How To Pick A Partner

Jan 03, 2024

Here’s a trap I see people fall into all the time during the early stages of dating: They think in terms of making their date like them–rather than wondering, do I like my date? 

The trouble is, trying to make yourself a good fit for someone else - as tempting as it may be - means you lose the opportunity to screen out people who aren’t the right fit for you. At the end of the day, you’re trying to find someone who actually fits into your life. If you’re contorting yourself to present the most flattering image, you’re going to find someone who likes that version of you–but who might not be quite as excited when you start to let your hair down a couple months or years down the road. The goal is to find someone who enthusiastically, joyfully, and freely embraces you. Is anything less than that really worth your passionate commitment over the next few years of your life (and possibly beyond)?

If you see yourself in this, don’t worry. It’s incredibly common, and completely understandable. It’s a little scary to think that your personality actually functions as a screening tool. But it’s true, for absolutely everyone, whether you’re aware of it or not. You might as well make the screening process work for you! 

When you’re in the early stages of dating, you have an amazing opportunity to learn about how you and the person you’re seeing interact before you’ve invested more time and energy into the relationship. When someone opts out of dating you because they realize you’re not a good fit, that’s victory. Whatever is actually authentically true for you, it will have to work for that other person. 

If you want to empower yourself to screen potential partners for a good fit, here are a few tips: 

Don’t avoid disagreement. The more you try not to disagree, the longer you invest in a relationship with someone where you have no idea how they're going to work with you when a disagreement inevitably arises. That doesn’t mean you should pick fights, but if you find yourself thinking ‘wow, I feel really differently about that,’ share it! Treat it as something interesting, an opportunity for you to learn more about each other, and see if your partner can do the same.

Often people are focused on finding someone that they think they won’t disagree with, rather than looking at what happens when they disagree. Of course, it is important to have similar interests, preferences, and goals! But the fact is, disagreements are inevitable in any long-term relationship. Ultimately, it may be better to be with someone who’s 75% aligned with you and able to listen empathetically and truly take in your perspective when you differ, rather than someone who’s 95% aligned with you, but who spirals any disagreement out of control. 

Relax a bit. Find out how they react when you’re not all dolled up and looking your absolute best. Show up as the version of yourself that you’re going to be most of the time, and see what happens. Do you still feel attractive and desired? 

Consider these key questions. 

  • Are they curious about your perspective? Do they show a desire to learn more about you? 
  • When you have a difference of opinion, are they attuned and respectful, or dismissive? Do they collaborate with you to work through it, or do they sweep it under the rug?
  • How do you feel when you’re with them? Is it a good experience? How do you feel about yourself, and about them? 
  • Do you feel considered and seen?
  • Are the parts of yourself that you want to be awake and alive coming to the surface in your interactions? 
  • Are they open to learning from you? 
  • Do you enjoy learning from them?

Tap into yourself. Oftentimes, people are very caught up in questions like “Do they like me? Do I look attractive right now? Did the thing I said just now weird them out?” Alternatively, it’s common to get caught up in the experience of being liked, and lose track of your own opinion about the other person.

Continually assessing, evaluating, and guessing about your date’s reaction to you can disconnect you from what you’re actually feeling. If you’re mostly focused on trying to see and judge yourself through their eyes, you might be losing track of what you actually think of them. Try to center yourself. Take a deep breath and connect with your body. What are you feeling when you think about them? When you’re with them? Do you feel lit up? Alive? Free? Or do you feel shut down, stressed out, or unheard? 

Wherever you are in the process of finding a partner, you deserve to feel empowered. Here’s to you finding someone who truly lights you up.

Originally published on Psychology Today.

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