What You SHOULD Be Looking For in a Partner

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I was on the phone last week with Laura.

Like most of my clients (and probably, like you), she’s quite a catch. Blonde, great smile, looks amazing for her age, creative and fulfilling career…and still, no guy.

For a long time, love wasn’t a priority, but as she got into her mid-40’s and achieved all the work success that she’d ever sought, she felt a deep yearning.

It’s not that she regretted the opportunities that passed her by in the past — it’s that she made a strong determination in 2010 that she didn’t want to be alone any more.

But she didn’t know where to begin.

She knows herself well — driven by success, fiery, opinionated.

She knows what kind of men she’s been drawn to — more successful, more fiery, more opinionated.

And yet, nothing has stuck. The most attractive men seem to be the worst partners.

Have you ever thought the same thing?

More pointedly, have you ever realized these men aren’t a good fit and STILL gone for the next attractive man who seemed more successful, more fiery, and more opinionated than you?

Of course you have.

You want what you want.

You’re attracted to what you’re attracted to.

But really, what you’re doing is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. And even three-year-olds realize that this is an impossible (and thankless) task.

You need to try a DIFFERENT method to get a DIFFERENT result.

You may THINK that the only person you can be happily married to is the man who is six feet tall, Ivy-League educated, makes $300,000/yr, and has the same religion and political leanings, but that’s just a restriction that you have imposed.

I don’t blame you — my ideal woman looks a lot like that, too! But you’ve created a definition of your perfect man in your head — and when each new man doesn’t fit into that box — you get rid of him.

To be clear, I don’t mean that your Mr. Right is short, fat, bald, poor and stupid.

I only mean that if the man whom you THINK is Mr. Right never turns out to BE Mr. Right, it’s probably time to alter your image of Mr. Right.

Right?

You need to try a DIFFERENT method to get a DIFFERENT result.

So, if your idea of Mr. Right isn’t really Mr. Right, what you SHOULD be looking for? I’m so glad you asked.

Because the trickiest thing about finding a perfect partner is that your perfect partner is not the perfect PERSON.

In fact, if I were to distill my sentiments about what you should be looking for in a partner, I would probably say this.

“You need a complement, not a clone”.

Yet if you’re in the 90th percentile in looks, intelligence, and income, you likely think that the key to happiness is finding a man who is in the 95th percentile.

Not true. That’s what you’ve been doing your whole life. It hasn’t worked.

You need to try a different approach.

My client Laura finally “got” this during our last call.

Laura’s got a lot of personality. She’s the one who dominates conversation and is the center of attention when she’s at a party. Laura may be DRAWN to men who are more charismatic than she is, but they’re not good fits for her.

Because a charismatic man wants to be the center of attention.
Because he doesn’t want to share the stage.
Because he’s likely to compete with Laura for the last word.

And most of all, because his charisma is probably indicative of a whole bunch of other qualities — his desire to flirt with other women, his bossiness, his stubbornness, his refusal to settle down or compromise…

Yes, Laura’s dated that charismatic guy a dozen times — always with the same result.

Her shift — and yours — is not to swing to the OPPOSITE end of the spectrum. Remember — I’m not trying to pair you up with bland, boring, and lame men.

Just know that if Laura brings 60% of the charisma, her partner should probably bring 40% of the charisma.

If Laura’s bringing in 60% of the income, her partner should probably bring in 40% of the income, and so on.

By having a balanced partnership, you can lean on each other and clearly define your roles without all the ego and conflict.

My wife handles customer service because I have a worse temper.
I handle negotiations because she’s too nice.
My wife handles money because I’m better with words.
I handle paying for vacations; she’s the one who plans them.

Relationships aren’t about two people who like skiing or two people who enjoy live music.

This may seem trivial but this is important. Relationships aren’t about two people who like skiing or two people who enjoy live music. Relationship are about how a couple can negotiate and compromise in every aspect of life.

So when you date the man who is just like you but “better”, you’ll likely end up with a man with the same strengths…and the same weaknesses.

If I married someone with my weaknesses, my wife would be difficult, opinionated, short-tempered.

The reason that we work is because she’s my complement: patient, happy, easygoing.

If it seems like a challenging shift to wean yourself off of men who are just like you, all you have to do is look at the results.

You’re reading my blog for smart, strong, successful single women.

That’s all you need to know.

You don’t need a clone. You need a complement.

Join our conversation (40 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 21
    Dee

    @12.   Right on Diana.   Maybe strong successful women need to look for their complements, but that is coincidence that their complements happen to be good mate material.   Should the quiet woman who 10% wants the center of attention and is 99% faithful to pair with the man who is 90% the center of attention and 1% faithful?   Even away from the hyperbole examples, is the 10% frugal person best matched with a 90% frugal person when money disagreements are the root of many divorces? I don’t think so.
    I think for some characteristics the complement strategy works (though I am hard pressed to think of many), but it is not a one size fits all approach and never is wise for many characteristics.

  2. 22
    Kate Candy

    May I echo Sharon #20’s comments about “blonde” used as an adjective in connection with “great catch.”   Ditto “petite” which was not used in this blog post, but I’ve seen it in comments from the men on this site as a positive recommendation for a woman (Karl, for example).   

    Also, AQ #2, I make $40K+ a year as a college adjunct instructor (one of my masters is Ivy). Although I am female, I was a bit hurt to think that this would be considered a negative.   

    What I’ve learned from this site (which does reflect society at large) is that a slender 5’10” well-educated, middle-class brunette is not very valuable in the online dating market.   

    So, it would not seem that personality traits are truly valued.   For men, it’s looks, and a specific set of looks; and for women, it’s money, more–much more–than the average salary.

    Take heed, all.   If you’re not finding your complement or clone, it’s because the world has become a very cruel, judgmental place.   People seem to believe that because they want something, they’re entitled to have it.   It seems to me that online dating has made dating more like shopping for clothes.   

    You know what would be nice, what about if when people went out on dates, they just tried to enjoy spending time with the person that they were with?Without ranking them or listening for exaggeration or overstatement or trying to ferret out their untruths.   Just set as a goal, trying to be a good partner to a person in the time that you have together.   I think everyone would enjoy themselves more, and the world would be a kinder, gentler place.

        

  3. 23
    Ruby

    What is up with the $300,000/year salary? I mean, seriously, how many men out there earn that kind of money? Actually, only 1.15% of the population earns that much, and 50% of the population lives on $46,000 or less. Has it ever occurred to EMK’s clients that a man who’s tall, gorgeous, ivy-leagued degreed,  and  that rich would have a huge ego to boot? And the blond thing, what is so special about that? For Pete’s sake, get over yourselves!

  4. 24
    Goldie

    Oh for crying out loud people, haven’t you ever heard of the Show Don’t Tell principle?? As a writer, when describing someone, you don’t just say “an attractive woman”, you add a few visual details so your reader can paint a mental picture of that woman in their mind. The blonde thing was probably there so we could easier visualize Laura. Period, end of story, there’s nothing more to it. Sometimes a banana is just a banana, you know?

  5. 26
    Kate Candy

    This has been put up in place of Kate Candy’s post:

    I will continue to do this as long as readers willingly misinterpret what I say, criticize me personally instead of focusing on the original post, and generally draw me into lengthy pointless conversations where I’m forced to defend myself, but don’t really feel the need to. In this instance, Ms. Candy wants to insist that “blonde” is a compliment, not a descriptor and that, somehow, by association, I’m discriminating against brunettes. She also insults me personally.

    You’re bright, Kate, but you’re a guest in my home and I’m not too happy with your treatment of the host. Good bye.

  6. 27
    Hope

    This is my first post after reading “Why He Disappeared” and following your blog for a few months now.   I’m a free-spirited, romantic, artistic type and years of trying to date my “clone” has resulted in a lot of disappointment.   I’ve been on Match since the summer but I still fall into the pattern of choosing guys who fit in with one or another of my lifestyle fantasies (I’ve dated every type of attractive, emotionally unavailable man there is….rock star, male fashion model, artist, a couple filmmakers, a couple aristocratic French men….).   It’s made for some stories to entertain my friends with, but I still end up lonely. So much for fantasies.   
    Thanks in part to this kind of advice, Evan, I am going to give a chance to a guy from Match who is NOT my clone.   He owns a home in New Jersey, drives a pickup truck, is built like a linebacker, works for a brewery, is NOT any kind of sophisticate and doesn’t fulfill any of my fantasies about moving to Paris or making the society pages in the Times….. but he happens to think I’m incredibly awesome, calls every day to say hello, and has even offered to teach me to drive ; )   None of which is a guarantee things will work out between us, but I sure do like the way HE makes me feel, as opposed to always feeling inadequate and worried in between dates with those other guys.

  7. 28
    Kurt

    I don’t know many men who want an “opinionated” woman!   When I hear a woman described as “opinionated,” I immediately assume that she is a controlling, self-centered, in-your-face, bitch! I have met too many women who were like this and it isn’t attractive.   The last thing I am looking for is a woman who is going to argue and complain most of the time.  

    1. 28.1
      Jennifer

      Kurt,   I am new to this site. When I read your post, however, it struck a nerve. I do consider myself to be an opinionated woman. My current boyfriend thinks that when I am voicing my opinion, that I am arguing with him. In fact, what I think, is that he is just intimidated that I might have a difference of opinion from his. That, in my mind, does not make me a controlling, self-centered, in-your-face bitch!   I consider a person with an opinion, as a smart, think for yourself, and stand up for your values kind of person. If a man doesn’t want an “opinionated” woman, that to me, tells me that they might prefer a blow up doll, with no mind, that will just agree with everything you have to say and not complain or feel like they deserve better.

  8. 29
    Patricia

    Evan, I know that you are tired of pointless conversations. I haven’t read Kate Candy’s comment, so I can’t say she wasn’t aggressive or rude and you weren’t right to post your comment in place of hers. But as a brunette, I’m tired of guys always talking about blondes like they’re goddesses. I’m trying to be very respectful here, because I love your blog and I know in this case it was just a description of the woman.
    But look at these made here:
    ”If you are famous and look like a fat pig or a dork, you’ll still get a hot girl (just look at the unattractive male celebrities with the hot blondes).” – in ”If Men Only Like Hot Women, Where Does That Leave An Average Woman Like Me?”
    ”This woman was blonde, thin, beautiful, active, and successful – exactly what every man wants right?” – in ”And the winner of the Evan Marc Katz Philosophy 101 Writing Conteste is…”
    ”Prior to me, he had mostly dated blonde women.” – in ”How Do You Know He Loves More Tha Your Looks?”
    ”Men are attracted to women who have big eyes, small chin, blonde hair, clear skin, rosy cheeks, bright eyes. These appear to be characteristics of children.” – in ”Are The People That You Want To Meet Online More Physically Attractive Than You Are?”
    ”I was once a small breasted brunette and just had to live with it.” – in ”If You Are Short, Fat, Older or an Asian Men, You Must Read This. But Especially If You’re Short.”
    ”So obviously most Asian, African American and a hell of a lot of Caucasian Brunette women aren’t my type. I don’t consider that an insult to any of them.” – in ”If I’m A Great Woman, Why Haven’t I Met Anyone Else Great?” (and, well, in case you’re wondering, yes I take it as an insult.)
    And so on…
    So, as a brunette, I get her pain. You were not discriminating, I’m sure, but you ended up doing just that. And things like these is what has kept me from dating. I’m 20 and never had a boyfriend,never even kissed a guy because things like these have ruined my self-esteem and I don’t know if I’ll ever find anyone or be happy…

    1. 29.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      This is ridiculous. I have a brunette wife. I happen to prefer brunettes. Blonde is just one of many possible descriptors, like talking about her career or age. If you want to hold onto that as some form of discrimination, good for you. Your hypersensitivity to a non-issue will continue to impede you in life.

  9. 30
    Karl R

    Kate Candy said: (#23)
    “May I echo Sharon #20”²s comments about ‘blonde’ used as an adjective in connection with ‘great catch.’    Ditto ‘petite’ which was not used in this blog post, but I’ve seen it in comments from the men on this site as a positive recommendation for a woman (Karl, for example).”

    I have to wonder how I ended up in this conversation.

    I’m also trying to recall any time when I’ve used the word “petite” except when describing my fiancée. (If you click the link in my name, you can see what my fiancée looks like. She is petite.)

    Furthermore, the most frequent positive recommendation I give for a woman (including my fiancée) is “easy to get along with.”

    The second longest relationship I ever had was with a woman who outweighed me by about 20 pounds (and she wasn’t anywhere close to my height).  Like  my fiancée, this woman  was also  rather easy to get along with.  I would recommend her as a partner to anyone who doesn’t mind dating a single mother with kids at home.

    Another positive recommendation I use (more often in real life than on this blog) is “fun.”

    Blonde or petite? Neither makes a difference in the long run.

    Taking offense at the tiniest things … that’s a major turn-off. Nobody is hot enough to compensate for that.

  10. 31
    Rochelle

    “You need a complement, not a clone”.
    Yep. I dated my clones for years. Fairly recently reflecting on my last relationship and comparing someone else I met who is different from most men I’d date made me realize I don’t want my clone. This particular new guy   may not be the one for me since he inconsistent but I see other areas where someone like him who was consistent, would be a great match  . My ex and I had very similar   personality   so we had the same  strengths,   the same weaknesses, and a ton of the same interests.   He was the biggest clone ever.   Some of our  conversations  felt   as though  I was was  speaking  to myself, wouldn’t that get boring? I like the saying that goes “If two people in a relationship are too alike, one of you isn’t necessary”. 😛
      However, I am   a bit different   from the “smart, strong,  successful”   women who are very  proactive  and take control. I   make   a decent living and have a masters, yet I do not want to be a CEO, etc.   I’m more introverted than extroverted. I enjoy being in a more supportive and nurturing role in my career where I do get to   make decisions yet I’m not “the boss”.    Many men   I’ve dated     say they like strong aggressive women. Also after learning that many people mistakenly make the association of being feminine with being a doormat,   I thought I was supposed to be more aggressive. So I   even asked out and chased after guys, but never  seemed  to come out right as it felt unnatural. I also confused aggression and assertiveness so I was one of those women who went from being “too nice” to   “too bitchy”.  
    So I do believe part of the reason   I haven’t found the relationship I want is my choices.   I was seeking men who were very similar to me rather than my complement. I thought they’d be be able to relate to me better as they would “get how I feel”. I think that’s the reason most of us tend to seek someone who is just like us.     I should be dating    guys who have a heavier dose of masculine energy and do not have every little thing in common with me.  

  11. 32
    Lucy

    @Rochelle – I agree with you. If you have two people who are very alike it can reach some kind of stalemate when times get tough whereas with two different energies, one person gets down and the other picks them up. I think also it has a lot to do with conflict resolution patterns so two people who are conflict-avoidant or vice versa are not the best match for each other.  

    I’m quite feminine myself and beginning to get frustrated that I attract more feminine men when I want the more masculine men. The quiet guys look at me and think “She is like me. We are definitely a good match” but I tend to only see the guys who are almost my opposite as being psychologically attractive. I know people have looked at this through studying MBTI types etc

  12. 33
    Jack

    Good grief. Blonde nonsense is ridiculous. As a male in my young twenties I try not to discriminate on my dates based on hair color, ethnicity, etc. Dating is about who you find attractive! Am definitely not your target audience @EMK but enjoy your articles! It’s interesting to read from the ladies’ perspective. Thanks EMK!

  13. 34
    Di

    This blonde discussion is very amusing to me because I just started dating a guy who is blond, and I normally don’t like blonds.
      In the past, I probably would not have gone out with this guy.   On our first date, he was more affectionate than I was comfortable with, but there was something about him I did like.   He was a perfect gentleman–chivalrous.   I ended up enjoying our second date, although I was nervous about it.   We fooled around on the third date, during which I learned that he not only knows how to please me, but is very interested in learning to do it better.   He also demonstrated that he can take subtle hints about where the line is without skipping a beat.   While I know I’m in the nitpicking stage,   I do recognize that I’m damn lucky to be with this guy because he makes me feel good rather than self-conscious.   I know from experience that I can fall for a guy who is not my physical ideal, and that those traits I don’t like simply become him, and I will love those parts because they are him.   I know my weaknesses and what I need from a man, and he can definitely take care of those needs in an a LTR.   I’m very interested in seeing where this goes, and I hope it’s somewhere good.
    It is definitely worth it to give the not-so-ideal guy a chance, even a second or third chance.   Evan is right once again.

  14. 35
    GL

    I met a guy who admired and listened to my intelligence, which has definitely intimidated men. Intelligence and attractiveness is a man repellent sometimes. They go for you because of your looks, and then flee when they find out that you’re smarter than them. I was stoked this guy was not afraid of Intelligence, but then he turned out to be a flake. I don’t know, I keep trying. I need someone who is not intimidated by intelligence and secure. Who wants a relationship. A large percentage of men out there do not want a relationship. I keep thinking about that stupid guy too. I think the next thing in my dating skills is simply not to get attached for a long time, no matter how woozy and wonderful the first few weeks are. You hurt don’t know! Thank god the true colors come out early enough.

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