…what you really should strive for. Yes, I’ll explain in detail what I mean. What you DON’T want, in my humble and experienced opinion, is someone who absolutely needs you to do one or more of the following:
–make them happy
–solve their problems
The above and more are all a recipe for disaster; you do not want to take on a project, play psychologist, slip into Dad’s role with a spoiled princess, change a “bad boy” or clean up the mess someone else left behind. You don’t want a partner who is the equivalent of a puppy who can text you, to quote an unknown comedian who’s shared this brilliant line with the world. And you certainly don’t want a partner who is only in the relationship when they feel like it. None of these things are going to lend themselves to a successful and balanced relationship.
Now, to explain the picture and the title of this blog, here is what Ithink you should be looking for in a partner:
Someone who does not need you,
but wants to be with you because they love you.
This is the key to the foundation to a successful long term relationship. It is by no means a guarantee, as there are plenty of pitfalls and issues that are going to come up along the way. But if you are going to position yourself for a real shot at a healthy 50/50 partnership with someone, I firmly believe this core principal to be vital. Look, we ALL have baggage, PTSD and other remnants of relationships that we drag around with us. We have been programmed by our family dynamics and our other relationships and we need to be aware of this when entering into a new relationship. You need to be self-aware, and you need to understand what your partner’s shortcomings and patterns are as well.
Here is something that seems to be severely lacking these days…patience. I see so many people who are running into a new relationship like they are chasing it down and trying to subdue it. If you feel like the person you are pursuing relationship is going to “get away”, are you really aligning yourself with the right person? How’s this for an idea…TAKE YOUR TIME. Get to know someone for a while, like two years or so, before you take the plunge and move in together or tie the knot. What you need to see is how your partner handles good times and bad, you need to see how they react to tough times, like losing a loved one or getting let go from a job. None of us can hide the crazies forever, so make sure you put in the time to let these things reveal themselves. You’ll want to see them interact with their family, and you’ll want to get to know them as well. If you do not get along with their family, or they have a social “road block” like religious beliefs, for example, you are going to have difficulty with this for a long time.
Do you really want to sit in a family gathering swallowing your words or worse yet arguing with people about the same thing(s) you did the last time you were all together? While you are choosing a partner to spend MOST of your time with, you need to consider these things as well. They WILL factor in to the overall happiness of your relationship.
So, what does this sound like so far? Maybe similar to a business partnership instead of a relationship? Good, you are seeing it the way I do. When I say a 50/50 partnership, I mean it. One of you cannot bear the weight of everything in the relationship and think that is going to work. If one of you works and the other doesn’t, that is fine, but you’d better find a way to make sure that things FEEL equal. A partner who runs the household, takes care of the kids but doesn’t earn a dime is still an equal partner. That person allows the other to focus on making money for the household which is a huge help. This is just one example, but it would be easy to see how if you married someone who had tons of money and you didn’t do anything that really contributes to the relationship how easily that could be a point of resentment. This is certainly going to weigh in on the overall relationship and impact the long term success chances.
This is the reason I never recommend marriage before the age of 30. Yes, you read that right…and here’s why. You are going to go through so much transformation between ages 20 and 30 that you won’t believe how the former version of you thought and acted. I barely recognize the “me” of ten years ago. The same will be true for your partner, and the odds of you staying aligned, having the same values and desires when starting out that young, is slim. It is not impossible, but it is tougher for sure. I am speaking from experience on this one. I was very self involved at this stage of my life; I was pursuing my own dream of being a pro racquetball player, and I was not going to let anything stand in the way of that. I ended the relationship with my college girlfriend when she decided to move to Hawaii right after college for a job opportunity. As much as she begged and pleaded with me to come with her, I knew I could not continue my Pro Tour pursuits from the islands. I wouldn’t likely have adequate competition to continue to improve, and of course, being 4 hours from the mainland where all the tournaments were was not going to allow me to go to every Tour event all season long.
If you ask the question “was I really in love with her if I was willing to give up on that relationship?”, I understand that line of thinking. I get it, we are all conditioned to think with our hearts and “fight for love”. Sounds charming, but color me a realist instead of a romantic. Don’t get me wrong, I go to great lengths at times to be romantic for my wife, but this relationship is easy. It is so much better BECAUSE of the fact that I waited until I was ready and mature enough to be a partner. It is easy BECAUSE of the person my wife is; she doesn’t need me, but she does want me in her life. We have chosen not to have kids, so that is the easier path for sure. Neither of us wanted kids, so this is not a compromise. She makes her own money, and we have the same thoughts on finances and money goals, including paying our house off very soon. All of this was discussed very early in our dating days, and because we were aligned in all of these areas, we continued forward.
I was in love with her right away, but we didn’t get married for five years. We were both very much in love with one another, so A. there was no reason to rush, and B. I have watched far too many friends make this same error and I was not about to follow in their footsteps. We didn’t move in together until the one year mark, despite both of us thinking we were ready before that. After moving in with her, I kept all of my stuff in storage for another year before I got rid of all of it. To you this may seem like I had one foot out the door, or that I wasn’t really “all in” into the relationship, but I disagree. I was making sure, for both of our sake’s, that this was going to last. If it wasn’t, I was not going to be influenced by the idea that I had limited choices or would be starting over if I moved out. I made it easy for me to leave if I chose to, and because things were as good as they were (are), I had zero doubt that us moving into a new home together was the right thing for us to do. This is not always the right thing for everyone, but for us, collectively, we decided this was the right course of action.
In case you are not paying attention to the underlying themes here, please allow me to spoon feed it to you:
You need to be as close to fully self aware as possible (this takes a lot of work, roll up your sleeves and get to digging)
Picking a partner who is following this same thought is critical (alignment is key)
The is no substitute for good, open communication (this is the basis of any good working relationship in your life)
You MUST be realistic in evaluating all facets of your relationship (great sex is never enough)
Factoring in every part of the overall package deal is important as well (you can’t check every box, but you better have a check mark next to a majority of the things on your list)
You cannot get married to fix yourself or fill in gaps that were left by someone else. You cannot marry someone to solve their problems either; if you want things to work, you need to be ready to be a partner. This means, in my book anyway, that you are well aware of your issues and are working diligently to minimize/resolve them as soon as possible. This means your partner is doing the same. A successful relationship takes work on the individual level to give the partnership a shot at working. If one of you is a spender and the other a saver, better get on a budget that the two of you can agree upon and stick to. If not, you’ll be doing the most common thing in a marriage, which is fighting about money. This can literally make or break the relationship, as it amplifies into other sensitive areas like your partner feeling like they are ignored in their opinions or priorities. Good luck with that downward spiral…
Once you enter into a good partnership for a long term, now that needs work too. You have to approach the relationship like a project that needs constant maintenance in several ways. It needs emotional support, fun, excitement, romance and consistency. It needs love, trust, forgiveness and patience, far more than you ever expected. My relationship seems easy compared to most if not all of my friends, and
I would attribute this to two main things:
1. Constant communication
2. A deep understanding of myself, my issues, and my partner and her issues
We all have baggage, and as a wise friend of my once said: “you need to find a brand of crazy you can deal with”.Since every damn one of us is some brand of crazy, this is your best bet for long term success. We are complicated beings, and navigating this road is a truly individual endeavor, but a very worthwhile one when you find the right person. I highly recommend it…
There was a famous study done a long time ago called the Stanford Marshmallow Test, and basically what is was supposed to help determine was a child’s ability to delay gratification and how this outlook […]