As an incessant overachiever, I don’t believe in the “when you know, you know” narrative. I am constantly looking for and wondering what I can be doing better in my relationships and in all facets of life. I thought I wanted a low-key dorky type, then decided I wanted the pretentious yacht-club type, then I wanted an aloof jock, then a hopeless romantic – the list goes on. What I have come to learn from dating all walks of life, is there are some well agreed-upon, particular elements that make not only a good boyfriend, but a real life partner. These aren’t signs that you will really be able to judge on the first date, or even the first few dates – these are signs to look for once you are in an established relationship that will help you determine whether or not this is the person you want by your side, for better or for worse.
I’ll never forget the first time my current partner, Tim, helped me rebuild my resume – 8 iterations and 2 full re-formats later, I was ready to kill him. Although this was a painful process and at the time I did not fully appreciate him for it, it was during this time that I truly understood Tim’s significance in my life. I quickly learned that a good man will be your cheerleader, build you up and tell you all the things you want to hear, but a great man won’t be afraid to be honest with you. If your partner is able to give criticism in a way that is loving, with a genuine intention of helping you improve then girl, you have got yourself a keeper. There are few things more important in a long-term relationship than mutual respect and teamwork, and it is rare to find someone who is just as interested in your success as his own. When you come to him with a problem, does he only give you a sympathetic ear, or does he really invest in helping you get through it?
Another tell-tale sign that this relationship is worth treasuring, is that you relax well together. That may sound silly, but ultimately as you age and are less active it is important to have a partner that you enjoy spending low-key time with. Sure, the man on The Bachelor taking girls for helicopter rides and horseback adventures may seem like a dream come true, but what happens when those things are no longer possible? It is so important to find a partner who’s conversation you value and who’s presence brings you peace. How do you feel on a quiet night in together? Are you comfortable relaxing independently in the same space?
The last, and certainly not least, is that the man you are with is kind. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have any temper – we all get a little “hot-headed” sometimes – but how does he respond to hardship? How men respond to crisis – and believe me, there will be crisis – is a very good indicator of what sort of life partner they will be. If at every bump in the road they react with anger or frustration, you’re in for a very long and exhausting ride. Men who respond to crisis with an open, empathetic attitude will make your life easier and allow you a different kind of intimacy, free from fear of a meltdown. When things go south, does it feel like it’s always you who is left to make him feel better, or do you feel supported and safe with him?
Surely, there are many important elements that I am missing: sense of adventure, humour, affection, are all very important aspects of a relationship that deserve a lot of weight. But if the above three criteria aren’t met, I think it is safe to say that you, girl, deserve better. I know that it is so easy to stay in a relationship where we feel ‘comfortable’, but if your partner isn’t meeting your needs, I implore you to really have faith and trust that there is someone else out there that will. Now go get em’, girl!