We live in a world of infinite choices, everything from our burger to our phones are made specified to our individual needs. This type of thinking has also influenced our expectations for a romantic partner; we want a partner that also has all the specific qualities we are seeking in a relationship or else we can just jump on Tinder and swipe away at another 100 profiles.
Most London singles today have a long list of "musts" and "must nots" they want from a partner and a relationship: I want him to have a good job, be caring, understand my emotional needs, be attractive; I want her to be intelligent, thoughtful, active, fun, etc. While I understand the importance of knowing what you are looking for in a partner, indeed, as a therapist and counsellor I strongly encourage everyone to sit down and become very clear about this list, there is a catch. Too many people are focused on what the other brings to the table and not enough on their role in the relationship.
When you say I want a caring partner, ask yourself, are you a caring person? When you say I want someone who listens to me and cares about my opinions, think about what kind of listener you are and how you respond to other people's views. While knowing what characteristics you want from a partner is important, embodying these qualities yourself is even more important.
Often we expect too much from a partner when we ourselves haven't yet mastered these values. Frequently people think, when I find the "right" partner then I will be this way or that. How many people say they want trust in their relationship, yet the second, their partner does something that seems suspicious, they go through their partner's phone, look for evidence of cheating, or scream accusations at their partner?
This doesn't mean ignore concerns and try to pretend everything is fine if you sense questionable behaviour; instead this means, if you want honesty, act in an honest way - don't go through their phone while they're in the shower, don't try to ask other people about their whereabouts to corroborate their story, don't try to trip them up on details of their story to catch them in a "lie". Instead have a genuine conversation with your partner about your feelings and concerns. The discussion will either resolve your concerns or raise new ones. If the discussion has not put your worries to rest, resist the urge to become a "spy" in an effort to uncover the truth. You cannot abandon your values as soon as it gets hard, otherwise, you should look for a partner who does the same - only sometimes lives by the qualities you are seeking (just like you).
While all this is easier said than done, the benefit is that finding a real partner becomes an easier task. Who you are teaches people how to treat you. People will interact with you on the basis of who you are, not who you say you are. You may say you want a genuine, understanding, respectful relationship, but if you do not actively "do" these qualities yourself in your everyday life, then you cannot expect the same from a partner. Expecting more before you evaluate what you have to give in a relationship is unfair and will only lead to failed outcomes and frustration. You will find yourself alone or in and out of relationships, waiting for that "perfect" person to come along so you can finally have a fulfilling relationship.
The quickest way to find your ideal partner is to become this ideal yourself. Live your values and others around you will embody them as well or if they cannot, they will naturally fall out of your life. If we, however, find ourselves only living with our principles some of the time, then we'll only attract partners who do the same, settling for a relationship that is mediocre - sometimes good, sometimes bad; sometimes they're great and sometimes you can hardly stand the sight of them.
So take some time to write down 10 qualities that are an absolute must in a partner you desire and think about how you represent these values in your own life. And the next time you think where is mister or misses "right", think about whether you are mister or misses right.