08/01/2007 04:56 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The 1-Minute Therapist -- The Important Difference Between Romance and Intimacy

A year or so ago I read this fascinating article in The New York Times which forever stayed with me. It was all about the psychology of evil -- and at the time it reminded me of my then-boyfriend!

The article highlighted what it called The Psychopath Checklist -- a helpful list criminal psychiatrists use to test the potential of someone being a hardcore psychopath capable of committing repeated evil and violent crimes.

Guess which traits psychopaths share: glibness, extreme charm, feelings of high self-worth, pathological lying, proneness to boredom, need to always be doing something and emotional unavailability.

Ahem! All these adjectives reminded me a lot of that then-boyfriend, who was an adorably charismatic, fun, active, cocky guy -- but in the end turned out to be a lying cheater!

The lesson to be learned: the most important trait to look for in a partner is not sexiness, funniness -- an entertaining personality - but (UBER-AHEM!) good, strong character values.

Charles Manson, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini are all very passionate and intelligent guys -- with charismatic personalities for sure -- BUT that doesn't mean I should date them..

What all this comes down to is: there's a huge difference between romance and intimacy.

Romance is about personality.

Intimacy is about character.

Romance is about the lure of chemistry, gliibness, charm -- your socialized self playing with somebody else's socialized self - and thereby superficial and not necessarily long lasting.

Intimacy is about connecting soul-to-soul, character-to-character -- sharing your real authentic self with someone else's real authentic self -- and thereby is what is most necessary for a solid, long-lasting relationship.

Basically...romance is all that flashy immediate gratification stuff -- like yummy expensive candlelight dinners, luxurious bubble baths -- but when the last bubble pops -- who is that person lying totally naked next to you in a plain porcelain tub?

This naked porcelain tub person is the authentic person who you either have -- or don't have -- shared intimacy and connection with -- soul-to-soul, character-to-character!

And I believe that character matters most because character -- not our personality -- is most in charge of our lives.

Character -- not personality -- is ALWAYS the true chooser of all our actions and decisions!

Character -- not personality -- will choose how a person behaves/misbehaves at times of stress, crisis, temptation, sadness, monetary-challenges, illness, vulnerability, misunderstandings.

And what creates all divorce in this country? How people behave/misbehave at times of stress, crisis, temptation, sadness, monetary-challenges, illness, vulnerability, misunderstandings.

So if you do not have strong character values right now -- then any relationship you are in will suffer somewhat.

Ditto if your partner does not embrace strong character values.

And if you and your partner don't share the same core character values then you will repeatedly feel as if you disagree -- as well as feel disconnected from each other -- which will mean you will have trouble making the long haul of a longterm happy relationship.

You know what's funny? How we all know that having good strong character values matter...and yet... our world mostly offers relationship tips like: buy these sexy clothes, be more successful, work on tightening your buns -- but no one ever comes out and says 'Yo! Value good strong character in yourself and others!'"

I suppose that's because it takes far more time and effort to work on strengthening one's character -- and getting to know someone else's true character -- than it does to quickly buy a new sexy outfit, or share a leisurely romantic candlelit dinner.

And most people don't want to put in the time and effort.

Since reading this New York Times article on evil and breaking up with that then-boyfriend, I've prioritized looking for a man of high character first and foremost -- someone who values direct/honest communication, 20/20 listening, warm empathy, constant learning/growth, and the ability to compromise.

So if you're having trouble meeting Mr. or Ms. Right -- perhaps it's time to STOP prioritizing finding someone you immediately find to be sexy, charismatic, smart, funny.

Instead -- you should first and foremost take a reasonable amount of time to suss out if the man or woman you're attracted to values direct/honest communication, 20/20 listening, warm empathy, constant learning/growth, and the ability to compromise. If and only if you are certain that they do -- and you ALSO find them to be sexy, charismatic, smart, funny -- then by all means -- explore getting intimately, sexually involved with them!

Sure, a relationship will take longer to get started this way -- but you can be sure once begun, the relationship will have the best shot at lasting longer this way.

As Aristotle once wisely said: "Wishing to be in love is quick work, but love is a slow, ripening fruit."

I say: If you take the time and effort to really understand a person's character values in relation to your own, then the two of you will over the long haul be blessed with a thrivingly, fruitful relationship.

If you want more love, career. and fulfilment tips, visit Karen Salmansohn's daily blog at