** Disclaimer **
To any man I am currently dating or may date in the future, this is not an instruction manual or an itemized list of "must haves." I'm not idealistic or unrealistic enough to think you can pick and choose character traits of a partner as if they were items on a grocery list. This post is simply a personal reflection of what I've learned about myself regarding what's important to me in a romantic partner. I would never want another person to change simply to become what I desire them to be. Where's the fun in that?
** End of Disclaimer **
I began the process of online dating about a year ago with clear intentions. I wanted to be more social. I wanted to try new things. I wanted to meet interesting people. I wanted to get out more. Perhaps, most importantly, I wanted to date a lot of men. Yes, I said a lot of men. I specifically wanted to avoid getting into any serious relationships right away because I felt it was important to explore what was out there, to learn what was most important to me in a partner and to not settle. Here's a list, in no particular order, of what I've discovered I need in a significant other.
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Just today I was talking with a girlfriend about that pesky question on OkCupid that goes something like this, "How often do you need to be in contact with your significant other?" The answer I run from is, "Everyday, unless otherwise specified." Because I don't necessarily want to talk to the person I'm dating every single day. And I sure as hell won't allow them to say that I must "unless otherwise specified." Communication is great. In fact, it's on my list here. It's important. However, my life is busy. I'm a single mom of three kids, and I work as a freelancer. I can't guarantee that I'll have time each day to be in touch with someone I'm dating. I don't want one more "obligation" on my to-do list, thank you very much.
Also? Along the lines of independence, I want a man who thinks independently and who knows that he is in control of his own life's circumstances. I cannot have a "partner" who doesn't act as such, one who needs to ask my opinion before making a single move or one who follows the crowd simply because it takes too much effort to use his own brain to come up with his own unique thoughts and opinions. Perhaps, most importantly, I need a man who knows that he is in charge of his own destiny, that he is not subject to the whims of a cruel world and that no one is out to make his life harder or to control him. Taking independent control of one's own life and circumstances is incredibly sexy.
Another big one on my list of important traits in a partner is that he put forth some effort on my behalf, at least as much as I'm giving him. I might as well also specify here that I need someone who puts forth effort even after they've gotten sex. Interesting how much sweetness, romantic gestures and meaningful words can be given until that first sexual encounter, and then those things seem to dwindle away. Wonder why that is?
That is definitely not what I'm looking for. I need someone who's going to continue to go above and beyond for me even after the sex. I should probably clarify that I don't mean I expect our give and take to be completely equitable at all times. Relationships aren't like that. Sometimes, one partner will have more time, energy and ability to do more of the giving, while the other may be in a position to be a bit more needy. However, I simply refuse to be the constant giver, the one who always worries about the other, the one one who asks what's wrong, the one who makes the plans, the one who puts forth the effort. You get the idea.
I grew up in a household where affection wasn't given openly, emotions weren't discussed and praise was very rarely handed out. So I know how hard it can be to talk about the rough stuff. Those things like vulnerable emotions or small criticisms can be difficult to express. I know. I also know that in order for a relationship to be healthy and to thrive, open communication is necessary. I can compromise to some extent. I will be understanding if it's hard for my partner to speak as freely as I do or to wear his heart on his sleeve. However, I place communication in the same category as going the extra mile or showing some effort. I need my significant other to be able to compromise his comfort level for me, to show that I matter, to go above and beyond in order to make sure we're on the same page and to work to avoid misunderstandings.
On a bit more trivial a level, I even hope that casual dates will grasp the importance of communication. I can't tell you the number of men who've just walked away from me without a word. I'm a grown woman. I promise not to fall apart if you tell me you no longer wish to see me. Honest. However, if you take the cowardly way out, I can't guarantee I won't show up unexpectedly with the intent of making you squirm just a wee bit. Especially if you've seen me naked. I tend to hold a guy accountable for a bit of forthright communication if he's seen me naked. I don't think that's too much to ask.
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Yes, a little romance once in a while would be appreciated. I'm not saying I want someone to spend lots of money on me or indulge me with grand gestures constantly. That would defeat the purpose. When I think of romance, things like flowers for no reason or a sweet text actually come to mind. Not that I'd be opposed to a grand gesture. Whatever the romantic notion is, I want it to be genuine, not out of a sense of obligation or because it's some Hallmark holiday. The romance I want is the kind that lets me know he's thinking of me, that he took a little extra time to show me he cares.
The most appealing men I've dated have been genuine of spirit. The ones whose actions and words I don't question. I've come to find that's a rare thing. That's why I appreciate it so very much when I find it. The security and appreciation that come with not having to second guess a man's sincerity are simply immeasurable. When I find this kind of genuine soul, I value them highly and will work to keep them in my life. I may place this trait above all others, in fact.
photo credit: LyndaSanchez via photopin cc
Aw, affection. I love a hug or a snuggle. What about a kiss on the forehead or a caress of the arm? Those sweet little things seem to have gone by the wayside with many modern men. Not that raw sexuality isn't hot. I like that, too, as long as it's genuine and not forced. But a man who's not afraid to express himself and his emotions through honest gestures of affection and sweetness scores high points in my book. Let's not forget the post-sex cuddle. It's a must, don't you think?
Finally, a compassionate man is a must-have for me. Oh, hell, I might as well just say that if he's not socially progressive in his politics, it's an absolute deal breaker. I absolutely cannot spend my life, emotions and energy on someone who cannot sympathize with and care for his fellow human being. Of course, I want him to show compassion and understanding for my feelings and to be there for me when I'm especially vulnerable, sad or knocked down by life. It has to go beyond that, though. I absolutely need to be with someone who gives a damn about others, who values improving the plight of those who are struggling and who wants to make a difference in the world. That matters to me.
Again, please understand that I know it's unlikely I will find a man who demonstrates every single one of these traits. This list is mainly a reminder for myself of the kinds of things that are important. It's a list of self-discovery. After two failed marriages and a number of romantic encounters, I've come up with this list through my experiences. I suppose it's really just a reminder that I have learned, and am continuing to learn daily, what really matters in a successful relationship so that the next time I enter into one long-term, I'll be more confident that I'm ready.