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What to Look For in a Life Partner

As a Clinical Psychologist, I work with couples looking to strengthen their relationships. I am also a Certified Divorce Mediator, and in this capacity I work with couples who are negotiating the end of their marriage in as peaceful a manner as possible.

Often, during these times of conflict when peoples’ worst personal characteristics and animosity toward each other come out, it’s puzzling to imagine how these two people could have at some point been attracted to each other to the point of committing to spend the rest of their lives together.

Obviously there was some “attraction” that initially brought them together. This attraction comes in many forms – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and others. This concept of attraction is also universal – people are attracted to each other across all cultures, and  since the beginning of time.

However, as we all know, attraction is not what makes a relationship succeed long-term. At some point, communication, understanding, shared life goals, and a similar world-view need to replace the attraction as the main motivator for maintaining the relationship, and doing the work necessary to make it remain a successful one.

Tu B’Av (click here to learn what this is) is in the Jewish calendar traditionally a time when people look for a “match,” hopefully one that will last a lifetime. So here are some tips for identifying someone who will have a greater chance of working out long-term, rather than simply focusing on attraction, which will not necessarily lead to a successful long-term relationship:

  • Look for someone who shares important long-term life goals, in any and all areas that are important to you.
  • Look for someone you value as a human being – this is an indication that you share genuine respect, which is a key component to a healthy relationship.
  • Look for someone with a similar communication style to yours – this will allow you to work through important life issues as well as minor ones in a mutually satisfying and effective way.
  • Don’t choose someone for unhealthy reasons – can include fear of being alone, a belief that you’re not good enough for anyone else, or many others – consider seeing a good psychotherapist if you feel this is an area you need to understand better.
  • Choose someone you can feel comfortable “being yourself” around. If you feel you need to put on an act to be desirable to your partner, that’s not a healthy or comfortable relationship.

I spend my time working with couples who are trying to save their relationships or improve them in various ways, as well as with other couples who have decided to split and are trying to do so in a more amicable, less combative and expensive way. Hopefully choosing a partner in a healthy manner will maximize your chances of a healthy marriage, and if you end up in my office, it will be to strengthen, not negotiate the end, of your relationship.

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