You meet someone new, whether that be online or through a mutual friend, and you hit it off. The early fog of infatuation is thick and it feels fun and exciting to learn about someone new. There is immediate attraction, both physical and psychological, and you start to size this new potential partner up against a “list” of necessary qualities you might have pre-established in your head.
Can you relate? Evaluating a new romantic interest begins the moment you first communicate and rarely ends anytime soon after. Just like infatuation, it’s easy to like someone in the beginning because of surface level things -- the kind of car he/she drives, his/her job job, similar interests, or physical looks. But, rethinking how you evaluate a partner can be highly effective in ensuring the right long-term fit. The metaphor below can help put things into perspective.
Build a House
Beyond a list, start to think about finding the right partner as being similar to the process of building a house. When you build a house, you begin with establishing a solid foundation. From there, framing begins, followed by plumbing/electrical, drywall, paint, and finally decorations.
When compared to the process of choosing a partner, the foundation includes finding qualities in a partner like healthy behaviors, emotional stability, aligned values, and a shared vision of life. The framing equates to having similar interests, or aligned lifestyles and goals in life. The plumbing/electrical can be likened to whether you like your potential partner’s family and friends. For example, the paint might symbolize whether you like to eat the same foods, drink the same wine, and have the same expectations around things like a “clean house”. And finally, the decorations should be minor items like what kind of home he/she lives in, whether you like the way he/she dresses, or whether he/she is a good cook.
Start to Prioritize
The reality of this approach is that oftentimes, the items in the list equating to “decorations” might seem as important as the foundation at first. For instance, in a new relationship, you might decide you like a person because they live in a cute bungalow in a walkable neighborhood, have fun friends, or are generous during the initial dating phase. Rarely, during the first stages of a relationship, is it easy to take a step back and evaluate from the view of the foundation. For instance, it’s not common to think through the alignment of values and life goals when you are enjoying the fun and excitement of a new relationship.
This visualization of a relationship being similar to a house, should help prioritize how you evaluate a relationship. Remember - just like a relationship, a house full of intricate electrical and plumbing work and beautiful decor without the right structural foundation would be destined to blow over with the right gust of wind. Being mindful of setting up the right foundation first will help you not lose sight of what’s important, especially during the initial stages of infatuation when hormones are surging, attraction is strong, and judgement is impaired.
When reflecting back on failed relationships of your past, ask yourself whether the foundation was ever there? Did you get sidetracked by decorations when the priority should have been the framing? How did this lack of prioritizing what is really important cause problems in the relationship? Can you relate to a situation in your past when you placed too much emphasis on the wrong stuff when evaluating a partner?
The team at Center for Shared Insight can help support your journey in understanding what is really important as you evaluate romantic partners in your life. We can work with you to identify priorities as your relationships unfold, and help you determine when it’s time to invest more in a potential long-term fit, or move on because the foundation has too many cracks.
We start our therapy relationships with a free consultation so you can ensure that our team is the right fit for your goals and needs. Contact us to get started today.