What’s the one thing you should be looking for in a partner? Mark Manson has a pretty good idea, and it’s not what you think…
Well, of course, everyone has faults. It’s impossible to find someone without some emotional baggage or insecurities.
The real question is, what does that person do with it? In the first two articles of this series, I pointed out how to notice emotionally manipulative behavior and how to avoid women who display it. These were women who had problems and baggage and used them as a weapon with the men they date.
In this article, I will be talking about the traits that you want to actively look for in a relationship parter when deciding to date or commit to them. To give a hint, it’s looking for people who manage their personal flaws and baggage well.
My first handful of significant relationships were mired with a lot of manipulation and victim/rescuer dynamics. These relationships were great learning experiences, but they also caused me a great deal of pain that I had to eventually learn from.
It was until I managed to find myself in relationships with some emotionally healthy women who were able to manage their flaws well, that I really learned what to look for when dating someone.
And I discovered in this time that there was one trait in a woman that I absolutely must have to be in a relationship with her, and it was something that I would never compromise on again (and I haven’t). Men are usually unwilling to compromise on superficial traits: looks, intelligence, education, etc. Those are important, but if there’s one trait that I’ve learned you should never compromise on, it’s this:
The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.
Because the fact is that problems are inevitable. Every relationship will run into fights and each person will hit up against their emotional baggage at various times. The determinant of how long the relationship will last and how well it will do comes down to both people being willing and able to recognize the snags in themselves and communicate them openly.
Think of your girlfriend/wife/ex-girlfriend/love interest and ask yourself, “If I gave her honest constructive criticism about how I think she could be better, how would she react?” Would she throw a huge fit? Cause drama? Blame you and criticize you back? Claim you don’t love her? Storm out and make you chase after her?
Or would she appreciate your perspective, and even if she was perhaps a little bit hurt or uncomfortable, even if there was a little bit of an emotional outburst first, would she eventually consider it and be willing to talk about it? Without blaming or shaming. Without causing unnecessary drama. Without trying to make you jealous or angry.
Then she’s not dating material.
BUT! Here’s the million dollar question. Think of that same girlfriend/wife/ex-girlfriend/love interest, and now imagine that she gave you constructive criticism and pointed out what she believed to be your biggest flaws and blind spots. How would you react? Would you brush it off? Would you blame her or call her names? Would you logically try to argue your way out of it? Would you get angry or insecure?
Chances are you would. Chances are she would too. Most people do. And that’s why they end up dating each other.
Having open, intimate conversations with someone where you’re able to openly talk about one another’s flaws without resorting to blaming or shaming is possibly the hardest thing to do in any relationship. Very few people are capable of it. To this day, when I sit down with my girlfriend, or my father, or one of my best friends and have one of these conversations, I feel my chest tighten, my stomach turn in a knot, my arms sweat.
It’s not pleasant. But it’s absolutely mandatory for a healthy long-term relationship. And the only way you find this in a woman is by approaching them with honesty and integrity, by expressing your emotions and sexuality without blame or shame, and not degenerating into bad habits of playing games or stirring up drama.
Suppressing or over-expressing your emotions will attract someone who also suppresses or over-expresses their emotions. Expressing your emotions in a healthy manner will attract someone who also expresses their emotions in a healthy manner.
You may think a woman like this doesn’t exist. She’s a unicorn. But you’d be surprised. Your emotional integrity naturally self-selects the emotional integrity of the women you meet and date. And when you fix yourself, as if by some magical cheat-code the women you meet and date become more and more functional themselves. And the obsession and anxiety of dating dissolves and becomes simple and clear. The process ceases to be a long and analytical one but a short and pleasant one. The way she cocks her head when she smiles. The way your eyes light up a little bit more when you talk to her.
Your worries will dissolve. And regardless of what happens, whether you’re together for a minute, a month or a lifetime, all there is is acceptance.
Originally appeared at MarkManson.net