I’ve never been one to believe in the idea of finding your soulmate, and it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I stumbled into my relationship with my wife based on dumb luck rather than on any calculated plan. We met 28 years ago in a time before Internet dating, so luckily we escaped having to sit down and write an online dating profile.
Over the past year, since disclosing I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, our marriage has weathered another turbulent period fraught with all the anxiety and emotions associated with both of us learning to assume new roles in our partnership. It’s often said that hindsight is 20/20, so with that in mind, I thought it might me enlightening to compose a checklist of what I would like to find in an my ideal partner based on the qualities I’ve often taken for granted in my wife. The following is my love map—a practical GPS of interests, preferences, attitudes, and behaviours that I would hope to discover in a prospective partner.
1. Questioning not genuflecting
The quality that I have always appreciated most in my wife is her strong conviction—an ability to stand up for what she believes is right no matter how much opposition she may take from me or anyone else. I placed this trait at the top of my list because I believe it to be the bedrock of any enduring relationship. We can be easily swayed and lured by someone who may simply mimic what we want to hear, but having someone by your side who is not afraid to tell you the truth is invaluable.
2. Embracing being perfectly imperfect
I recently heard an interview with billionaire George Soros in which he said he’s not wealthy because of his shrewd investments, but rather because he recognizes he will make mistakes, and so he watches for and learns from those mistakes. I can’t imagine living in a relationship in which I would have to walk around on eggshells being terrified I might screw up or say the wrong thing. Allowing your partner the space to be fallible provides an opportunity for growth in a relationship and the possibility to “turn down the volume” when potential arguments ensue.
3. “Being with” not “Being for” each other
It took my wife and I almost 27 years to figure out that when one of us shares a problem or concern with the other, related to our relationship or something else for that matter, having the other person simply listen and not offer advice on “how to fix it” goes a long way to providing a safe outlet to share our feelings. In a sense, we’ve made a distinction between the active behaviour of “being there for each other” and the more nurturing support of “being there with each other”. There is an incredible loving power that is generated by simply bearing witness to your partner. Like a cat purring on your lap, no words need be spoken—your presence is enough.
4. Leaping before we look
My wife and I have stewed over the most mundane decisions for hours, yet when it comes to life’s bigger decisions, deciding to start a family or picking up and moving house, we have embraced the idea of jumping right in and feeling confident that as long as we have each other, everything will work out fine in the end.
5. Giggling our way through the muck and mire
There’s no denying the increased endorphins and dopamine brought on by laughter, but having a partner with a sense of humour is like carrying a magic wand that de-escalates conflicts and helps remind you not to take life too seriously.
6. Not ignoring the elephant in the room
Denial is a powerful force, and if left unchecked, in can fester and lead to self-absorption and avoidance. I am blessed, even though at times it feels like I’m cursed, with a partner who is not afraid of having the difficult conversations. If I were to put this practice into words it would be, “If you let things slide, you let things die.”
7. Acknowledging that love is a moving target
My wife and I got married at the ripe old age of 21. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of growing up together, and I would even venture to say “growing into each other". The person we are married to today is by no means the same individual we married 27 years ago. I don’t believe in trying to “change my partner” into the person I want her to be. Instead, I try to release the reins and embrace not knowing where this incredible person will take me.
8. Watching each other’s “6”
When it comes right down to it, life can be a relentless battle, and having someone who is always “watching your back” is like wrapping yourself in a warm security blanket, knowing that no matter what the situation, your loyal partner will be right beside you dodging life’s bullets. Just as in any war, I want the person I trust most to be in the foxhole beside me.
You may have noticed that none of my desired characteristics in an ideal partner is a physical attribute. I’m not going to lie to you and say that I’m not swayed by outer beauty, but I’m waging my effort on enduring qualities that sustain long-term relationships. I’ve heard it said that you better be careful if you think you’ve found your “knight in shining armor” because he could wind up being an “idiot wrapped in tinfoil”. When it comes to falling in love, I like to focus on the aspect of “falling”—and I’m reminded of the Buddhist saying: “The bad news is that you are falling through the sky. The good news is there is no ground.”