Gerry Heisler Ph.D.

Relationship Boot Camp

How to Choose a Desirable Partner and Avoid a Bad Choice

Can you find a suitable partner?

Posted Apr 12, 2011

To be able to recognize a suitable mate, you have to know what actually constitutes a desirable partner. Many people don't have an idea of what truly satisfies them. They confuse what they need with what they want, and what they'll settle for.

Many have no clue of what they really expect, and expectations can set the foundation for how gratifying you regard a relationship. The greater your expectation, the more frustrated you can be. Ultimately, you can reach a point where you can accurately determine what satisfies you through self-evaluation.

I have found that if you stopped many couples just before they headed down the aisle and asked them what satisfied them, many would have to think long and hard before they could answer. Yet, if they knew what they wanted and what satisfied them, and were able to communicate such information, I'll bet that the 50 percent divorce rate would drop significantly. Like being unprepared for a test, being unprepared for a relationship will very often result in frustration and failure. You can pick the wrong person.

You will not have an enduring relationship until you know what satisfies you. There are very different ways this can be ascertained. 

Discovering what truly satisfies you is difficult for many people because it entails examining your inner self and acknowledging what it is that really matters most to you beyond your "ideal" wants list. This list is largely based on your life experiences. A baby responds immediately by crying when he or she is not satisfied. He or she can be easily satisfied by being held or fed. Therefore, a baby immediately learns that crying leads to being satisfied.

As we grow, we learn that there are increasingly more things that satisfy us, and we find many ways to achieve that satisfaction. Not unlike your "wants" list, you will find that what satisfied you when you were in your 20s might be completely different than what satisfies you when you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s. It also can vary because of external factors.

To know what satisfies you, you have to be able to see, hear, taste, and feel experiences in your life. You need to be aware of your beliefs and know what you are passionate about. When you can identify the pleasurable feelings that accompany certain activities, you can start to acknowledge the sensation of feeling satisfied.

You can then repeat those behaviors that create satisfaction and stop doing things that create negative reactions. Your brain will tell you what looks good, smells good, tastes good, sounds good, and feels good. So, listen to it.

Ironically, many people are unable to know what really satisfies them, because they are much more in touch with what dissatisfies them. They focus on the negative rather than on positive experiences. They have not taken the time to become aware of what makes them feel good. Such negativity is, unfortunately, not uncommon today. Perhaps we take the positive aspects for granted, or perhaps the media has pointed out the negatives so often on news reports that we have become programmed to find flaws and recall bad experiences more quickly than good ones.

The point is, you may need to dig down and push yourself to think of what made you feel satisfied physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually, and so on. And by satisfied, we mean feeling good inside, stress-free, and happy.

When you figure out what satisfies you, you will have an understanding of the core factors that are necessary for you to have a lasting relationship. Most of the "wants" are nice to have, but are not essentials, unlike what satisfies.

It's sometimes difficult for many to just read the warning signs in front of them. When a relationship begins, you may wonder, "What will we ever fight about?" We tend to put on rose-colored glasses and make assumptions about the new partner. We like to hold positive illusions unless we have trust issues.

To avoid getting fooled again, you have to not discount what you are told and read what's in front of you. If she has a vanity license plate that says "Princess," understand that. If a person says they don't want to get serious, take them at their word. If they state that they are a bad person to get involved with, believe them. If they do something indicating that they have a substance abuse problem, significant anger issues, or that they will have problems with fidelity (if this is important to you), don't put yourself in an "if only..." situation. "This relationship would be great if only_______" (fill in the blank with  they didn't drink, spend carelessly, gamble, be abusive, etc.)

Some really don't want to avoid poor choices because their actions, not words, indicate they get involved in co-dependent relationships. If you engage a person who has more problems than you, guess whom you don't have to focus on? Whose issues you can deny and avoid?

In other words, some people act as if they want or need to make poor choices because it provides them with an excuse to sit on the pity pot and to feel victimized. Many self-sabotage themselves by making bad decisions.

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