By Tracy Fromm, Mental Health Counselor for Caring Communities
Love relationships are a challenge for everyone. Human beings innately have a need for love, to be cared for and to experience affection and sex. When we see couples who are together and they look happy, we sometimes have feelings of envy or sadness and desire that for ourselves. However, no intimate relationship is trouble-free. The initial attraction to someone is alluring, but as time goes on, we begin to experience our significant other in a new light and discover traits/behaviors that can certainly be surprising.
For example, we may find, after three months of dating, anger issues which were initially hidden or overlooked. We may also begin to notice our new “love” is more than just a social drinker if he/she spends every weekend binge drinking. It makes sense and is very important to be discerning when meeting potential partners. Certainly, everyone experiences conflict in their relationships at one time or another. Whether you are currently married, are separated, or are looking for that “right” person, it is difficult to sustain a lasting relationship.
The key is to avoid potential disasters in the future through some self-analysis. We need to ask ourselves: What should I be looking for in another individual? What do I want? What are my needs?
During periods when relationships are going smoothly, it is easy to overlook behaviors. As time continues, however, and we experience conflict, our relationships are not as “rosy” as they seem.
What are the qualities we should look for in a partner?
Let’s be honest, people are sometimes impulsive in choosing a partner and for various reasons. Perhaps we have just ended a relationship and are uncomfortable being alone? We may shy away from creating a mental list of desirable traits in a mate because it seems too analytical to dissect a love relationship. Many have a desire to be “swept away”, such as in a scene from the movie, Sleepless in Seattle. However, it helps us to know what characteristics we truly want in a mate. Perhaps we have seen traits in other people that we admired. There is a tendency to rationalize behaviors when meeting someone, believing bad behaviors will “disappear” later, or that we will be able to “change” that person. Unfortunately, after some time and much angst we regret ever getting involved.
First: One of the qualities we should look for in a partner is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself “into another person’s shoes” and understand what they are feeling. Psychology makes note of mental health disorders whose key features denote “lacking empathy” in individuals, such as narcissistic personality disorder. Someone with this type of disorder will never develop natural empathy toward others, no matter how hard you pray or attempt to instill by example. In the long run, a partner who exhibits empathy will be more likely to understand you during an argument because he/she will be able to understand what you are feeling and in other situations as well.
Second: Another key point is looking for someone with a sense of humor. We assume everyone has a funny bone and likes to laugh. But that is not necessarily the case. Some people have no sense of humor and if you are an individual who laughs and sees the irony in most things, this could be a problem down the road. There are also different types of humor. What is funny to one person may not be funny to another.
Third: Choose friendship. For example, getting involved with someone who has been a friend to you, or the core of the relationship is one of friendship. This is a good base from which to grow on an emotional level. On those days when you feel animosity toward your partner, you can remember the things about them which you liked in the first place and the friendship will remain intact.
Fourth: Look for someone who has a willingness to talk through conflicts. Many people “shut down” and are uncomfortable to discuss their feelings. There are those who actively participate in the “silent treatment” toward partners. This is a form of abuse and experiencing this repeatedly is hurtful, unnecessary, and will eventually destroy a relationship.
In part two, we will continue to explore the ways to obtain emotional intimacy and connection in selecting a life partner.