“What would it be like to have an actual partner?” I ask this question of my coaching clients quite often. Single clients who are looking to define what they want in a relationship, and married clients who are redefining theirs, all seem to have similar ideas on the surface. Digging deeper, however, it is not always the case. On the one hand, it is a popular belief that “relationships take work” and that one has to grind away for years—in therapy, in seminars, in the trenches—to make it work. Others say that “with the right person, everything is easy.”
Who is right? They all are, and none of them is.
Marketing tools and lifestyle-pitching aside, it really is up to the individual and/or the couple. Of course, it is important to have guidelines and make lists of the qualities you desire in a partner, and, at the end of the day, who shows up may possess fewer, or even quite a bit more of the qualities than what you have on the list. I have been in relationships where I believed we had to be in a therapist’s office every week, and others where we had far better things to do with our time than look for stuff to be upset about. The issue, however, was not whether we were being counseled or not. It was, instead, what our context of “relationship” was. In many of those cases, it became more about defining our happiness based on “work,” versus turning towards each other and exploring together what our deepest needs and desires were.
When I work with couples, it is usually for a shorter period of time because my intention is to get them functioning in their partnership. Once they reconnect, they begin to really hear each other and love becomes present again. From this space, they begin to make choices that serve their partnership as a whole. There may be deeper issues that arise, but when two people are working together towards healing, things can shift very quickly.
I truly believe that partnership is possible with anyone. The question then becomes, how do you select the “right” partner? This is the trick. This is the thing that most of us spend our time pondering, searching for and, trying not to screw up by choosing the “wrong” one.
A client recently asked me if I believe in making lists of qualities that one is seeking in a partner. I do. For me, there is more to it than writing out 30-or-so things that often show up on most lists: funny, attractive, good person, successful, etc. While I could easily fill up pages with traits and qualities, I am more interested in how I want to experience a relationship and how we function as partners.
One way to approach this is by looking at those traits you desire and asking yourself why you want or are attracted to those things. The “why” is the experience you desire. If I ask myself why I want “smoking hot and super smart,” for instance, what I am really desiring to experience is a deep connection and intense passion. While “smoking hot and super smart” are subjective, when I connect with how I want to feel and experience partnership with “her,” I experience a sensation and feeling that I can connect with and, from there, feel if she and I resonate on that level—or not.
Why would I desire intelligent, socially conscious and emotionally present? Because the experience I want in partnership is one of ease and trust. If I know that she will let me know if there is a concern, if I know that we are committed to working through anything that comes up together and if I know that we are on the same page as far as social issues and how we dissect those, we have far more opportunities to connect at a deeper level, because there is less stuff in the way to work through.
Getting back to the question of “work” in relationship: We get to see that there are different kinds of work, it is just a question of where and what your commitment is. Some folks need all the boxes checked with little room for thinking outside the box. Others are willing to overlook every little thing for the possibility of “love.” The real answer to what work is worth doing or not, begins with looking within, getting clear on what is important to you and why, and then being very real with yourself about how—or IF—you wish to experience partnership with another.
For me, partnership looks like being willing to talk through things, spending time just breathing together, asking questions of each other and really listening to our answers, making decisions together, taking time to tune-in energetically with each other and having each other’s back, knowing that the two of us can and will handle anything that comes up.
The possibilities are really endless here, and you get to say what works for you and how you wish to express yourself in partnership. I invite you to look for yourself and ask: “What would it be like for me to have an actual partner?”
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