Do I Really Need a Partner?

Why we bother finding a mate.

Posted Sep 01, 2018

Much of the work I do is helping people work toward the mental health necessary to choose an appropriate life partner and help them navigate toward that end. I’m often asked by my successful, independent patients “what do I need a partner for, why bother looking, and why bother dating when it’s so hard?” In response, I make reference to what I call “the short list” as an answer to the question “does a successful, independent person really need a partner to be happy?” Every person has a list of the things that have led them to a relationship with a significant other. In my experience, the list is never long. Why is that?

In psychotherapy sessions, people spend countless hours trying to make sense of their marriages and relationships, working through the unresolved issues and baggage from childhood and the past. They often ask “what do I need a man or woman for when I can do it all myself,” and “why am I struggling to date or work on a relationship that needs so much energy when I can’t figure out what someone else can do for me that I can’t do for myself?” Therefore, the question is “what do they do for you that you can’t do for yourself." It sounds simple and obvious, but trying to answer the question quickly might not be easy.  

Relationships are complicated entities. Historically, women were traditionally often involved with men in dependent relationships based on defined roles which assumed that women needed men to provide financial support in exchange for producing heirs and lifelong care-taking. People fall in love, marry, and oftentimes the relationship ends in disaster. As our culture has evolved and women no longer assume dependency roles in relationships with men, a new contract so to speak emerged and roles were redefined. Without the presumptive need for financial support, what does partnership offer in the relationship equation? Every person has their own answer to that question whether it is about building a family, whether it is about companionship and friendship, whether it is about having someone help you grow into the best version of yourself or about having someone just plain be there for the good and the bad.

Relationships, not arrangements, are a leap of faith and all the complicated reasons why we pair up really boil down to love, companionship, and vision. There is something extremely powerful about having someone love you for who you are, imperfections and all. There is something powerful about promising another that you will work through the messy stuff in life and be there at the other end of the journey. There is something powerful about being okay with someone else being different and annoying and yet loving them all the same. Yes, you can love yourself and you can be your own best friend, but it’s also powerful to know that you can be your worst self and someone is okay with that, for better or for worse.