Okay, we all know – deep breath – that “perfect” doesn’t exist, except maybe in cases of certain cheesecakes, ocean views, and island vacations. Though you will never encounter the perfect man or woman, you can find someone who comes pretty close. If you were to develop a checklist of traits and behaviors that you want to find in a partner, each one of these four adjectives would be on the list. Keep reading and you will quickly see how we are creating a recipe for a relationship that might actually stand the test of time.
Adjective #1: sweet
You know the boss who runs a tight ship? Sure, she is tough at work, but when you get to know her well, you see just how sweet she can be to a dutiful employee, to her daughter, and even to strangers on the street. The point with sweetness: Don’t misunderstand what sweetness looks like. It’s not a saccharine, affected voice used to seem sweet, and it’s not about saying or doing exactly what people want. Sweetness isn’t a fake display of niceness. It’s about knowing how to be soft with someone; it’s about having the capacity to be kind and nurturing. Men and women who have a true sweet part to their personality enjoy cooperating with and respecting others for their strengths, and they like making people feel good.
Adjective #2: serious
Self-disclosure alert: With my personality, I have two distinct parts: a very serious side and a very silly, artistic, light side. While the silly, light side is an important part of my personality and anyone else’s, it is the serious side that is most valuable to a relationship. It’s the serious side of one’s personality that makes them commit to things: the social values they care about and taking others’ feelings into consideration. Seriousness isn’t something most people list as a dream trait in a partner, but you would really notice it in a person if this trait were missing.
Adjective #3: financially responsible
When you’re in college and see a hot guy walk into the party, you probably couldn’t care less about how he is with money in that moment – until the first actual date. It is crucial, if you truly want to lay down roots and set things up for a sturdy career or a committed relationship, that you try to get a sense of how your date treats money. What you want to find is someone who has little debt or debt that is school-based, and you want to see that they have a plan to pay it off. When you spend time with them on dates, you want to see them spend money that you know they can afford. For example, the guy who has no money but forks over a couple hundred dollars on a swanky meal uses poor judgment, and this behavior may actually have the opposite effect of the one intended. This behavior can reveal his secret insecurity about his financial situation, which he overcompensates for by spending money he doesn’t have. Though this adjective isn’t one of the hottest or sexiest ones used to describe a potential partner, I assure you – given the fact that so many divorces end because of money problems – looking for this adjective in your next date will be time well spent.
Adjective #4: patient
If you can manage to find someone with only several of the adjectives on this list, be your own best friend and make this one of your new requirements. Months or years into a relationship, life will inevitably get stressful. When you find someone with whom you will stay long-term, there is an endless list of stresses and challenges you could find yourself navigating: emotional insecurities or periods of anxiety or depression, or tangible realities like buying a home together, having children, and managing different parenting styles. Those factors aside, we haven’t even discussed yet many of the couldn’t-see-it-coming life events that can strike at a moment’s notice: surprise illnesses, losing a job, and major home expenses you never would have predicted. The point? Stress will always be a part of life, so if you are lucky enough to set up shop with a patient man or woman, your daily life will thank you later. Patience truly is a virtue, so when you see signs of patience in everyday life with your date, don’t merely note it; thank them for it and tell them you admire them for it.
The takeaway message
There are many important and beautiful traits to look for in someone you’re dating. The reality, however, is that some traits are more important than others. If you can find someone who has at least three of these traits, you will set yourself up with the kind of person who may be able to consistently help fulfill you and meet your needs as the two of you chart your course through the rest of your lives.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.