You’ve been dating for a while now, and someone finally asked you, “What are you looking for in a relationship?”
This can be a tough question to answer, especially when you don’t know where to start.
So, whether you’re looking for something serious or just looking for a good time, here are ways to approach the question:
Certified in Discernment Counseling | Masters in Social work | Family and Couples Therapist
When it comes to dating and relationships, there are a variety of things to look for.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. We are all unique and will look for different things in a relationship.
- It starts with getting clear within yourself.
- It involves doing some internal work related to your values.
What are your deal-breakers in a relationship?
- Think about a list of non-negotiables.
- What are the things you want but willing to compromise on?
- What can you adjust to or accept?
It starts with understanding your value system.
Relationships take work.
- You want someone who is willing to work with you when there is a problem.
- When you’re together, you should feel at ease.
- You want a relationship where you can be yourself.
- If you’re looking for a long-term partner, you want someone loyal and who will grow with you — someone who will be your biggest hype person.
Mutual support feeds a relationship and builds trust. It is the water that helps a relationship grow and remain strong. Listen to your nervous system.
You shouldn’t have to strategize someone into loving you. A relationship is a biosphere. What you put into it comes back at you.
A partner who is self-aware and reflective
Mutual respect is paramount. It helps if you find a partner who is self-aware and reflective. You don’t have to always be on the same page, but you want your relationship to flow with curiosity and goodwill.
A partner who can articulate their feelings and ask for what they want
Communication is key. A partner who can articulate their feelings and ask for what they want provides you with a map. No one is a mind reader. Understanding your needs and asking for what you want starts a negotiation process of mutual satisfaction.
It’s important to be able to take responsibility for oneself and one’s actions and be able to repair when the inevitable disagreement occurs. Learning from past mistakes is helpful so that they don’t happen repeatedly.
You want to look for someone who can form loving connections
This can feel daunting, but in the end, it’s very easy.
You want to look for someone who can form loving connections, to themselves, to you, and the world around them.
CBT Certified Clinician | Private Practice Therapist and Owner, Stephanie Gilbert and Associates
You might start to list qualities you’d like in a person or talk through the answer with a trusted friend.
So much time can be spent on making up in our minds this narrative of the ‘perfect’ relationship down to the last detail that we forget that most of what we’re making up is not in our control.
Then, this can make it even harder; when we have those expectations, almost every first date feels like a dud, and it’s back to the dating app to try again.
What if there’s a better way to approach figuring out what you’re looking for in a relationship?
What if you could approach looking for a relationship from a much more confident, self-assured place and a better-defined view of what a potentially good fit might be for you?
The good news is, you can. How you approach dating is completely in your control. Start by thinking through these three steps.
Focus on yourself first; be clear about who you are and go from there
Yes, start by thinking about yourself! Often we spend time thinking about who the person is that we might want to date. That could be useful when looking through potential mates on a dating app, but in the beginning, we need to think about you.
It’s easier to define who might fit into the life you want to build by:
- thinking about yourself and your qualities,
- likes and dislikes,
- hobbies, and
- goals for the future.
Be clear about who you are, and then go from there.
Answer the ‘why’ to a potential relationship
Ask yourself, “Why now?” and answer honestly.
- Maybe it’s because you genuinely want a partner to enjoy experiencing life with, or
- Maybe because you went to the third wedding of the year dateless and you’re feeling particularly lonely and vulnerable.
Both are reasons.
If you want to date to solve a problem (see above regarding being lonely and vulnerable), rather than add to the overall quality of your life, you can:
- Honestly decide if a relationship is going to meet those needs or
- It’s best to seek other support.
Be realistic; think of the issues that will inevitably arise
Repeat this — no one’s perfect, and no relationship is perfect. The idea of finding a perfect relationship is a cognitive distortion. It’s easy to imagine all the good things that come from being in a relationship but also think of the issues that will inevitably arise.
Ask yourself questions such as these:
- Who would you be comfortable disagreeing with?
- Who do you want to take care of you when you’re sick?
- Who would you take care of them if they were sick?
It’s easy to imagine yourself living happily with the person of your dreams, but what happens when reality sets in and you have to figure out how to manage household chores, car repairs, and health insurance premiums?
Once you’re clear on who you are, why you want a relationship, and take a realistic view of what you expect from a relationship, you’re in a much more centered place to figure out what exacting you’re looking for.
And remember, we change as we grow, so what you want now when you’re looking for a relationship might be different than what you were looking for in the past.
That’s ok. All the more reason to get to know yourself again to figure out what you want and need now.
After all, how can we ever expect someone else to get to know us and love us in a relationship if we don’t know ourselves on a deeper level?
Writer | Speaker | Clinical Psychologist
There you are, on your first or second date, and then comes “The question.”
“So,” your date says, faking casual, “What are you looking for in a relationship?”
Let’s pause the date so I can teach you what to say. And some of it is going to surprise you.
“Kill the soulmate”
One of the biggest problems with dating in 2022 is the illusion of abundance. “I really like them, but the perfect person may be a swipe away, so maybe I’ll keep looking.”
You ache to know if this is the person you’re meant to be with, but you can’t possibly know if this person is your “soulmate.”
Because there is no soulmate.
If there were, I’d be married to Shaun Cassidy. In my teens, I was absolutely sure he was the one for me, and I’m not being facetious here.
I want to help you examine the belief that there is one particular, destined person we are each meant to be with and the unexamined assumption underneath that belief.
Longing for the perfect soulmate can doom your search for a wonderful partner and a great relationship because no flesh and blood human can live up to the picture you have in your head of “The one.”
So kill the soulmate! Don’t put unrealistic pressure on your real-life possible future relationship partner.
Stop looking for perfection, and evaluate whether you and this person might have the basic elements for successful, long-term love:
- conflict management, and
- some shared goals and values,
- plus some sexual compatibility.
The soulmate myth can stop you from ever being happy, no matter who you choose.
When you hit the inevitable rough patches in your future romance, if you are not careful, you will interpret difficulties and disagreements as proof that you are not “meant” to be together. Instead, you’ll see them for what they are — the growing pains of a real-life love affair.
Long-term love can be hard. So, look for someone who can hold your hand in sickness and in health.
Do your “love homework”
I suggest you make what I call a Lover List. It’s important to clarify what you want in your future relationship. After all, you are choosing a person to spend your life with, so shop mindfully.
Most people spend more time deciding what features they want in a new washing machine than the features they want in a mate.
List everything you can think of
Grab a pen and paper. Writing this down is more powerful than simply thinking about it. List everything you want in your lover and love relationship, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
You might want someone:
- with a sense of humor,
- who wants kids one day,
- who loves to travel,
- who is a passionate lover,
- who is kind and caring toward your aging parents,
- who owns a ski chalet in Switzerland,
- who is gorgeous, or
- who loves Bridgerton.
List everything you can think of.
Next, whittle it down to your top ten list. Be very thoughtful here — what are the ten most important things you want and need in a mate and in a relationship?
Get clarity. You probably don’t really need that ski chalet, but if having children is a fundamental life goal for you, it has to be in the top ten.
Here’s the catch: No real-life human will offer ten out of ten of the things you want. That’s the mythical soulmate — the one who lives in the enchanted forest next to the unicorn.
Look carefully for the qualities your date has instead of the ones they lack
Most happy couples I speak to in my private practice or coach in my online immersion program say their beloved mate has about seven of the ten qualities they want in a partner.
How about you? How many of your Lover List qualities does your current date demonstrate, at least part of the time? If you want to be happy in love — and I know you do — look carefully for the qualities your date has instead of the ones they lack.
Focus on what you want in the relationship, not what you want in the person
So applying what you’ve learned about the above points, you might answer like this:
“Well, I know I want a committed relationship with a partner who wants to learn and grow together. I don’t expect long-term love to be easy, so I value working on myself and my relationship, and I hope my partner will, too.
I love spending lots of time together, but I also believe time apart and different activities are great. I’m passionate about hiking and the outdoors, and ideally, we’d share some of that.
I also want kids, at least one, within the next 5-6 years. I’m also a passionate person, and I thrive when my partner is sensual and open and willing to explore life both inside and outside the bedroom.”
See how this focuses on the outcome of what the two of you might create together instead of who that person is.
In other words, no matter what qualities your date has, what matters is how they merge with you and what the two of you become in a relationship.
Compare this to a typical response which might be:
“I want someone who wants kids. They should have a great job, love to ski, and want to travel. They shouldn’t have big baggage, and they should treat me like gold.”
Well, you might get all that, and sit mournfully at home while your mate jets around the world between business meetings and ski trips, with their light carry-on baggage, leaving you with your “perfect kids” and treating you like gold from afar, and here you thought they checked all your boxes.
Focus on “give” not “get”
For major bonus points, after you answer what you are looking for in a relationship, turn the question on its head and tell your date what you plan to bring to the relationship, not just what you are looking for — what a crazy idea.
And yet, this is a profound thing to add to your answer. You might say:
“In terms of what I want to bring to a relationship — I want to be my partner’s cheerleader, best friend, and sexy lover. I know great relationships take two, and I intend to focus not just on what I want and need but on what my sweetheart wants and needs.
I know a couple, and I really admire their relationship. They begin each day by choosing one special thing they will do for each other. Maybe that’s a passionate kiss goodbye or a sexy text, or a surprise date. They end the day by sharing one thing about their partner they are grateful for.
I want to bring that kind of energy to my partner and relationship.”
In summary, the bad news is that it can seem like modern dating is super stressful, and the odds against finding someone special is terrible.
Now for the good news. Great couples do exist.
- They are not soulmates, but they have good love skills.
- They learn how to cultivate a deep and connected friendship, manage conflict well, and support and share hopes and dreams.
- They nurture their romantic and sexual lives and don’t expect everything to be easy.
And while a few lucky couples seem to come by these relationship skills naturally, the rest of us can learn.
So to finish, I want to encourage you to change your question. Ask yourself: “Is my date someone I can see the potential to be happy with most of the time?”
Here’s how you can evaluate your current date and decide whether to say “Yes” to the next date with them.
Examine whether the two of you can build the foundation of a great relationship, inevitable future issues and all.
- Do you truly enjoy each other, even though you are different people?
- Do you think the two of you can hang in through the bad times and learn ways to handle conflict and repair hurts?
- Is there enough overlap in your values and life goals?
- Is there some sizzle?
I am a romantic, as well as a scientist, and I absolutely believe great love affairs exist, but they are created, not destined, and they are flawed, not perfect. In my view, that makes love all the more precious.
Destiny didn’t hand you an admirable relationship; you chose well and created it. So stop looking for “the one.” Instead, look upon the beautiful, imperfect person standing right in front of you with curiosity.
As long as you’ve got some of the building blocks and the willingness to learn and grow, you can create a realistic (mostly) happy ever after — and be one hundred percent happy with seven out of ten.
Relationship Expert | Teacher | Writer | Founder, Feel Fully You
Answering this question, it is also important to remember that there is no space for 50% / 50% in relationships. You should both be involved 100%.
People take 100% ownership of their relationships. We are responsible for how:
- we feel in our relationships,
- we communicate with our partners,
- our partners understand us,
- we get to be loved and more.
List the qualities you admire in your soulmate
One exercise that helps people understand their partners and their desires and maintain healthy relationships is to list the qualities you admire in your soulmate.
- Try to write down five qualities that you love about your partner.
- What kind of qualities do they have?
- Is your partner kind?
- Do they have a great sense of humor?
Look at these qualities. You’ll see that they will help.
Related: 60+ Signs You’ve Found Your Soulmate
Your brain can’t stay on two sides simultaneously; you can’t stay angry and be grateful and feel love.
In the heat of the moment, when you’re angry, it is probably not always the best time to communicate.
- Take your time,
- try to stay alone, and
- put down something that you love in your partner.
And then talk with them:
“These are the things I love about you. And then these are the things that I think we still have problems with. So, are you open to discussing it?”
Speak about your sexual desires openly
Moreover, the sphere which should be mentioned is our intimate life. Sex is the most logical and natural thing in the world. Since our minds and bodies are connected, relationships with pleasure improve our quality of life and health.
One popular example is that sexual activity with orgasms makes our sleep better.
The interesting point here is that one of the common myths among couples is that sometimes people think they shouldn’t tell their partners what they like or don’t; they don’t want to be very vocal.
Instead of highlighting their preferences (“I love when you do it this way, but could you try it this way next time?”), sometimes people stay mute and do what they used to do in the bedroom.
This way, their sexual life never gets better because partners should speak about what they want and ask each other about their desires.
The conversations are of great value. It improves our relationships, and you can learn much from your partner just by chatting with them. My advice is to always speak about the desires openly.
Matthew Brace, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Therapy Embraced, PLLC
Reflect on what you want your relationship to look like a year from now
This question is meant to go deeper than just surface-level qualities when looking for a compatible partner.
Early on in relationships, people tend to overlook qualities or reframe them to fit their narrative because the excitement of the relationship is rewarding.
When reflecting on what you are looking for, it is helpful to reflect on what you want your relationship to look like a year from now.
A genuinely curious partner
Curiosity is a value many people have as it keeps them engaged in life, seeking new ways to learn and grow. When a partner can add more curiosity to a relationship, it keeps things progressing.
A genuinely curious partner will ask thoughtful questions that result in you feeling noticed and cared for. As a relationship progresses, there is naturally less learning about each other that occurs, but that doesn’t mean curiosity should stop.
A partner who remains curious is going to:
- check in with you about your day,
- ask how things went at a work event, and
- will continue to find ways to ask thoughtful questions.
A family-oriented partner
Everyone has family dynamics, and it is important to reflect on how you want your partner to be involved in your family and how you want to be involved in their family.
All relationships are going to be heavily influenced by extended family, so reflecting on what is important to you regarding these family influences is necessary.
Extended families will be influential in many ways, whether they are involved or not.
When an extended family is not involved, it can be challenging when support is needed, but someone is not close to their family. When an extended family is involved, reflecting on what you hope support will look like is important.
Overall, considering the role of your partner’s family is a necessity because it can either be very rewarding or very stressful.
A partner who is flexible and willing to consider other options
It is important to reflect on how you want a partner to handle change and deal with challenges. When a partner is flexible and willing to consider other options, you will feel reassured that your voice is being accommodated.
Flexibility is also the skill of letting go of control. Your partner may have an assumption of how the weekend will go, but that doesn’t match your assumption for the weekend. Flexibility occurs when those assumptions are shared, and there is a willingness to change course by one or both partners.
Be transparent about your expectations
The simplest, and I believe the wisest answer is to tell the truth.
- If all you want is a friend to do things with, say so.
- If you are looking for a lifetime partner/commitment, then let your date know that this is your ultimate goal.
- If you’re recovering from a breakup and just need a distraction or some fun, be honest about how fragile you are and reluctant to be vulnerable.
If you are transparent about your expectations from the beginning, you will:
- avoid time spent with a date who doesn’t fit in with your desires,
- avoid unnecessary hurt feelings.
One of the things I admired about my late husband when we first began dating was he was totally in the open about his intentions. His wife had died the previous year. He liked being married and was looking for a wife.
I, too, was honest about wanting to take it slow and easy. I’d had my heart broken the previous year and was very cautious about getting too serious, too fast.
Fortunately, he respected my boundaries, allowing me time to get to know him and ultimately fall for him.
Being transparent takes courage. For some people, it’s terrifying to open their heart and tell the truth.
One of the essential components of healthy communication is being able to share and hear feelings. Disclosing your feelings requires far more vulnerability than carrying on a conversation about work, school, or the ballgame.
Those surface conversations are just a place to start — to learn enough about the date to decide whether or not you’re interested in the next date! But on the next date, share your feelings.
That might look like:
“I enjoyed our conversation last week, and now I want to know more about what is important to you.
- What are your highest priorities in life?
- What can’t you tolerate?
If you’re interested, I want to share the same things about myself.”
“When we last met, I wasn’t sure you’d be calling again. So I’m a bit surprised to be on a second date with you. What are you looking for on a date? In life?”
If your date isn’t comfortable with that level of communication, it’s a red flag. If they are uncomfortable with feelings and exposure to desires now, the same would be true after marriage.
Discomfort or inability to communicate the feelings and ‘needs levels’ eventually causes a relationship to feel shallow and unfulfilling. Better to know that now than ten years into a marriage.
Start a relationship the way you want it to grow. If an emotionally intimate and conscious relationship is what you want in life, then make that your goal and purpose in dating, too!
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | California LCSW | Florida Telehealth Provider
“Someone to travel with”
While this only works if you actually like to travel, if you do like to travel or want to travel, then you already know that traveling has the potential to create some really amazing and really stressful experiences.
Couples who can successfully navigate traveling together often have strong relationship skills, especially when it comes to communication, flexibility, and choosing your perspective, which are essential elements of a successful relationship.
Positive relationship skills needed to travel together
These all have the potential to shine a light on problems in a relationship:
- Transportation challenges,
- weather problems,
- unexpected illnesses or injuries,
- differences in how people want to spend their time,
- money challenges or
- differences in how people spend money, and
- all the things that could go wrong during travel.
So, if a couple can come back from a trip still liking each other, chances are they demonstrated:
- Constructive communication
- Mutual respect
- The ability to set goals
- The ability to work towards those goals collectively
By saying you want someone to travel with, you can communicate that you want a relationship with someone safe, fun, flexible, respectful, and can keep the big picture in mind even when things aren’t going smoothly in the present.
Danielle Dellaquila, LMSW, CBT, DBT
Associate Therapist, Gateway to Solutions
Be direct and honest; people are not mind-readers
Effectively communicating your wants and needs is one of the most important things (if not the most important thing) for a person to be able to do in a relationship. People are not mind-readers and do not know what you want or need unless you tell them.
It would help if you looked at this question as a tool that will help you to work toward finding the right match.
If you are honest in your answer and find out that the other person is also looking for the same things, that’s great, and it allows both people to move forward in the relationship knowing they are on the same page.
If you are honest in your answer and the other person does not want the same things or has a strange reaction to your response, this also tells you something important.
If it is not going to be a good match, it’s better that you know this as quickly as possible so that you can spend your time finding a partner whose relationship goals align with you instead of spending time in a relationship that will never work.
To answer this question, you must first ask yourself the following:
- What do I need from my partner?
- What can a partner expect from me?
- What do I want for myself in the future?
- What are the deal-breakers?
- What does an ideal relationship look like for me?
Getting an understanding of what you truly want in a relationship is important. When you communicate this to a potential partner, it shows that you are someone who knows what they want, which is an attractive quality.
If they don’t respond positively, that is not a reflection of you or them — it just means it might not be the right fit. Being honest in answering this question on a date ends up helping everyone in the long run.
There’s an art to answering this question.
Yes, you want to be honest and clear so you both know where you stand. You also want your answer to be attractive and enticing, so the other person will want to keep seeing you.
Here’s a tip: Think like Don Draper on “Mad Men.” In one episode, Don said, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.” The courtship phase of dating involves advertising your best self to potential partners.
Lead with what you offer, not what you want
The “What are you looking for?” question is a chance to convey how amazing it would be to date you. So lead with what you offer, not what you want. Learn from Don and answer this question in a way that makes your crush happy.
How not to answer the question? By making it all about your needs. Don’t say, “I want someone who will always be honest, give me endless support, and be faithful.” Now, those are great things! But a list of your relationship demands will not entice anyone to date you.
Here’s a much better answer:
“I’m looking for a true, authentic connection — someone who loves red wine and deep, stimulating conversations about TV and art. Someone I can support and laugh with at the end of a long day.”
This response implies a long-term relationship but does so in an enticing way.
Hey, who doesn’t like red wine and great conversation, right?
So, be like Don Draper, minus the infidelity and binge drinking! Give an enticing, honest answer that offers happiness.
Talk about wanting something casual in an elegant, honest way
There’s nothing wrong with casual dating, as long as you’re transparent in your intentions. Honesty is king in dating — long live the king!
But you can talk about wanting a casual relationship in an elegant, honest way.
Here’s what not to say:
“I’m just looking for friends with benefits, someone who’s.”
Yuck! That makes it only about sex and the physical. Gross. Even a casual fling can be about a real connection.
If you want something casual, say something like this:
“I’m looking for someone to genuinely connect with for laughs, great chemistry, and a fun, intimate together — no long-term expectations. I like to take things one date at a time.”
This implies a casual relationship but still mentions something we all want, from long-term relationships to casual hookups: real connection.
How to make a second date happen if you see a potential relationship:
Make your interests known sooner, not later
First things first: Don’t “play it cool” and make them wonder if you’re interested. People have so many dating options now, and if you “play it cool” you’ll play the fool — and they’ll likely move on to someone else.
Instead, make your interests known sooner, not later. Don’t wait longer than a day. There’s something attractive and sexy about a person putting their romantic cards on the table. It shows vulnerability and courage.
Going after what you want is just plain sexy.
A great way to get a second date is to talk about it on the “first” date
A great way to get a second date is to talk about it on the FIRST date.
During a high point on date no. 1, suggest it like this:
“I’m having a great time with you. You know what we should do on our next date? We should [fun thing you both would enjoy].”
This way, you’re both asserting the second date that you want, which is attractive, and you’re assuming they want one, too. And much like Obi-Wan Kenobi using a Jedi mind trick, when you assume the other person is into you, that very confidence and certainty help to make it true.
Send them a text the day after your first date
Another strategy: Send them a text the day after your first date and let them know you’re up for another date.
Text something like:
“Heyy, [Name]… Last night was such a blast. I think we ‘both’ agree this needs to happen again, right? ;)”
Or you can try a “Jedi mind trick” approach, which wins you points for cheekiness.
The next day, text:
“Hey, [Name]… I just wanted to say that you had a great time last night, and you want to see me again.”
Relationship Expert | Published Author, PeopleLooker
Despite its harmless nature, this question has become overused in the dating scene for many years and is still challenging to answer. It’s funny how it can catch someone off guard despite the fact it’s such a common question.
The following are possible responses to this question that can help you determine whether you and your date are compatible.
A relationship with someone who has a sense of humor
As we all know, life can be hard, so we must stay away from toxic relationships and negativity as much as possible. Find someone who can make you laugh after a stressful day at work, somebody who genuinely laughs at your jokes. Essentially, find someone you can laugh with.
However, this doesn’t mean you should choose a partner who isn’t serious in life. You want to be in a relationship to lead a happier life, not to have your life worsened. So, choose a partner with a good sense of humor.
A relationship with a partner who is also your best friend
The key to a successful relationship is friendship; you should look for someone who will be not only your lover but also your best friend.
It’s important to find a person who will always be there for you, a person who will be your biggest fan and your best confidant. You should focus on building a deep and strong emotional connection, something only best friends can achieve.
A relationship with someone in which you are treated with respect
In a romantic relationship, this is something we should all strive for. If you allow others to disrespect you, you are also disrespecting yourself. A relationship without mutual respect won’t succeed.
Your partner needs to understand that you have different needs, interests, and perspectives on certain aspects of life.
A relationship with a person who is a good listener
The person you choose should believe that everything you say has meaning. For example, if someone has a problem and their partner provides sound advice, your partner is a good listener. They use more than just their ears to hear your words.
Observe how your partner responds to everything you say. If their responses do not seem relevant to you, they might not be the right ones for you.
A partner who truly listens provides tailored-fit responses. This means that they make sure that their advice is realistic and achievable.
A relationship with someone who knows how to compromise
The ability to compromise has to do with our ability to handle arguments because even when we meet someone who matches our personality, that does not necessarily mean the person always shares our viewpoint.
A conflict might arise when one person approaches problems differently than another, in which case both parties should learn to compromise. If this is difficult, focus on your goal, and if both of you share the same goal, then committing to compromise and cooperating will help you achieve your goals.
A relationship with someone who isn’t pretentious
It’s alright for your partner to see how you are when you’re not feeling good since you’re only human, and it’s okay for you to get upset or feel something negative.
Don’t always pretend to make a good impression because you’ll eventually get tired of pretending. It won’t just exhaust you; you’ll show your worst self instead of putting your best foot forward.
How you answer this question depends on who is asking and when. If it’s a new date and you don’t know them well, they’re probably trying to figure out if you both have the same goals.
If one of you definitely wants to get married and one doesn’t, it’s good to find out sooner rather than later.
“It’s good to be honest, but not ‘too’ honest”
Why? You want to let your intentions be known. This way, there is no confusion. Months or years down the line, you won’t have one person trying to convince the other to get married when they never wanted to begin with.
At the same time, you don’t want:
- To tell them every detail on how to win you over.
- To tell them all the right words to say.
- A person who just parrots you to get into your pants or any other benefits from you.
The reason why they lie
Someone might mirror you and say what you want to hear because they want a short-term relationship with you. They may be bored or horny.
If you are really attractive to them or they’ve been single for a while, this can be a big problem. They may say whatever you want to hear. But they can’t keep it up long-term.
Once you find out what they’re truly about, it’s too late. You’ve wasted months or years of your life on the wrong person. Plus, you believed them, so you’re still in love with who you thought they were. This hurts.
They may not even be a bad person. They just really liked you. They wanted to win you over and were willing to do and say whatever it took.
How to prevent this from happening
Keep it general; you don’t have to say every detail
Keep it general. Say that you’re looking for a long-term exclusive relationship that will eventually lead to marriage. If having kids is important to you, say that, too.
But you don’t have to say every detail you’re looking for in your dream partner. You don’t have to say every detail of the house you want to live in and list every little preference. Otherwise, it’s too easy to agree with.
It’ll be too tempting to want to believe the person.
- Let them do some talking and see what they come up with on their own.
- Listen before you spill all your secrets.
- Watch their behavior over time to see if they practice what they preach.
- Make sure they’re not full of empty words and promises.
It may save you months or years of wasted time and heartache.
Speed up your dating success by hiring a relationship coach
If you’re serious about speeding up your dating or relationship progression, consider hiring a relationship coach, especially if you’ve had bad luck in relationships in the past.
A great coach can help pinpoint your specific issues. You’ll be able to fix them with expert help instead of just guessing and applying generic advice.
Finding the right relationship coach who understands you is key.
Licensed Therapist and Relationship Coach
Be as honest and transparent as possible
When responding to this question, it is important to be as honest and transparent as possible.
You want to be as clear and concise as you can so that it takes guessing out of the game. What you don’t want is to find yourself with someone that isn’t willing to meet you where you’re at because you didn’t say anything to begin with.
An example may look like is:
“I’m looking for someone who is kind and accepts me for who I am. Someone who is honest and open to my opinions.”
Important things to remember are that you are looking for a partnership, which may mean a give and take, but this does not mean that you give up your values.
Reflect on your core values and non-negotiables
With that said, before dating, you must take a moment to reflect on your core values and non-negotiables so you can feel aligned in your decision if the other person says they can not meet those needs.
Some examples of core values include:
- vulnerability, and
- honesty, among many others.
Lastly, once you nail down the core values that you’re looking for in someone else, I want you to take a moment to reflect on whether you are also embodying these within yourself.
When looking for a partnership, it is crucial that we live and breathe the very values that we would also like to see in someone else.
Relationship Coach and Content Creator, Dating Advisors
Let’s be real here: People usually don’t take kindly to those who are ambiguous about what they seek in terms of relationships. We’ve all been there at least once, spending endless amounts of time trying to please the other party in the hopes that their “maybe” could turn into a “yes.”
However, being absolute about your relationship preferences can also work counterproductively.
A finite answer to “What are you looking for in a relationship” could give anyone the impression that you do not have space in your life for another person’s opinion.
So, what do you do if you can’t be vague without leading people on, and you can’t be honest without coming across as egotistical?
If you try to be flirty: Throw the question back
If you’re trying to be flirty, you can always throw the question back to the person who asked it. This will allow you to get some insight into the other person’s goals regarding you and your potential future together. This will also grant you some time to think and respond accordingly.
If you’re going in blind: Keep your answer short and allow the conversation to spark
If you’re going in blind, though, keep your answer short and allow for conversation to be sparked based on your reply.
If you’re looking to get married: Make the journey your focal point
If you are looking to get married eventually or have kids, instead of focusing on the long-term goals of the relationship, make the journey your focal point:
“I’m looking for someone who can bring out the best in me, and I can do the same for them. People change when they get into a new relationship, so someone open to change and willing to go through it with me would be a great match.”
In this case, you avoid coming on too strong from the get-to but also allow the conversation to take a more serious turn.
The other person will aim to respond with the same amount of maturity and honesty whether your relationship goals coincide or not.
Don’t dismiss the question
If you feel like you are not sure what you are looking for just yet, don’t try to avoid answering the question. This often gives the impression that commitment issues are at play, and while not everyone will find that off-putting, it shows that your life is not as put together as you’d like.
- “I’m figuring it out as I go,” or
- “I don’t have a preference.”
Generic answers like these could make you sound like:
- You are looking for someone to pull you out of your uncertainty, or
- You might just come across as a player.
So, be honest but show that you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone:
“I know I am looking for a relationship, but I couldn’t really tell you if I am looking for a life partner or something more casual. I think expectations limit people in relationships, so I’d rather see where it goes with the person I’m in a relationship with.”
You show that you are not deliberately trying to avoid the question by answering this way.
You also share your views without seeming like you don’t know what you want. The other person’s reply might be something more definitive, and based on it, you can see whether you’d like to align your relationship goals with theirs.
We all want an honest, loyal, and loving relationship with a partner that shares the same values but that doesn’t really tell them anything other than “Don’t lie to me” or “Don’t cheat on me.”
People don’t often take well to another person’s insecurities, especially if they come out straight away.
Remember, the question is “What are you looking for in a relationship,” not “What are you looking for in a partner?”
The two might not be completely separate, but there are distinctions you can make to avoid drawing lines in the sand or making the other person feel like their freedom will be restricted:
“I’m looking for friendship and romance, but only if they compliment each other. A relationship where both people can talk about anything while also doing their part to keep the spark alive.”
We all have a general understanding of what “friendship” and “romance” is. If you reply this way, you are conveying that you want the honesty and loyalty that comes with sharing a friendship with someone and the freedom and autonomy between each person.
Romance conveys the emotional side and clarifies that what you want is not platonic.
Relationship Expert and Keynote Speaker, True Love Knots
You need to just look into yourself
No two people are alike in all ways; that’s why when answering this question, you need to just look into yourself. But how do you identify the things you want in a relationship?
If you are self-aware and have the answers ready, good for you!
This is a big win, but for those who have no idea where to start, let me share this process with you.
- Make sure that you are in a safe place — physically and mentally.
- Clear your head!
- Get your journal and start thinking about your past relationships.
- If you haven’t had any, think about what you admire in your parent’s or friend’s relationship.
- List all the positive things you liked about romantic relationships.
- This can either be from your experience or from others.
- Next, do the same for the negative things you don’t like.
- For example, you don’t think you can be in a long-distance relationship like your friend Katy.
- Look back in both lists and cross out the negotiables, then retain the non-negotiables from both the positive and negative.
- Once you are satisfied with your list (remember, there is no limit!), put them side-by-side on another page.
- Positive things are on the right and negative ones on the left.
- Read them together, and voila, you now have a pretty much complete picture of what you want in a relationship.
Doing this process provides a different perspective on how you look at relationships because:
- Writing provides a deeper outlet for your brain to process things.
- Seeing these things visually side-by-side brings a different perspective than just thinking about them in your head.
And the best thing is you can continually update your list even if you are in a relationship already. Because like it or not, we change, and it’s a good way to understand if your relationship’s going in a direction you like.
Senior Editor, Tandem
It’s integral that you are honest about what you want
Though I have been with my husband for almost 19 years, that doesn’t mean I don’t remember what I was looking for in a partner before we started our relationship.
What people look for in relationships is very similar to what they look for in friends:
- honestly, and
- they want to have fun when they are around.
Knowing these features are what you are most likely looking for, how do you answer, “What are you looking for in a relationship?”
When on a dating website
When you use a dating website to meet people, the website will want to serve profiles of people who closely meet what you are looking for in a partner.
For this reason, it’s integral that you are honest about what you want. There will undoubtedly be things that are more important than others, but you will want to make a list of what is most important to you.
Knowing this in advance will help you find someone more closely aligned with your expectations.
When your friends ask
Your friends care about you and want to see you happy. This is most likely why they ask you what you are looking for in a relationship. You would answer what you are looking for similarly to how you would reply on a dating website.
Many relationships started because the couple was set up by mutual friends. It’s a good idea to meet people through friends, as the people you are introduced to are more likely to be honest, plus your friend probably already knows a lot about them.
When at work
It can be okay to mix business and pleasure. However, when it comes to romantic relationships, these are probably best left outside the office. That’s not to say you can’t meet your soulmate at work.
In fact, some of my best friends were coworkers before they were married. It’s only to say that you should use caution when you mix your search for a romantic relationship with your business life.
Make sure that your actions in the office are appropriate. PDA’s can be fun, but they can also make others uncomfortable.
Whatever you are looking for in a partner, if you are honest, you’re more likely to find exactly what you are looking for.
Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers
Don’t be afraid to tell them out loud if you’re looking for specific things
Before answering this question, you need to think really hard about what you’re actually looking for in a relationship and then put it into words in a sensible way that conveys your message honestly.
If you’re looking for specific things, don’t be afraid to tell them out loud.
For instance, you’re someone who likes to have their own space.
Instead of drawing the person away by saying that you will not change for anyone no matter what, you can straightforwardly respond by saying:
“I am looking for someone who respects me and accepts me for who I am, who understands that I need my own space. And there are a few things that I don’t want to change.”
You should be honest and upfront about what you’re looking for, but that doesn’t mean you have to be blunt or rude.
You can have a mature conversation with someone by conveying the intended message. These serious talks will help you focus on what’s really important — finding that one person, rather than attracting plenty of potential dates — by filtering out the dating-related noise.
Founder, The Karate Blog
Someone you can freely share your thoughts and desires without fear of being judged
Having an opportunity to freely share thoughts, feelings, and desires without reconsideration or fear of being judged is an utmost desire in a relationship.
It feels so lonely and draining having to deal with peculiar struggles alone.
A relationship should be a freeway where partners can comfortably share:
- mistakes, and
- even fantasies.
And rather than being mocked or condemned, get help from the other.
A relationship should have the capacity to accommodate my fears, ideas, and peculiarities. Communicating my happiness and desires should be a shared interest, and openness about feelings should not just be from my side but must be bidirectional.
Having a sense of autonomy
The privilege of staying true to oneself: Finding self-worth and having a sense of autonomy is what anyone searches for in any relationship.
A relationship should approve of my desire to pursue set goals without interference. It should help me discover “the me” other aspects of life try to hide.
The value of independence gives people a sense of responsibility. And the relationship that grants freedom for growth as an individual will help in recognition and living out of dreams while it provides the needed support for success.
Being manipulated or coerced to live up to another’s expectations is a peril of codependency. An interdependent relationship that allows for freedom even in mutual dependence is what I intend to get in relationships.
Related: How to Break Codependency Habits
You want someone who will make you better rather than worse
This is an important question because it helps you define what you want out of a relationship.
You might find that your list of qualifications includes things like:
- Love, companionship, and sex
- Respect and honesty
- Having fun together
- Making each other laugh or
- Having enough money to go on vacation every year.
Whatever it is that really matters to you, write it down and review the list when thinking about potential partners.
A relationship is a two-way street. You can’t have one without the other person.
- You want someone happy and secure but also has something to offer you — someone who will make you better rather than worse.
- You want someone who is willing to commit themselves to you and who wants the same from you.
- Most of all, you want someone who loves you for who you are and not just as an extension of their ego or as a plaything to serve their needs.
CEO and Founder, The Best Calgary
Be straightforward but not rude
The question “What are you looking for in a relationship?” may seem like an easy one to answer. However, this overused question can still catch someone off guard even though it seems like such a harmless question.
If you are one of those people who find it challenging to answer, you can try to answer the question honestly and by being straightforward but not rude.
Being frank and blunt might sound like the same thing if you have a quick read, but there is a difference.
Honesty is more about describing what you are expecting from your partner, while bluntness is being direct and telling the person asking the question how you will be or how you will handle the relationship.
Honesty: “I want to be with someone who accepts me for who I am and understands that there are some things that I do not want to change.”
Bluntness: “I will never change for you no matter how much you ask.”
Here are some other ways to answer the question without being rude to the other person.
- “In my opinion, honesty and having good and open communication is the key to every relationship. Without these, things will eventually fall apart.”
- “Family is very important to me, so I am looking for someone who shares the same values and feels the same.”
- “I am looking for someone who’s willing to try new things with me, especially when it comes to travel. I believe life’s too short to stay in our comfort zone.”
- “I am very ambitious, and I know not everyone will be able to keep up with my pace. That’s why I need someone who is patient and understanding, especially with my goals.”
COO, Everyday Power
You can answer the question in two ways
First, suppose you are not looking for a long-term relationship and just want to have fun and see how it goes.
In that case, you can answer something like this:
“I am not looking for an immediate long-term relationship, but I am open to having one depending on what happens in the span of the relationship.”
This clearly indicates that you are not looking into settling down anytime soon, but you are open to the idea of having one.
If you are already looking to settle down, then you can answer like this:
“I am looking for a long-term relationship and would like to settle down soon should the situation allow it.
With that, I am looking for someone who is also open to the idea of settling down. Someone who knows how cooperation is needed to make the relationship work.
I am looking for someone who knows how to give love and accept love at the same time. Someone who, despite previous relationships, can still show their love and affection to make the relationship work.”
Owner and Writer, Elevated Coffee Brew
Have trust and communication as the cornerstone for the relationship to grow
In each phase of our lives, we are growing. And with that growth comes change. What you need today in a relationship might not be the same as what you need tomorrow.
As you get to know someone, it’s important to ask yourself what you are looking for in a relationship.
- Are you looking for someone who will make you laugh?
- Someone who is reliable and trustworthy? Or
- Maybe you are looking for someone who is spontaneous and exciting about going on adventures.
Whatever it is you are looking for, it is important to be honest with yourself and your partner. Without trust and communication as the cornerstone, your relationship will not be able to grow. So ask yourself, what are you looking for in a relationship? And be honest with your answer.
If you are not sure what you are looking for in a relationship, that’s okay! Take some time to figure it out. After all, you don’t need to rush into anything that can potentially change your life.
Maybe, for now, just enjoy the process of getting to know someone and see where it takes you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it okay if my relationship goals change over time?
Absolutely! As you grow and evolve, your relationship goals may change, which is a natural part of life. It’s important to regularly evaluate your needs and desires to ensure they align with your current relationship or potential future partnerships.
In long-term relationships, it’s essential to maintain open communication with your partner about your evolving goals and work together to adapt and support each other’s development. Remember that flexibility and understanding are critical to a healthy, satisfying partnership that meets both of your needs.
How can I reevaluate my relationship goals when faced with significant life changes?
Significant life changes, such as a new career, relocation, or personal growth, can impact your relationship goals.
To reevaluate your goals in light of these changes, take the time to reflect on how your priorities, values, and desires may have changed. Consider how these changes might affect the type of relationship you want and the qualities you want in a partner.
It’s also important to discuss these changes with your current or potential partner to ensure that you both have the opportunity to adjust and adapt to the new circumstances. Remember that open communication and flexibility are key to successfully dealing with these changes.
How can I identify red flags or deal-breakers when evaluating what I want in a relationship?
Identifying red flags or deal-breakers involves self-awareness, reflection on past experiences, and understanding your core values. Think about the aspects of past relationships that made you uncomfortable, unhappy, or affected your well-being.
These factors can serve as a guide for you to identify potential deal-breakers. It’s also essential to know your non-negotiable values and priorities, as these will determine your boundaries in a relationship.
How can I determine if my relationship goals are realistic?
Evaluating whether your relationship goals are realistic requires self-reflection and an honest assessment of your expectations. Consider whether your goals are rooted in your values and desires or influenced by social norms or external pressures.
It’s also important to recognize that no partner or relationship is perfect and that expecting perfection can lead to disappointment. Ask yourself if you’re flexible and willing to compromise and if you’re looking for qualities in a partner that you’re also willing to provide.
Talking with trusted friends, family members, or a relationship counselor can also provide additional perspective and help you determine if your goals are realistic and attainable.
Is it necessary to share all of my relationship goals with a potential partner right away?
While it’s important to be honest and open about your relationship goals, you don’t have to reveal every detail immediately. It’s important to strike a balance between being transparent and overwhelming a potential partner with too much information.
As you get to know each other, gradually share your goals and expectations in a comfortable and natural way for both of you. This approach allows you to build trust and understanding, creating a solid foundation for open communication throughout the relationship.
How important is having similar relationship goals with my partner?
While it’s not necessary to have identical relationship goals, having some degree of alignment with your partner can contribute to a more fulfilling and harmonious partnership.
Similar goals provide common ground for you and your partner to work together and support each other in achieving common goals.
However, it’s also important that you maintain your individuality and respect each other’s unique aspirations. A successful relationship balances shared goals and individual aspirations, fostering a sense of belonging while encouraging personal growth.
Is it possible to have a successful relationship with someone who has different relationship goals?
Although different relationship goals can be challenging, having a successful relationship with someone with different goals is possible.
Success in such relationships often depends on open communication, empathy, and a willingness to compromise. Talk openly and honestly about your respective goals and work together to find common ground and areas where you can both be flexible.
Remember that some differences may be more challenging to overcome than others, and deciding if the relationship is worth the effort required to overcome these challenges is essential.
In some cases, seeking the guidance of a relationship counselor or therapist can help work through these differences and find solutions that satisfy both partners’ needs.
How can I maintain my sense of identity while pursuing my relationship goals?
To maintain your identity while pursuing your relationship goals, you must balance your personal desires with the needs of your relationship.
Prioritize self-care and personal development, and ensure you have time and space to pursue your interests, hobbies, and friendships outside of your relationship.
Communicate with your partner about your needs and desires, and encourage them to do the same. This mutual understanding and support can create a healthier relationship dynamic in which both partners feel secure and fulfilled.
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