Dear John,

I’ve had a lot of bad luck in love and no longer trust myself. Opening my heart isn’t the issue, but rather choosing the wrong partner is―it’s my specialty. Are there questions to keep in mind as I get to know potential mates to use as a guideline for finding the right romantic partner?

From,
Hopeless

“The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they’re given wings.”

-Rumi

Dear Hopeless,

Your question is well-timed! February is the perfect month to reflect on relationships, love, and finding the right partner.

It sounds like you have the openness and desire to invite a new love into your life. I believe it is meaningful to pause and to take a moment to recognize that the quest for love can be a wild rollercoaster ride with all sorts of ups, downs, unexpected turns, and loops. It is, indeed, a path of roses and thorns. It sounds like you have done some work to get to a space of open-heartedness. Now, you are trying to figure out how to “assess” potential candidates. I think you are right to add a level of rigor to the dating process. Practicing discernment of any sacred endeavor is wise.

At the surface, searching for a partner may sound like a process where you solely focus on the qualities of the other. However, it is as much about a turning inward toward yourself to discover and define what characteristics in a partner you are seeking. Those values will help guide your search and your ability to know when the right partner presents him or herself to you. Now, let’s think about what matters to you in different areas of your life?

I believe we can organize our thoughts by looking at this from a mind, body, existential and spiritual perspective. I will invite you to reflect on specific questions in these areas to help you come up with a kind of “partner profile.:

By mind, I am referring to the intellectual level at which you would like to connect with your partner. This domain extends beyond just IQ. I also invite you to consider what stimulates you intellectually. What films, books, art, music, and television genres do you like and are these activities that you would like your partner to share with you? Think critically about what sort of mentally stimulating events you would want to engage in with your partner. Similarly, it will be vital for you to determine what type of shared values, including political, ethical, moral, etc., you wish to have with your partner. These are important to consider, as they can be hot-button topics, so it will be useful to be on the same page.

The body-domain is wide-reaching as well. I define the body dimension as including and going beyond those physical features that you find attractive. Think about the far-reaching physical activities in which you would like to participate in with your partner. For instance, if you are athletic, do you want a partner who is as well? Do you enjoy long hikes, if so, do you want a partner who is equally inspired to go hiking?

We can also include eating and nutritional preferences. It may be relevant to you to be with someone who shares similar tastebuds. Also, if you choose a vegan lifestyle, do you require that of your partner? The same applies concerning drugs and alcohol.

Another consideration on the physical plane is where your partner lives. Now that we have online dating and apps to facilitate finding a partner, the distance may come into play. During the early phases of a relationship, you will likely be spending a lot of time together, so you have to consider the logistics of that. Perhaps having a partner nearby is better suited for you than having a partner who lives in another town or farther away.

The third category, the existential and spiritual, is crucial. The existential and spiritual level overlap with mind and body and work to infuse your life with meaning. For me, this is the realm where we can connect to transcendent and authentic love. This level examines the big questions related to being human. Reflecting on this level is where you look to determine what your sense of life meaning is, your real purpose and life path. Here, you have to make decisions about how committed to the relationship you will be, matrimony, children, community membership, devotion to a particular religious or spiritual path. Do you share in any desire to give back through volunteer work, what is your view on care-taking your elders, your children, grandchildren, and to care for the earth that we all share? What is your perspective on balance between work, career, and family?


Related: 5 Experts in Science and Spirituality Answer Our Questions About Love


The above questions and considerations may also guide you toward identifying specific activities to start to engage in on your own. Rumi once wrote, “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” Therefore, you must connect to yourself, to your own heart, and begin to live your life from the “inside-out.” You may discover that your first real love is yourself, and in falling in love with your true self, your future lover may emerge and meet you on the new roads that you will travel.

I must recognize that choosing a partner is a vast topic, and in this short article, I can only really offer you an introduction to the subject. Therefore, if you would like to read and study further on this topic, I highly recommend chapter three of David Richo’s book, How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving. In this section of the book, Richo offers particular criteria to apply and provides a much more extensive discussion on other considerations to make in choosing a partner.

Now that you have the above questions to reflect on, I think a meaningful next step would be for you to take some time to turn inward in meditation. You can specifically set an intention at the beginning of your meditation on gaining insight on the mental, physical, and spiritual qualities that you would like to cultivate and practice in your own life. The next step would be to then ask of your heart to offer you guidance on potential partners. It will be key to learn to listen to your intuition and trust your gut on the candidates that may show up in your life. You will likely have a strong sense for when the head, the heart, and the gut all agree on your candidate.

Warmly,
John

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