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Lisa Firestone

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Dating Resolutions: 7 Characteristics of an Ideal Partner

Posted: 12/30/2011 7:50 am

Dec. 31 may be all about the New Year's kiss, but by New Year's Day, most people are thinking about what comes after the kiss. This can be a good metaphor for our dating habits in general. The person we look to for instant passion, an immediate spark or even a New Year's kiss is not always the same person we would be happy sharing our lives with long-term. With this in mind, it's safe to assume that one major reason that finding lasting love proves such a challenge is that the qualities we seek in a partner aren't always those that lead to enduring intimacy.

The reasons we fall in love may be a mystery, but the reasons we stay in love are far less elusive. That is why this New Year's, I propose making a few resolutions about what we look for in a romantic relationship. There may be no such thing as the perfect partner, but an ideal partner can be found in someone who has developed themselves in certain ways that go beyond the surface. While we each seek out a specific set of qualities that is uniquely meaningful to us alone, there are certain psychological characteristics both you and your partner can aim for that make the flame not only stronger, more passionate and more fulfilling, but also far less likely to die out the moment the clock strikes midnight.

Many of these qualities won't be apparent to us when we first meet someone, but as we get to know the people we date, these are invaluable traits to both look for in them and to strive for in ourselves. These ideal attributes include:

1. Maturity
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This statement is not meant to echo the ever-advised mantra that maturity is important. Being "grown up" isn't merely a matter of not acting like a kid anymore. It's not about a boyfriend who remembers to take out the trash or a girlfriend who never runs late. These qualities are nice, but to truly grow up means making an active effort to recognize and resolve negative influences from our past. An ideal partner is thus willing to reflect on his or her history and is interested in understanding how old events inform current behaviors.

When people mature emotionally, they are less likely to re-enact or project past experiences onto their current relationships. They develop a strong sense of independence and autonomy, having differentiated from destructive influences from early in life. As they evolve within themselves, they are less likely to look for someone to compensate for shortcomings and weaknesses or to complete their incompleteness. Instead, they're looking for someone to share life with as equals and to appreciate independently of themselves. Having broken ties to old identities and patterns, this person is much more available to a romantic partner and the new family that they create together. Naturally, becoming emotionally mature ourselves helps with this process and dramatically improves our chances of achieving a solid and rewarding relationship.

Read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone on Relationships at PsychAlive.org

 

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