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What’s the Recipe for a Healthy Love Relationship?

Twelve tips for finding the right match.

Brian A. Jackson/Shutterstock
Source: Brian A. Jackson/Shutterstock

Are you searching for love? Are you in a relationship, but wondering if it is healthy? I can’t keep track of the countless online dating sites ranging from “people who love dogs” to “clown dating,” to “smell dating,” (seriously?) and the various Match, Senior, and hook-up sites.

It’s a thing, right? Well, Kermit the Frog thinks so, and shares this sentiment: “Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you. Maybe you just need one person.” A more serious thinker, Mark Twain, said, “To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.” It’s all true, but what qualities are important to look for in the search for the right person? How do you find the love of your life?

As a marriage and family therapist for almost 40 years, I’ve worked with a lot of relationships, good and bad. I’ve heard soulful and heartwarming stories, and stories that are toxic, mean, violent, and criminal. What’s my takeaway? It’s all about your criteria for the search. If you are carrying a list made up of superficial factors, you’re probably on the wrong path. If you are accustomed to listing image characteristics such as, “Is the person good looking?” “Is the person financially well off?” “Does the person have an impressive job?” "Does the person drive a new car?” now is the time to start asking different questions.

How about: “Is he or she good looking on the inside?” “Can they manage their own feelings and behavior?” “Can they show and feel authentic feelings and display empathy?” “Can he or she genuinely love themselves and you?” “Can they dance internally with their own soul and yours?” Here are some tips to change up your search engine and fix your relationship picker.

12 Meaningful Search Tips for Finding the Right Partner

  1. When you are with this person, are they kind and compassionate, and do they act with integrity?
  2. Is the person committed to and do they have the capacity for a lifetime of learning and growing with you?
  3. Is the person capable of genuine empathy and interested in working through pain and problems?
  4. Does the person have their own personal style, life, interests, hobbies, and passions that are separate from yours?
  5. Are most of your values and worldviews (philosophies of life) similar?
  6. Do you share common interests so that you can be playful and spend leisure time together that you both enjoy?
  7. Does this person have a sense of humor that is used without hostility but with a good heart?
  8. Does the person want to be your best friend, and are they capable of being that?
  9. Does this person talk about their own feelings and yours? Are they in touch with their own emotional world?
  10. Can the person handle ambivalence and shades of gray and not be rigid about failures and weaknesses in you, themselves, and others?
  11. Does the person add to your spiritual as well as material life?
  12. Does this person bring out the best in you?

Different criteria for the search should bring about a reciprocal relationship in which both people give and take. You love each other for who you are as people, not for what you can do for each other. You will be authentic and yourself and be able to set and live by boundaries. You will find attraction on many levels — physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and sometimes even political. Above all, you will both be accountable for your own feelings and behavior.

And finally, in your search, instead of worrying about if this person likes you, keep asking, “How do I feel in the presence of this person?” If you use the right criteria, your mind and body will guide you.

Learn more in my book, Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family.

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