I’ve just returned from my wedding and honeymoon in New Zealand, quite honestly one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful, soul-nourishing places I’ve ever seen in my life.
I’ve also just married my best friend and life partner and, because of this, felt moved to write today’s post.
This post is inspired not only by what I’ve come to believe personally and professionally about love but also inspired by the many relationship teachers and mentors I’ve learned from over the years.
Now, of course, this list is totally subjective and not at all complete. It’s simply one person’s perspective on some ingredients that may make for a healthy, sustainable, long-term romantic relationship.
We all have our own individual needs and wants when it comes to choosing a life partner, so consider my list of 8 things simply a catalyst for your own creative thinking about this topic.
1. Choose someone for their invisible qualities.
Choose someone for the feelings they evoke in you. For the quality of their character and soul. Not for their looks, their professional accolades, their paycheck.
All of this will fade and change and ebb over the course of time. So focus on what’s more critical: the quality and content of their character, for the radiance of their soul, for how you feel when you’re around them, how they treat you, what you could notice and know about them if you were blind and could not see. Choose someone for their invisible qualities.
2. Look for someone who is growth and learning-oriented.
The reality is this: long-term romantic relationships can be HARD. It is also beautiful, inspiring, hilarious and many other wonderful things. But make no mistake; it can be hard, too.
Getting two humans to stay together with all their quirks, preferences, and baggage day-in and day-out, year after year as you grow, evolve, and possibly change as individuals takes work and it takes a willingness to grow and to learn.
Choose a partner who is growth and learning-oriented and who’s willing to do the hard work of growing individually and collectively with you again and again over the lifecycle of your relationship.
3. Choose someone who isn’t afraid of (or at least willing to face) the tough stuff of life.
Over the course of a life together, you will both inevitably age and you will possibly grow ill, lose your loved ones, adjust your lifestyle, experience changes in your body and mind’s abilities, see each other miserable, cranky, and probably throwing up and heartsick more than once.
A partner who is only available to see the happy, shiny stuff of life and who wants to quit the relationship when the tough stuff hits may not be long-term life partner material as life is chock-a-block full of the not-so-shiny stuff.
Find someone you can be yourself around and who you can count on to be there when the tough stuff of life gets dished out.
4. Choose someone with (mostly) similar values and a similar life vision as you.
Sure, it’s a nice bonus if you both enjoy the same hobbies and TV shows, but this isn’t the make-or-break stuff of a relationship. Sharing similar goals and a similar life vision is.
If you want children, value higher education, value frugality, and plan to retire to Guatemala by age 50 (AND you’re dead-set on these plans) then it’s probably best to look for someone with a similar vision and values.
Differences in values and life vision can be worked through, of course, but you set yourself (and your relationship) up for success when you choose a life partner who, at the very least, shares some or most of your key values and goals.
5. Choose someone who is a good forgiver.
Similar to point number two, relationships take a lot of hard work and you will both inevitably mess up, hurt each other, make mistakes, and otherwise generally behave like jerks to each other from time to time.
So choose a life partner who is a good forgiver, who can accept your apologies after you mess up, who can move past arguments with you, who can forgive you for not being your kindest self sometimes.
Because messing up in a relationship is inevitable. It’s the repair, the willingness to forgive and come back together again, that really counts.
6. Choose someone who is a good friend.
If this person were not your lover, would you want them to be your friend?
Do you admire and respect how this person shows up in their other friendships? When the fires of passion ebb down in your relationship, when you’re sick, when you’re recovering from a surgery or ailment, when you’re stuck on a ridiculously long road trip together, can you appreciate the friendship you have with this person?
Sex and romance is a slice of the pie of relationship. Friendship with the other person is, perhaps, an even bigger slice. Pick a partner who makes a good friend.
7. Choose someone who makes you laugh.
Joanne Woodward, actress, philanthropist, and long-time life partner of the late Paul Newman, has a quote I just adore:
“Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.”
Pick a partner who can help you laugh – at yourself, at them, at the ridiculousness of life, who can crack you up even on your grumpiest morning. Humor makes life feel better and a partner who can make you laugh is a wonderful quality in a lifelong mate.
8. Choose someone who inspires you to be a better person.
Ultimately, choose a partner whose goodness and ways of being in the world inspires you to be better yourself. Choose someone who brings out and strengthens parts of you that you may not have known existed.
Choose someone who you feel makes your world and life feel bigger, richer, and more fulfilling. Not the opposite.