Saturday 1 October 2016

Meeting of minds: The right relationships starts with you

Published 12/04/2016 | 02:30

Tinder
Tinder

What are you looking for in a relationship? We've all been asked this question at one point or another.

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Some of us have even penned checklists detailing the desirable characteristics that an ideal partner should have. Loyal, kind, ambitious... you catch my drift.

If you've made one of these lists, you've probably noticed that the traits you outlined also describe you or at least an idealised version of you. Taste is personal, very personal indeed.

The truth is that we look for relationship partners who share our core values, attitudes and beliefs. Granted, there are often superficial additions to these lists - tall, financially secure, non-smoker - but the non-negotiable characteristics are merely a reflection of the person you are, or the person you would like to be.

It's wise to know what you want from a relationship. It's wiser still to ask yourself if you're truly living the traits that you would like your partner to evince.

If you have one of these lists, take a moment to ask yourself if you're reflecting the qualities that you'd like to attract. Are you loyal, kind and ambitious? Or are you searching for qualities that you lack? Do you want a financially secure partner because you're always broke a week before payday? Do you want an organised partner because you can never find your keys in the morning?

We only attract people who are at a level of consciousness that matches our own. In other words, you will only find these traits in a partner once you have cultivated them in yourself. Spiritual author Marianne Williamson puts it better: "When we're calm, people around us will be calmer; when we're kind, people around us will be kinder; when we're peaceful, people around us will be more peaceful".

It's much the same for love, she continues. "Once we find the love within ourselves, calling it forth in our relationships comes much more easily".

I recently had a debate with my friends in which the vast majority of them argued that I wasn't putting any work into finding a partner. One suggested Tinder; another recommended a singles' holiday.

I countered that I was putting the work in... to myself. Some people go looking for their perfect partner by swiping on Tinder or combing nightclubs on a Saturday night. I prefer to search within.

My rationale is that once I follow my passions and reach my personal milestones, then I'll be magnetised towards the type of partner I want.

Perhaps this theory is better understood in retrospect. Think back to your past relationships and you'll gain a better sense of the lock-and-key mechanism at play. Low self-worth makes addicts and enablers compatible; a lack of self-love unites control freaks and submissives.

If your past relationship was a reflection of the person you once were, then your ideal partner is an ideal version of the person you could be.

Even so, people tend to put more work into finding a partner than they do into bettering themselves. They don't see relationships as a mirror or realise that even the liars, losers and cheaters perfectly matched their frequency at one point in time.

They don't understand that the most important relationship is the one they have with themselves or understand that it's the source from which all other relationships spring.

The late journalist Sidney J. Harris summed this up beautifully: "It's surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognising that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves," he wrote.

All relationship are learning curves, but there is so much more to learn when we realise that we attract better partners when we are the best possible version of ourselves. When people talk about 'putting the work in' to the pursuit of a partner, they invariably mean dating sites, singles events and blind dates. They forget that finding the perfect partner starts with being the perfect partner.

Likewise, we ought to recognise that there are times when we are not ready for a relationship. It's best to press the pause button after a loss or grief or when we are at the crossroads before a big life change.

It's particularly important to avoid relationships in the aftermath of a break-up or separation. Give yourself the time and space to reflect and reinvent - otherwise you run the risk of repeating the pattern all over again.

And remember that a new relationship is no reason to stop striving for your highest potential. I often wonder if some relationships flounder because self-development becomes less of a priority when we have settled down. Weddings become the consuming passion while the relationship itself becomes the life purpose.

Some people lose themselves entirely. They take up their partner's hobbies and fall in with their friends. Perhaps these relationships would stand a better chance if they embraced self-development rather than self-diminution.

As for those looking for a relationship? Embark on a relationship with yourself first by developing the pillars of self-love, self-respect and self-worth. As a wise man once noted: "There is a reason they all start with 'self'. You cannot find them in anyone else".

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