Many people hold the “fairy tale” view of relationships in which two people meet each other, fall madly in love, and live “happily ever after;” others may seem more pragmatic about relationships and make their relational decisions based on more practical factors; and then there are others who may fall somewhere along the emotional-pragmatic relationship continuum. Regardless of which view you have of relationships there are some important things to know about yourself and your relational expectations to make relationships as fulfilling as possible for each partner. Here are some important questions to ask yourself regarding your relational need and wants.
1. Who am I?
This is probably one the most important question to ask yourself; it can shed light on some of your major expectations in a relationship. As a professional woman who is also athletic and active in her place of worship you may need more time by yourself to engage in the activities that are enjoyable to you; or you may want your partner to accompany you to some of those activities. The key here is to become aware of the implications of each of your most salient identities in your life and how they may impact your relationship.
2. What are the things I appreciate the most about myself?
These can point to some of your strengths, which can be emphasized to improve your relationship. If you are patient it can be extremely helpful during times of disagreement; if you are resourceful it can assist you and your partner with problem solving.
3. What are the things I dislike the most about myself?
Like your strengths, the things you dislike about yourself can be monitored for their potential influence in your relational dynamics.If you dislike your disorganization, it may be good to give your partner a heads up about it along with information regarding what would be the most helpful responses when you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by it.
4. What am I looking for in a relationship?
Some people are looking for short-term company and comfort; others are looking for long-term commitment. Some people want occasional “fun dates,” others want more frequent interactions and to get to know another person to the point where they feel they can share their deepest thoughts and feelings.
5. What am I looking for in a partner?
Being aware of the qualities you value in a partner is essential for knowing if the person is a good fit for you. If you are looking for someone who is “independent” and wants minimum time with you it may not be the best fit to date someone who wants to spend as much time as possible together. This is not to reduce a person to a “list” of qualities or to say if “They don’t have ALL of these qualities then I am not even going to consider them” but it is helpful to know what are the essential and what are the “negotiable” qualities that you need or want in a partner.
6. How do I express and receive affection?
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book titled “The 5 Love Languages” which has been published as different editions (for singles, married people, children, coworkers, etc.) and shares the premise that people receive and express affection in different manners. Dr. Chapman proposes that learning how our significant others receive love is key to fulfilling relationships. For instance, if we buy expensive gifts for our partner but work long hours our partner may feel unloved because what he or she is longing for is quality time, acts of service, physical touch, or words of affirmation.
7. What are my relational needs and wants?
You may have heard the phrase “There is a difference between a need and a want,” when it comes to relationships both of them may be equally important. A partner may need a significant other who can understand the implications of a health condition; that same partner may also want a partner who can be patient, kind, and caring when coping with that health condition. Unfulfilled needs and wants may leave a partner feeling dissatisfied or resentful with their loved one.
8. What is my communication style?
If you are direct you may expect your partner to be direct as well; your partner in contrast may wish you were more “tactful.” Communication differences can be one of the most common sources of arguments in couples. It is important to be aware of your communication style so you can express this to your partner before conflict arises.
9.How do I express and address disagreements?
Related to communication style are expressing and addressing disagreements; some prefer the “sweep it under the rug” approach, which may seem effective but may also lead to some uneasy feelings or unresolved conflict that may resurface later on. Others may engage in a “I’m right, you’re wrong!” debate. Others may engage in a dialogue regarding the sources and significance of the disagreements and what they mean for their relationship.
10. How do I feel about emotions?
This may seem as a peculiar question because it asks you to tune in to your emotions regarding your emotions. Some people feel uncomfortable with emotions; for example they may feel anxious when others are angry, feel exhausted when others share their emotions, or feel connected and trusted when their loved ones share what’s on their hearts. Knowing how you feel about emotions can help you express this to your partner and know how to respond when they are emotionally expressive.
11. What are my values?
Value differences can bring another level of complexity to relationships; it is important to be aware of your and your potential partner’s core values before you become emotionally invested. Some partners may be able to compromise regarding their value differences; others may experience a significant degree of frustration attempting to coexist in an intimate manner despite major value differences. For example, if you are “pro life” would you be able to maintain a relationship with a partner who decided to have an abortion? If you value quality family time would you be able to cohabit with someone who is more introverted and feels extremely uncomfortable around any families?
Do not be discouraged if you do not have the answers to all these questions; you are constantly learning and growing, these questions are intended to help you engage in more introspection and self-reflection in order to give you more information to make your relationships more satisfying. If you want help discovering some of the answers to these questions consider counseling; it can provide you with a space to discover more facets of who you are and how they may influence your relationships.