Listen to this story
Too many people — especially women my age — harbor ridiculous “check lists” of demands in a partner that don’t matter.
Tall. High-income. Nice car. Nice apartment — and good decor. Attractive. Smart. Nice. Not crazy. Good family. Good hair. Good nose. Works out. Drinks what I drink. Likes the same music. Has the same hobbies. Travels. Does brunch on the weekend and trivia at night. Wants a golden retriever — and 2 kids…
Shit goes on.
Fam, I love you, but these lists are ridic. We’re just creating obscene demands to distract ourselves from the real work of discerning what’s important. I’m not going to tell you what you should want. But I will suggest that we define it better.
When I think about what I want in a life partner, the questions I ask aren’t things like “what his earning potential?” but rather “what’s this guy gonna do when shit really hits the fan?” Because it will. And when it does, no amount of luxury vehicles or nice hair or good looks will do me much good.
Don’t get me wrong — I definitely have a physical “type” that I go for, but looks don’t matter that much in the long run. I’ve dated tall, short, skinny, fat, older, younger, good hair, no hair, and various states of balding. (I’ve also dated high income, low income, same religion, different religion… dudes with luxury cars, beaters, and interests in all kinds of music and hobbies — I don’t care.)
There are only 3 things that I absolutely need
I like the simplicity of “trifectas” — with “tall, dark and handsome” being the classic (albeit bad) example. I wanted to get my criteria down to three as well.
And I didn’t really sit down and ponder over it as much as I simply realized and it emerged, quietly and clear:
I need: “emotional stability, critical thought, and friendship.”
“Looks” don’t even make the cut — and even if I was pushed to list more, “looks” wouldn’t even crest the top ten. Frankly, I’d just extrapolate my top three into specifics. Because all I care about are these.
1) Emotional Stability
Self-sufficiency. Emotional health. Responsibility for our own emotions. Composure.
And I should note: all healthy relationships require this of both partners. Without it, the relationship doesn’t have a chance in hell.
At a bare minimum (non-negotiable): a partner who can make it through 99.9% of his days without having a meltdown. Someone who takes responsibility for his own emotions, first and foremost, and communicates his needs calmly and clearly. Someone who deals with everyday setbacks without flailing, follows through on what he says he’ll do, and, for the love of god, takes responsibility for his own mistakes. Someone who is both secure and emotionally self-sufficient; who doesn’t struggle with jealousy, clinginess, neediness, overreactions, toxicity, or crippling anxiety, and doesn’t whine, whimper, complain, cling, interrupt, get defensive, seek revenge, make excuses, or demand constant affirmation (and ideally, also doesn’t lie, cheat or steal.) Someone not governed by emotions, who makes decisions level-headed. Someone dependable, emotionally rugged, and solid AF.
Ideally (not required, but nice to have): grit. Someone who not only endures everyday hardship, but prospers because of it; not just passively accepting setbacks, but excelling despite them.
I compromised on this once (okay, twice) and I regretted it. The first time, I got a stage-five clinger. The second, a codependent. Both because I prioritized the other two things in my trifecta and let this slide. Never again.
2) Critical Thinking
Too often people bastardize the idea of “smart” as “knowing a lot of facts,” “being good at trivia,” “having an advanced degree,” or “working a big job.”
But real intelligence isn’t about what you know. It’s how you think. It’s problem solving — finding or figuring out the answer, not remembering it.
At a bare minimum (non-negotiable): when he encounters a problem, he not only refrains from a meltdown (see above) — he solves it. Someone who’s got clean, accurate logic and knows what to do with it. Someone who loves a good challenge, never shies from a setback, and steps up to solve shit time and time again when the going gets tough. Someone who’s so intellectually rugged, I can’t not want him around.
Ideally (not required, but nice to have): someone who’s successfully applied this (and his grit) in his work, and done or built something valuable. (Super extra bonus points: an engineer. Because, all this considered, I sure do fuckin love me an engineer.)
These two are the only real requirements. But to round out the trifecta, here’s my third item:
3) Friendship — based on understanding
I yearn deeply for friendship and intellectual understanding in love. It is deliciously nice to have, and a lack of it was a big part of the reason I left my longest relationship.
At a bare minimum: I want someone who’s pickin up what I’m puttin down like 99.9% of the time — and making me laugh almost as often. Someone with whom I have an inside joke or two. Someone with whom there’s comfort and ease and play. Someone with whom I’m real and actual friends. Someone who “gets me” in my mentally “pajama’d” state, my thoughts sprawled out and talking abstract at the ceiling.
Ideally (not required, but nice to have): someone who’s my best friend.I know people take sides on this, but having had it both ways I’m convinced there’s only one best option (and anyone who says otherwise just doesn’t have it.) I want a best friend.
Having a great relationship is, of course, predominantly about putting in the effort and work. But first build your house on a solid foundation, and focus on just a few key things to get a good one.
These are just a starting point — and everything that’s important comes afterwards, through commitment and attention and effort. But none of that work means anything (at least to me) without these three things first in place. ❤
And it’s totally prescriptive, but frankly I think more people could benefit from a highly-focused list of priorities, based on values — not just ignoring things, but filtering on higher quality things. Because it’s not about lowering standards — it’s about raising them. To focus solely on shit that actually matters and makes a good relationship. And then focus the rest of our attention on building it.
Note: a few readers misinterpreted this piece to mean I was still looking for someone. I’m not. My current partner (arguably already the love of my life) has all three of these things in spades — and makes me ridic happy.