re attracted to, challenge yourself and try to let go of the attractions that don’t serve you at this point in your life - and then look around to see who else there is! We can love people who are different than our default types, but only if we choose to get to know them

    • Right for what?

    So, who are you looking for? A passionate love affair? A co-parent? A best friend? Someone you’re able to cohabitate with or a lifelong companionship? The right person to backpack through South America with might not be the right person to bring to your yearly family get-togethers. There’s this notion in society that the “good couples” are passionately in love till the last days of their lives and that the “right person” is our best friend, the parent of our children, a loving partner and to top if off, the person we have the best sex of our life with. Just try to grasp the insanity of this and the pressure that puts on our partners and ultimately on ourselves for choosing them!

    Instead of trying to live up to this unrealistic idea of romanticism, think about who you’re really looking for at this stage of your life. Make sure the basics align depending on your situation and just roll with it.

    • Don’t make choices out of fear

    Countless relationships exist today, because a decision was predominantly made out of some kind of fear. Generally the fear that drives people to commit to unhappy relationships is the fear of being alone, but this is different from person to person. Before you enter or hold on to a relationship out of fear, save yourself and that individual from the tremendous resentment that comes with it. Consider being alone for a bit longer and wait for the right partner.

    • Don’t confuse intensity with love

    You may not want to hear it, but the best relationships are usually pretty boring. Yes, all relationships are hard work, and fights are inevitable if two people try to share the most intimate parts of their lives with each other, but overall life as a couple should be rather undramatic. In healthy relationships there’s no one chasing after the other at the airport, no stuff being thrown out the window at 2am and no need for surprise visits at your partner’s office to check if they actually are stuck in late meetings. When choosing a person to be with, don’t confuse drama with being crazy about someone.

    • Are you the right person?

    Instead of constantly asking yourself if this person is the “right” person for you, shift to wondering, if you are the right person for them! What does it mean to be the right person? What if one day you come across someone and are convinced that you two belong together - but they aren’t? What do you have to offer in a relationship? Which are your greatest flaws and what are you doing to work on them? What can you do to make yourself happy, before you off-load your discontent on your partner in a quest to be comforted?

    Now, if you’re still confused, don’t worry. There’s no such thing as a perfect partner for anyone and even with the really good matches it’s impossible to be absolutely sure about wanting to share your life with them. Take your time, be patient and continue to reflect.

    Good luck on your journey!

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