Relationship Foundations

“I can’t find a single man out there that fits what I’m looking for,” Teresa said.

“What exactly are you looking for,” I asked.

“I don’t know… someone that makes me feel special, shares my interests, and has a great career… is there anything wrong with that?”

“Not at all,” I answered, “Can you tell me ‘why’ you want those things in a man?”

“……what do you mean? Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t that what every girl wants?”

The short answer to Teresa’s question is, “Yes and No,” but the real answer can easily uncover and relieve years of relationship frustrations.

100% of singles, ages 18-35, surveyed during a graduate project I served on admitted, they could not clearly answer all of the following three questions about relationships and their search for a partner.

1.    What are three absolute characteristics a partner must have?

2.    What do those characteristics look like in everyday life?

3.    Why are those characteristics important to you?

Of the 1,500+ people we surveyed (56% female, 44% male), 300 felt confident about answering question #1, 113 felt confident about answering question #2, and none felt confident in answering question #3! What gives? Finding a suitable partner for life is one of the most lasting decisions any of us ever make and we are totally unprepared to make it.

So why are these three questions so important to finding a companion that provides all of the things need and want from a relationship? Isn’t it a bit cold to look for a partner with anything other than ‘love’ as our guide? Or my favorite: “I’ll just know. There’s no denying true love.”

I agree there is no denying true love. I also understand that most people get their idea of true love from romance novels, movies, and TV shows. That version of true love doesn’t show how our behaviors and expectations seem to change when the hormones wear off. Cinderella doesn’t include financial stress, guys’ night out, or pms. We need relationships built on more solid ground than the ebb and flow of emotions.

Let’s look at each of these questions and get a feel for why they help us zero-in on our ideal partner and make those relationships last.

What are three absolute characteristics a partner must have? – Now there is no magic to the number 3. If you can only come up with one to get started or you nail down 10, it doesn’t matter. We need a foundation to build on and these characteristics are it. Take Teresa’s off-the-cuff answer for an example:

“…makes me feel special, shares my interests, and has a great career.”

These are pretty common answers and might even make you nod your head in agreement. Who wouldn’t want someone that makes them feel special, has tons in common, and provides a great income? Unfortunately, few people ever dig down to understand how these characteristics might play out in real life.

It’s possible that the same person could make you feel special at one point and make you feel smothered at another point. Those common interests could easily turn into an inability to be apart and you can lose your personal space. A great career? The business widow is almost a proverb. We have to take the steps of understanding what we want those characteristics to look like in our own lives.

What do those characteristics look like in everyday life? – My favorite question to ask people at the beginning of a coaching session is, “What do you want your life to look like?” The explorations of the answers that follow reveal things most of us never think of.

When we are more clear on exactly what we want our lives to look like we can see how the various parts (career, hobbies, relationships, spirituality, etc.) form the support structure. By looking at our entire life first, we recognize conflicts or gaps, which go unseen if we only view those pieces independent of each other.

The same goes for our relationships. If I’m convinced that I want certain characteristics in a partner, I have to be able to paint a picture of how those characteristics play out in the day-to-day. Envision an example of “feeling special” or “common interests.” Is there a certain image that comes to mind when you think of someone with a “great career.” If you can’t SEE it, how will you know when you have it?

Why are those characteristics important to you? – Most important of these three questions is, why. Do you want someone to make you feel special because you want someone that celebrates who you are or because you crave the attention? Is a great career important because you want someone to take care of you or because you value drive and achievement?

Dive deep into the things you want to understand the core reasoning behind your desire. Once you know why those things are important, you may find that they can show up in numerous ways. Achievement and drive do not always equal a high-paying career, but could make a man the best father on earth. Treating you special isn’t always flowers and romance, but might result in your gas tank filled and the dishes done.

Set yourself up for success in your relationship by being specific as to what you want from the relationship. Ultimately, your happiness and fulfillment are determined by you and your strength to make clear decisions about what you’ll expect, accept, and how you respond to the people in your life. Start with the right questions and the answers will lead you to a lasting relationship.

Be your best,


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