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Each day leading up to Valentine’s Day, we’ll share a post in our Love, You series emphasizing your own personal growth in all your life’s relationships — regardless of their status. Here’s to finding warmth and wisdom in every moment on the journey, and learning to love yourself more along the way.
My clients often ask me, “How can I know that my partner is the right one for me?
You have to start with knowing why you want to be in a relationship, and when it comes down to it, there are only two reasons people do this:
1. To get love, security, validation, and safety, or to have a child. Someone to complete you — to fill your emptiness and make you feel adequate and worthy.
2. To share love and companionship, and to grow emotionally and spiritually.
You need to BE the right partner before you can know if you’re with the right partner. That means you need to learn to love yourself, define your own worth, and fill yourself with love to share, rather than pursuing external validation. Ask yourself, “Am I filled with love to share, or am I needy and desperate to get love?”
If your intent is to get love rather than share love, then it’s likely that no relationship will ultimately be right for you. You have some internal work to do before anyone will be the right partner for you.
You don’t need to be “perfect” at loving yourself, but you do need to be working on learning to take responsibility for your own feelings of worth, adequacy, and safety.
If you fall into the second category (wanting to be in a relationship to give love and to grow), then ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is the person you’re with open to learning about themselves and about you?
Being open to learning how to love yourself and others — rather than being closed and defensive — is essential for sustaining a loving relationship. Partners cannot resolve conflict without being open to learning. The question to ask yourself is, “What does this person do in conflict?”
Some people can appear to be open and loving until a conflict occurs and then they get angry, withdrawn, resistant, or overly compliant. If they do close up, how long does it take them to open again? Obviously, if they get emotionally or physically abusive, they are not the right partner for you.
Being open to lovingly resolving conflict is essential for perpetuating a loving relationship.
2. Is your partner capable of caring, compassion, empathy, and acceptance for who you are?
If you find that your partner is incapable of feeling empathy, then he or she isn’t the right partner for you. A lack of empathy is one of the signs of narcissism.
3. Do you feel a basic spark of attraction? Do you like to be near this person? Do you like their smell?
If you do not feel physically attracted to this person within the first six months of the relationship, it’s likely an attraction will not develop. This person might be a good friend but not a romantic partner.
4. Does this person have a compulsion to win and be right?
This is the opposite of being open to learning and does not bode well for a relationship.
5. Do you share interests?
Can you do certain things together, or is there no overlap in what you like to spend your time doing?
6. Do you have common religious and political values?
Do you agree on topics like spending, parenting, eating, fitness, neatness, and punctuality?
7. Does this person have any addictions that you find intolerable?
Alcohol? Prescription or recreational drugs? Food? Sex addiction and/or porn? Gambling? Shopping or spending? TV, Internet, or video games?
When we love someone deeply, we love their essence — who they really are. But we all have an ego-wounded self, and the worst version of your partner needs to be tolerable to you. Don’t expect them to change. You get what you see.
If, when you go through this list, you find there are things that are not tolerable but you keep hoping they’ll change, you’re not with the right partner. You need to accept or leave. Expecting change will only lead to heartbreak.
Remember, you need to be the right partner to find the right partner. We attract at our common level of emotional well-being — self-abandonment or self-love. The better you are at loving yourself, the better your chance of attracting and sustaining a loving relationship.