CHOOSING A NEW PARTNER
Tim Sharp M.Sc., (Clin Psych).
Lilli found herself divorced, employed, and the sole provider for a young child. The
stress of her divorce led to many unwanted physical changes. She felt old, tired, and used.
Nonetheless, she couldn't imagine a lifetime alone. In thinking about her previous
relationship, she decided to get information about how to choose a better mate this
next time around.
Many people change partners at least once, and possibly
more than once, during their adult lives. Sadly enough, less research and preparation often
go into picking a new partner than choosing a new car or a new home. Preparation and having
a clear idea of what you want from a relationship can help you and your new partner to make
a happy, fulfilling, and life-long match. This information sheet won't guarantee that your
next partner will be the perfect one, but it may help.
"Opposites attract" may be true, but doesn't
usually lead to lengthy partnerships.
- Most happy long-lasting partnerships are formed by
people who are quite similar. Compatibility in areas such as income level, education,
religion, ethnicity, values and interests minimizes the possibility for conflict between
partners and maximizes harmony. Major differences often spell difficulty in the long run.
As in most other areas of life, if you believe
that you deserve the best, you will be more successful than thinking you need to take whom
ever comes along and is willing to be with you.
- However, consider making your standards
"human" rather than "material." While the thought of marrying a handsome or beautiful
millionaire might seem optimal, there are plenty of unpleasant millionaires. There are
also plenty of rather conceited handsome or beautiful people (of course, there are a
lot of nice ones too !) Checkout what really matters to you in a partner. Is it how you
feel about yourself in his/her presence after your first fight? Is it how easily you can
discuss things that are usually hard to tell someone, like things about them you'd like
changed? Write down your criteria for a long-term partner.
If you have been through a series of unhappy relationships, and feel that you are bad at picking a partner, pay particular
attention to changing your approach. Be very careful of some of the wrong reasons for feeling very attached to someone.
Some of the wrong reasons are as follows:
- a. You think he/she is in need of your help, and you can somehow change or rescue
- b. You think you "should" or "ought" to be with this person, due to external
- c. You might be unsafe if you upset or anger this person.
- d. You feel you are unattractive and that you could never find anybody else.
People who speak English as a first language have only one word for love.
- The ancient Greeks made the distinction between eros
(Erotic Love) and agape (Friendship Love). Don't confuse the two. Falling for
someone, finding them attractive and wanting to be with them is nature's way of leading
us to one another. Staying with someone, making it work over a long period of time, and
co-operating requires friendship with your partner. So, the many of the same
characteristics you would expect in a good friend are also the characteristics of a good
Be clear to yourself and to the other person about what you expect of the relationship.
- Do you expect it to be short-term, medium, or long-term? In the old days, it was men who did the picking and choosing, hiring and firing.
Now times have changed, things are a lot more equal. Take advantage of this.
Remember, the best predictor of future behavior
is past behavior.
- How did your potential mate treat his/her last girlfriend, boyfriend,
husband or wife? How does he or she treat their family, friends and others with whom they
are close?Don't believe that people spontaneously make major changes in how they behave.
Many people spend their lives hoping and praying unrealistically that their mate will change.
Generally speaking people don't change a great deal unless they choose to make a committment
to systematic change (eg. psychotherapy). Even then, therapy is for people who really want to
change, and even more to the point, therapy does not necessarily change people the way their
partner wants them to change! You cannot make someone change. You can simply ask, and see
what you get.
Everyone responds badly to negative criticism, nagging and complaining.
- Decide that you will deal with the difficulties every relationship goes through in a sensible, calm manner. If this is an area you need help
to overcome, call a professional today, or join a support group for managing conflict. One of the best predictors of how a relationship will turn out is how the partners in it deal with
conflicts. Violence is never acceptable in a relationship; it never solves problems.
If you have children living with you, consider their happiness and safety, too.
- It is your job to make your children comfortable with your relationships. Allow your children to have a chance to discuss their feelings
with you. Practice listening rather than reacting defensively. Respond with statements like,
"I know sometimes you can feel that way." or"I understand that ..., and what you're feeling
is normal." Protect them from unnecessary stresses and strains over things they can't
change. Use social services, such as counseling or classes for step-families, if necessary,
to help integrate your new partner into your existing family. Go the extra mile to guarantee
that your child's relationship with your partner is happy and constructive, too.
Never "put up" with a relationship that is
consistently undermining to you, is dangerous, or makes you unhappy with yourself and your
- You'd pay for legal advice if needed; treat relationships the same way. Get the
help you need. It's available in many forms, and often for free both, on-line and off-line.
Your relationship can be the best part of your life. Make it that way!
Tim Sharp B.Sc.,M.Sc (Clin Psych), Principal Clinical
Psychologist (Adult/Family) Author Tim Sharp is a British Clinical Psychologist
in Health Service Practice on the Isle of Wight in Southern England. After qualifying
in 1985, he has worked for the British National Health Service, the New Zealand
Department of Social Welfare and Bermuda Hospitals Board. Tim's principal interest
is in systemic family therapy, particularly with respect to multicultural issues.
Work: Isle of Wight Clinical Psychology Service,
The Gables, Halberry Lane, Newport, Isle of Wight PO30 2ER