The 4 Essential Ingredients of a Great Relationship

In addition to finding someone who shares your values, it's important that they meet these four criteria.

December 29, 2016
athletic couple relationship

Adapted from He's Just Not Your Type (and That's a Good Thing)

Your list of criteria for a future mate should not resemble your lengthy grocery-shopping list or the apartment- or house-hunting checklist you hand your real estate agent. For one thing, you decrease your chances of finding a relationship if your love list is too long and spe- cific; for another, a long checklist takes the romance and spontaneity out of truly connecting with someone you have not met yet! I once heard a guy say that he could not describe his perfect woman before he met her, just as he can't describe a beautiful painting before he has seen it. Depending on your perspective, this guy is either won- derfully romantic or terribly cheesy . . . but he has a point!

More: 10 Steps to Dating Success

Even though I do not like the checklists many singles are currently using, I do think it is important to be mindful and aware of the qualities you would like to find in your mate. 

Naturally, you want to find someone who reflects your values and embraces your passions. Your mate should also fulfill your needs for four essential roles: partner, friend, companion, and lover.

couple walking dog
1. Partner

Sometimes we get so caught up in the qualities we're looking for in a person that we forget there's a big difference between dating a great person and finding a great partner.

A partner is someone who is aligned with your values and appreciates the meaning of compromise. He realizes that his happiness is directly affected by your own. He will do whatever it takes to get your relationship to a place of mutual respect and understanding because he knows that the ultimate goal is for two people to be happy—not just one.

More: When Sexual Chemistry Only Goes So Far

I was talking about the concept of a partner with someone I used to work with. She admitted that as much as she loved her ex, he was not the kind of partner she needs in her life. She said, "It's a shame, because he's a fine person; but when life would get difficult or when we needed to compromise, he would disappear and shut down. I now know that I need a partner who can com- municate and work through issues with me or meet me halfway. That's a must. I want someone who knows the real meaning of being a partner."

A true partnership is about both people being mindful of each other's needs and working together to create a happier and health-ier relationship.

You may define a suitable partner differently than I would. This is how my love list looked before I dated Michael:

In a life partner, I am looking for someone who . . .

  • Supports me in my personal and professional goals.
  • Has a good relationship with his family and respects mine.
  • Inspires me to live with him in the moment but is thoughtful about our future.
  • Contributes to the emotional and physical well-being of our home.
  • I can laugh and learn with.
  • I'm attracted to and who is attracted to me.
  • Is a good communicator and can anticipate, and is thoughtful about, my needs.
  • Makes me feel like the sexiest, sassiest, and best ver- sion of myself.

What are you looking for in a life partner? Write down at least five needs or values. Now think about some of the men who have broken up with you or left you heartbroken in the past. Did they fulfill your "good partner" list?

couple party friends
2. Friend

Friendship may be the easiest relationship to define, although, at times, it is one of the most challenging. The word friend is both a noun and a verb.

When you are friends with your significant other, you genuinely enjoy your downtime together. You still have a close group of friends outside of your relationship, but your mate ranks as one of your best buddies. Hanging out with them is generally fun and fulfilling. When you can check off the friend box thanks to your man, you know he will be there for you on an emotional level. You can share your vulnerabilities as much as you can celebrate your triumphs. He is not competitive with you; he wants to help you succeed. It is essential that your mate is also your good friend.

More: If Sex Is Boring, Maybe You Are Too

That said, many women choose to be in romantic relationships with men who would have made better friends than partners. A woman I met on vacation last year told me she'd married her best friend but admitted that bond wasn't enough to sustain her marriage. "It's a big misconception," she explained. "Of course you want to spend your life with your best friend, but you also want to have physical intimacy and attraction for each other, or you may not be fulfilled in the marriage. I certainly wasn't."

Other women I've interviewed have mentioned that their partner's competitiveness created tension in the relationship, and they rarely felt natural just hanging out with their mate as friends would.

couple sitting bench park
3. Companion

I have an 83-year-old friend who refers to the women he dates as his "companions." He doesn't consider his companions to be friends, since he says they are "more than that." I'm not sure if they are intimate (I don't think I want to know), but he defines companion as a woman he spends a lot of time with and who shares similar interests and hobbies.

More: 4 Keys to a Rock-Solid Bond With Your Partner

I once heard that the difference between a companion and a friend is that a companion is physically there to participate in events and life moments with you, while a friend is more of an emotional presence, there to provide support through events and life moments, not necessarily to attend them with you.

One of my clients explains that her loneliness comes from the fact that she has not yet met a companion, someone she can count on as her "plus one."

couple bed sex
4. Lover

A number of women underestimate the importance of selecting a long-term mate who is also a good lover. I believe sexual intimacy is one of the most crucial components of a successful marriage. After all, you can find friends who fulfill many of the things you are looking for in a mate, but your life partner is distinguished by the fact that you have a sexual relationship with him and nobody else.

More: 6 Basic Relationship Needs Everyone Seeks to Fulfill

It's essential that your mate is more than just a friend or companion. For example, when I visit a museum with my husband, he practically scales the walls in boredom. It took me a couple of years to realize that instead of pressuring Michael to see the new Byzantine exhibit with me, I can ask a friend to join me who will enjoy checking out the ancient relics. But I can't really recruit a friend to join me in bed on a cold night. I'm shocked by how many women knowingly enter sexless marriages, believing, per- haps, that their partner will become a lover when the commitment is legally sanctioned.

When you are selecting a mate for the long term, you want to be able to place a checkmark on your love list next to physical intimacy and compatibility.

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