Figuring out what do you want in a relationship can be challenging. Perhaps you have had a few failed relationships, and you do not understand what kind of relationship you want.
On the other hand, maybe you are just entering the dating scene and are learning about what you should look for in a partner. Regardless of your specific situation, there are ways of how to figure out what you want in a relationship.
What do I want in a relationship?
When thinking about the question, “What do I want in a relationship?” it is important to firstknow who you are if you want to determine the answer. To know who you require you to become self-aware.
You must be able to turn inward and consider what it is that you truly value and find essential in a partner.
One aspect of self-awareness is knowing your core values, as these are important in every area of life. Some strategies for getting to know who you are and what core values you hold are as follows:
Define what is important to you, including areas you cannot negotiate on.
Think about what type of job you would want if you didn’t have to worry about the pay. This can point to who you are and what is most important to you.
Consider areas you might be willing to compromise on, such as the number of kids you want or what sort of house you live in.
Different people want different things
If you struggle with how to find out what do you want in a relationship, it may be that you are focusing too much on what other people want from relationships.
Perhaps you are basing your standards upon what your friends or your parents look for in a relationship. While your best friend may value certain characteristics in a partner, your needs could be entirely different.
Experts agree, cautioning that you should not conform to a generic list of qualities that most people think a suitable partner should have.
Others may not agree on the essential qualities you seek in a partner, and if you conform to their standards, you will miss out on what you truly seek in a partner.
It is not helpful to passively navigate your way through relationships, judging them based upon your subconsciously accepted beliefs from parents or other key people in your life.
Instead, you must take a good look at your own needs and find a partner who meets them, regardless of whether or not your needs are the same as your parents’ or your best friend’s.
Talking about what you want in a relationship
Once you determine the essential qualities in a relationship, you may have to discuss what you want in a relationship with the people you are dating.
The best strategy is to be brutally honest from the beginning, even research suggests that Romantic partners often have strong, idealized views regarding honesty.
Do not be afraid to hide your likes and dislikes, and be careful not to pretend to be someone you aren’t to impress someone you’re dating.
Discuss your hopes, dreams, fears, and hopes for the future openly. Talk about what you desire in your long term relationship. This allows you to determine early on whether someone you are dating is a good fit for you.
If your interests or needs turn them off after openly expressing them, this will prevent you from getting into a relationship with someone who doesn’t meet what you seek in a relationship.
Being brutally honest also requires you to communicate your deal-breakers to someone you are dating. This doesn’t mean that you cross someone off your list if they do not have all of your dream partner’s qualities.
It simply means knowing what is non-negotiable and being able to communicate it. For example, if you are firm about not wanting kids, it would be important to communicate this early on in a relationship.
This level of transparent, authentic communication allows us to learn about the people we are dating, as they will be likely, to be honest with us in return.
When we communicate in this way, instead of putting on a facade, we present ourselves as who we are, so we are clear about what we want from a relationship.
When you talk to a potential partner about things you look for in a relationship, it is also important to communicate with honesty and dignity about the qualities you find to be essential in a partner.
You must be comfortable communicating your needs, and you need to be honest with yourself about whether you are willing to walk away from a relationship if a partner does not meet your essential needs.
10 steps to figuring out what you want in a relationship
Knowing what do you want in a relationship starts with self-awareness and requires you to determine your core values as well as what it is, you cannot negotiate on in a partner. While this may sound simple, it can be quite challenging.
To make the process easier, there are 10 steps you can follow to know what you want in a relationship:
1. Define your core values, and make a list
This will require you to turn inward and truly evaluate what you want. Dating experts recommend that you create a list of things you have wanted from a relationship at various points during your life.
Look for common trends that have persisted over time, as these can reveal the core values or essential qualities that represent things you want in a relationship.
2. Evaluate past relationships
When evaluating past relationships, you accomplish two goals: determining what you like in a relationship and what you don’t like. If something went wrong in a past relationship, this can tell you what to avoid in the future.
On the other hand, looking at the things you miss about an old relationship can point you towards what do you seek in a relationship.
3. Use your values from other areas to determine things to look for
The things you value in your career or your financial life can point you toward finding out what do you want in a relationship.
For example, if you value a 9 to 5 job structure, you likely also value routine in daily life and need a partner who can accommodate this.
4. Take time to explore and figure out what you want in a relationship
Do not feel the need to settle down and find the perfect partner right away. You may have to date a few people or have a few failed relationships to help you learn what you do and do not want in a relationship.
5. Be aware of red flags
We have all experienced that uneasy feeling in our stomach when someone just isn’t right for us.
Whether it is something they say or how they make us feel, that feeling can point to red flags, which tell us valuable information about what we don’t want in a relationship.
6. Turn to couples you admire
You can probably think of at least one couple in your life that you admire for their successful relationship or the way they look at each other.
Take a moment to think about what it is you like about this relationship. Is it the way they support each other through difficult times? The way they talk to each other?
These clues can help you decide what it is you want in your relationship.
7. Value yourself first
If you don’t value yourself and see yourself as worthy of getting things you want in a relationship, you will end up settling for less than what you deserve.
It is easy to get caught up in ensuring that you meet your partner’s needs and wants, but if you don’t value yourself, your own goals can fall by the wayside.
When you value yourself and see yourself as a “prize” to the right partner, you will be able to identify what you want, and you won’t be afraid to ask for it from your partner.
8. Practice this self-awareness exercise
Experts recommend this self-awareness exercise that can help you to determine what do you want in a relationship. Picture what you want out of your ideal relationship. Close your eyes and truly imagine it.
When you are done, open your eyes and make a list of all the qualities you noticed. Take time to evaluate each quality and determine whether it is something you like or something non-negotiable.
If the quality is non-negotiable, mark it with an “E” to signify that it is essential. Essential qualities are what you want in a relationship, whereas other qualities on the list may be characteristics you enjoy but can live without.
Also watch: Increase your self-awareness with one simple fix.
9. Don’t be afraid to spend some time alone
If you have taken other steps to find out what do you want in a relationship but still are unsure of the answer, you may benefit from taking a break from dating and spending some time on your own.
This gives you plenty of time for self-reflection so you can figure out things you want in a relationship. While you are single, it is also important to explore and do exactly what you want, so you can find out what you like and don’t like.
This gives you valuable information about what you need in a relationship.
10. Don’t go into a relationship without knowing what you want
Experts warn that you shouldn’t go into a relationship with no clue about what you want. Make a note of what you appreciate in a partner, and go into new relationships being aware of these qualities.
Otherwise, you may try to change your partner throughout the relationship to better meet your needs. This rarely leads to success.
Everyone has different ideas about things to look for in a relationship; therefore, the answer to, “What kind of relationship do I want?” may look different for you than it does for close friends or family members.
Figuring out what do you want in a relationship requires careful self-reflection and an analysis of what you absolutely must have in a relationship, as well as qualities that you enjoy but can live without.
Looking at the pros and cons of past relationships, observing couples you admire, and taking time to explore what you like can all help you to discover what you want in a relationship.
It might be helpful to break the process down into a few steps of how to figure out what do you want in a relationship:
Determine what you want in a relationship and make a list based upon self-reflection, your core values, past successes and failures in relationships, and qualities you appreciate in other couples. Determine what is non-negotiable for you in relationships.
Take time to evaluate qualities that are not deal breakers for you. For example, while you may prefer someone who works in a similar field to you, perhaps this is not a non-negotiable factor. The things you look for in a relationship should be what you truly want, and not things that others may want for themselves or you.
Go into new relationships being open and honest about what do you want in a relationship and who you are; avoid the temptation to put on a facade to make a relationship work when it doesn’t meet your needs or preferences.
Going through the steps of how to figure out what do you want in a relationship can take time and effort, and this process may require you to spend time on your own to engage in self-reflection.
In the end, the effort will pay off, as you will be more prepared to find a relationship that truly meets your needs and leaves you happy.
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Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.