“Everyone assumes that we will know how to love instinctively. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we still accept that the family is the primary school for love. Those of us who do not learn how to love among family are expected to experience love in romantic relationships. However, this love often eludes us. And we spend a lifetime undoing the damage caused by cruelty, neglect and all manner of lovelessness experienced in our families of origin and in relationships where we simply did not know what to do.”- bell hooks
Today’s activity is inspired by the famous feminist bell hooks and her book All About Love. In her book, bell hooks describes how the idea of falling into love has led many individuals to make regrettable decisions when picking a partner. “Falling” is a troubling verb when thinking about love because it suggests that the participants have no control over their decisions or emotions. Instead bell hooks paints a different picture of love for her readers. She writes, “To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients- care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication…When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another’s spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive.”
Take time to start a list of everything you are looking for in a partner. Get down to the nitty-gritty. You may want to start by just thinking about your own definition of a “partner” and a “relationship” before you even begin to write anything down. Make sure to really evaluate your life, where you are now, where you want to be, and what your needs are. This activity is about you and for you only so don’t be ashamed to be super picky or to write down things you wouldn’t admit to other people. The list that you construct should be a work in progress and you should keep going back and adding to it and editing it as time goes on. Throughout our lifetimes we are constantly changing and so what you are looking for in a mate will be different at different stages in your life.
Think about these questions to get you started:
- What am I attracted to in a person?
- Is physical attraction more important to me then intellectual attraction?
- What am I physically attracted to in a partner?
- Do I have a preference when it comes to my partner’s ideology?
- What are qualities I liked in previous partners?
- What are some qualities I didn’t like in my previous partners?
- Do I want a closed or open relationship?
- Do I want my partner to be outgoing or more of a homebody?
- Am I someone who needs a partner that has a lot of time for me or do I want a partner with separate interests and activities?
- Do I want a partner to be at the same place in life as I am?
- Do I have an age preference?
- Am I looking for a long-term partner or a short-term one? Or do I not have a time preference?
- Am I looking for one partner to commit my life to or do I see myself as someone who is more independent? (For example: do you align more with Charlotte or Samantha from Sex and the City?)
- Are long distance relationships something I could handle or even enjoy?
- Do I want a partner that wants to have children?
- Does debating and arguing entice me or make me nervous?
- How do I want my partner to communicate when dealing with problems? Do I want someone who is reactionary or preventative when dealing with problems in my relationship?
This list of questions is just to get you started so don’t let your list stop just because the questions did.
All too often people settle because they do not believe they can find the perfect partner or they think they will live the rest of their life alone with their (fill in the blank with the animal of your choice). With 7 billion people on the planet there is sure to be at least one person out there that meets your requirements so I wouldn’t worry too much.
I started my list a year ago when I was breaking up with my long-term partner. We had spent four years together, off and on, and I had thought of him as someone I could spend the rest of my life with. During the end of the relationship, when things started to get rocky, I noticed many issues that could have been prevented if we had been able to openly communication how we were feeling and what we were looking for in a partner. Alas, the relationship ended and because I am who I am, I started to look back and analyze why. It was at this time that I began reading bell hooks’ “All About Love” in one of my women studies classes and it gave me the idea to begin creating my list. A year later my list is still something I constantly reference and edit. I actually have mine on my inspiration board mounted on the wall opposite my bed so I wake up and look at it every morning. My list helps me to feel more in control of my emotions and relationships. It reminds me not to make the same mistakes or fall into the same patterns with future partners that I have in the past. It is a constant reminder that I deserve a partner with all the qualities on my list, and that I have to put in the effort to be a worthy partner in return. Now when I begin a new relationship, I start off with a dialog about what we are both looking for in a partner. Not only does this allow both of us to see if we are compatible; it also helps us to get to know one another and starts the relationship with communication that is preemptive instead of reactionary.
I hope that this activity is useful and helpful to you, even if you are currently in a good relationship. It is never a bad thing to take time and reflect on yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you learn when you give yourself time to explore.
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