Don't be distracted by the shallow stuff.
As Daniel Gilbert described in his aptly named book, Stumbling on Happiness, we don't always know what will make us happy. The same can be said about finding partners for relationships that are likely to make us happy.
My clients and friends tend to have a laundry list of things to look for in a guy, who absolutely, positively has to be attractive and intelligent, love the beach (especially for watching a sunrise or sunset), speak a few languages, enjoy travel, desire many children, and many more.
You may want to reconsider that list.
While we say we want a handsome mate, if we also want an understanding one (as most of us do), recent research shows that the handsome partner who is not understanding will be a terrible disappointment.
And it follows that the not-so-handsome mate who is very understanding will bring us more happiness. What to look for in a guy or girl are the traits that reflect our deepest and intrinsic desires. These are the most important in guaranteeing satisfaction with our partner.
Don't be derailed in by these exciting but shallow extrinsic qualities:
Who is not taken in by a charming, attractive person? We can't help but gravitate toward those who have these qualities, but they don't say "Beauty is only skin deep" for nothing.
A physically attractive partner, while easy on the eyes, does not guarantee a solid, meaningful relationship
Being energetic, healthy, and perhaps athletic are great qualities, but they don't make a relationship. I'm not saying they'll hurt your relationship, but they're not enough to build a life on.
Having money, an impressive job and popularity are also wonderful. They show you're top dog. Appealing as it is, status is not what creates a happy union. It's not enough to make you happy.
That excitement about one's work, one's life, can be a breath of fresh air. Passion is another magnetic quality, but not one that necessarily leads to lifelong happiness. What is it that first starts declining in most relationships?
Instead, here are the things you need to look for:
This person desires intimacy with you. They listen to what you're saying and you can tell they really care. You know they get you and they want to know more about you. You feel safe and acknowledged in their presence.
This person is tuned into your feelings and cares enough to ask about your day. They feel your wins and losses. They're kind to animals and strangers even when they don't know you're watching. You feel secure with them.
You can tell this person is willing to talk about tough things without sugar-coating or glossing over faults and weaknesses. They'll answer your questions without dodging. They're easy to get to know. You can trust them.
This person is the real deal. What you see is what you get. There are no games. They are what they say they are. Their character shines through in everything they say and do. Their uniqueness draws you in.
What research shows is that when those intrinsic ideals are present in our partner, we care much less about the extrinsic factors and they cease to influence our satisfaction with the relationship.
So on your next date, don't get pulled in by the well-heeled, rich career success who matches your perfect partner list. Get rid of that list and look for signs of warmth, compassion, honesty and authenticity instead. Your future happiness depends on it.
Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at drjudithtutin.com where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun and wellness to your life.