Maybe you’re tired of those dating experiences where there seem to be sparks flying between you and the other person and yet somehow things never gel. Maybe you keep getting involved with people who turn out to be a lot different from your initial impressions of them. Or maybe the whole dating game just feels like so much shooting in the dark. If dating is a game, it’s played on a wide playing field. You’ll stand a better chance of finding what you want out there if you first get clear about what your real desires and needs actually are.
Because there’s no such thing as a match that’s perfect in every way, a good first step is to consider what would be essential to you in a partnership, and what would merely be desirable or preferable. Your own lifestyle can provide you with a lot of clues as to what aspects of life are indispensable and what aspects you’d be willing to compromise on. Is your basic speed of life casual or fast? Are you more often social or private? Do you place a lot of value on possessions, or are you content to just earn enough money to live on? If your attitude towards money is casual, then you can probably spare yourself a lot if disappointment down the road if you avoid dating highly motivated career people.
It’s true that differences between partners can energize a relationship and create chemistry. It would be a mistake to look for a partner who’s “just like you”. But any relationship – and particularly a committed one – is going to occupy a lot of the time that is available in your life. You’ll want to devote that time, or at least a good portion of it, to doing things that you enjoy. Take a look at your hobbies and interests, and think about the kinds of things you like to do when you’re alone. If you value fitness and being outdoors, then it may be a stretch for you to see yourself with a homebody who loves to read and do crosswords.
It’d be worth your while to investigate your personal values in other, less obvious areas. Think of the conversations that you typically have with friends. Do you like to get deep and philosophical, or do you prefer to keep things light? Do you tend to be talkative, or do you enjoy having some space for introspection? If you’re the quiet type, you might enjoy having a partner who’s a little more verbose. On the other hand, if you can’t get any quiet then this might not be the person for you.
It can also be fruitful to explore your personal beliefs about relationships in general. Does your vision of a partnership involve sharing every moment together, doing a lot of things independently, or something in between? Is physical appearance more or less important than intelligence, or simple kindness? The answers that you uncover to these sorts of questions can point you towards the flavor of relationship that you prefer. That, in turn, will help you to recognize it when it comes.