Most of us expect that our relationships are going to flip a magical switch within us and suddenly every problem we’ve ever had is going to slip away. The truth is, that’s just stuff that sells books and movies – it’s not something that most people will ever have in life. Truthfully, that’s a good thing – usually there’s no real benefit to never having pain. In fact, the rain teaches you to appreciate the sunshine – and most people are happier if they have some sadness to compare to. (It’s the same reason why spoiled kids are miserable as adults – they’ve never been told no!)
While you might be able to find that once-in-a-lifetime love that barely ever really happens, here are a few things you shouldn’t look for in a relationship.
1. Your relationship isn’t supposed to complete you.
If you’re not happy on your own, you’re not going to be happy in a relationship. That’s because real relationships require the couple to spend time apart, too. If your relationship is the thing that’s holding your happiness together, you’re completely dependent on the relationship, and your partner – which means you’re more like an assistant.
Instead, you should focus on being a complete person by yourself, and find someone who complements you. Your real Perfect Person is the one who accepts every part of you, whether she agrees with them or not, and you’ll do the same for her.
2. Your relationship isn’t supposed to define you.
If you’re looking for a girlfriend just because you don’t have a girlfriend, stop. This isn’t fair to the other person, and it’s not fair to you, either. Your Perfect Person isn’t someone who’s going to step in and fill a role – it’s someone who’s going to create their own role in your life. Truthfully, there’s no reason anyone should have a title in your life unless they’ve earned it. Stop looking to your relationship status to qualify your worth as a person.
Instead, focus on developing yourself as a person, and find someone along the way who fits with your life in a way that no one else really has. This person could come from an unexpected place – so make sure you leave your options open until you come across her. (Hint: You might find her more than once, and that’s okay. Your intuition will tell you what to do.)
3. Your girlfriend isn’t supposed to agree with you all the time.
Your girlfriend is supposed to have her own opinions, and call you out when your opinions infringe upon hers. If you want someone who’s just going to agree with everything you have to say, get a parrot. Besides, if you’re dating someone exactly like you, you’re probably just a little narcissistic and not quite ready for a relationship yet.
Instead, try to find a woman who will challenge you on the important issues, but respectfully back you up in public. Then, take the time to learn what issues she cares about – and don’t put her on the spot to defend her beliefs. No one should have to prove themselves all the time.
4. She’s not going to be hot all the time – deal with it.
Even the sexiest women alive aren’t going to be a perfect dime at every minute of every day. Respect that looking good takes a fair amount of maintenance, and there is literally no one who looks good 100% of the time. Sometimes, rain or bad hair days or lazy spells are going to happen. Sometimes, bigger things happen, like surgery or illness or drastic weight changes. Would you still love her if she didn’t look exactly like she did the day you met?
Instead of looking for the girlfriend who would look best on your arm (and in your bed), look for the one who fits best into your life. If you’re lucky, she’ll be gorgeous, too – but if you love her, you’re going to think she’s amazing anyway. The point is, looks can change, so your relationship needs to have a more solid ground than just her appearance.
5. She’s not going to put you first every time.
In the movies, we’re shown how romantic it is when someone drops everything just to spend the day in bed with their lover. But they leave out the fact that it’s not love – it’s sex. Mature women have responsibilities and priorities and that means that sometimes she’s going to be dealing with other things. If you care about her, you need to accept that she’s busy, and not pressure her to spend time with you if she says she can’t. Chances are, she’s already done the math in her head, and she can’t. Try to be mature about that.
Instead, you should focus on making your future your main priority. Just like she’s not going to build her entire life around you, you shouldn’t try to make her the center of your world, either. If she fits into your future, that’s wonderful! But don’t make her fit if she doesn’t.
6. She’s not going to be everything you ever wanted.
Fantasies are dangerous creatures. We have this idea in our head of who the right person is for us, and most of the time we’re dead wrong. This isn’t Practical Magic – you can’t just will your Mr. or Mrs. Right into existence. And believe it or not, that’s a good thing. If we limit our relationships to just what we think we want, what happens when our wants change? Suddenly Ms. Perfect isn’t so perfect anymore. And let’s not forget the fact that she’ll change, too – people tend to do that over time. Her wants will change.
Instead, think about the woman who gives you everything you need. When it comes to a relationship, the primary needs are pretty universal. Love, respect, trust, chemistry, and loyalty. There might be different levels of each of these criteria, but any other criteria is relatively irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Don’t throw away the one who satisfies your needs for the one who’s just going to be right for a little while.
7. She’s not going to come until you’re ready for her.
If you think you can just wait around until she comes along and pushes you to get yourself right, you’re wrong. You need to be a good partner before you can attract a good partner, otherwise you’re just going to run her away. Read: Getting your dream girl before you’re ready will ruin her. Sure, a patient woman will be right by your side while you work out the pieces, but you need to be on your way already – she shouldn’t have to walk you through the door.
Instead, look for someone who pushes you to expand the reach of your dreams like you never thought were possible. She sees the merit in your bigger-picture plan, and she’ll be there to cheer you on as you cross off every milestone.