What Do You Look For In A Partner?

The question – so often asked by friends, parents and prospective partners – is not a bad one. It is, however, often asked and understood far too narrowly. Do you want someone who likes to read, who watches the same television shows? Do you want someone who is intelligent, or funny, or poetic? When posed like this, the question is trivial, almost meaningless. People are not racks of meat in a butcher’s shop window, reduced to one trait or another. A person is a whole who is more than the sum of their parts.

The question needs to be given a broader scope. When we move from the banal and everyday likes and dislikes into the more expansive and rocky terrain of values, beliefs, and wishes, we move below the surface of the everyday to core realities that make someone who they are.

What someone likes to read, or even if they like to read at all is really quite irrelevant to questions of their suitability as a future partner. These are quite incidental, likely to change, and are insignificant compared to the conflicts, struggles, internal contradictions; and aspirations, desires and ambitions which make up one’s personality. While what someone likes to watch or what they do for a living are testaments to whom someone is, they should always be taken with a hefty grain of salt. It is no good if you agree on everything to do with interior design, believe Dostoyevsky is the superior novelist of the Russian cannon (he is), and both like the same foods, but don’t share similar values, beliefs, and desires.

All of us would love to have a drop-dead gorgeous partner who likes what we like, reads what we read and enjoys the same music and television shows as us. But, if we were to be honest with ourselves, we know that what we are really looking for in a partner is someone we can trust, who will make us feel valued, and will give us the love and respect we deserve; while also sharing similar values to us, aspirations with us, and beliefs as us. Compared to watching the same television show or voting for the same political party, these things matter far more.

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