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The Short Version: Singles know how challenging it can be to find a supportive, fun, and romantic partner. The experts at Couples Therapy Inc. advise people to start figuring out what they desire long before a first date. Counselors with the online therapy group suggest singles and couples alike spend time understanding their values and dealbreakers early on in a relationship. Couples Therapy Inc. offers clients valuable advice before, during, and after the first date to foster meaningful, fulfilling romantic relationships.
Many people have heard the statistic that around 50% of marriages end in divorce, but the fate of other romantic relationships is even less hopeful. Many couples can avoid those relationship problems if both partners take the time to understand what they are looking for in a partner.
That means getting clear on their values, said Dr. Eliane Herdani, who works with Couples Therapy Inc.
Couples Therapy Inc. experts aim to offer singles and couples tools to help their intimate connections last.
“Even though it has been said that opposites attract, it is not easy to live with your opposite,” she said. “Know your values and look for someone that has similar ones.”
Couples Therapy Inc. has locations throughout the United States and internationally. Its team of more than two dozen clinicians has decades of combined experience and advanced training in Gottman Couples Therapy. They specialize in private intensive marriage retreats online and in person that focus on common topics, including sexual dysfunction, affair recovery, and divorce.
Focusing on shared values will help couples communicate more effectively and in a way that allows both partners to feel valued and safe in the discussion. A study by researchers John and Julie Gottman showed that 69% of issues in a relationship are not resolvable. So starting with fewer concerns can help love last.
Dr. Doug Burford, with Couples Therapy Inc., agreed, adding that having shared values means understanding what is important to you and ensuring the other person supports those things.
“Hollywood loves to make movies about people from disparate worlds and lifestyles coming together in marriage,” he said. “Then the movie ends. And so, usually, do such marriages — unless they share a pursuit of what both find meaningful in life.”
In addition to assessing values, it’s also wise to take an honest appraisal of how the other person treats you every day. Sometimes couples aren’t as nice as they could be to each other, according to Dr. Burford.
“Do you treat one another with kindness, consideration, and respect? Those are the everyday things that make for a satisfying relationship and eventual marriage,” Dr. Burford said. “Be sure they are your pattern before marriage.”
That means each person coming into the relationship should understand their self-worth and what they have to offer. If you don’t believe you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, then you may tolerate toxic behavior in dating and relationships. After a while, that can lead to an unsustainable and miserable dynamic.
“Be your best friend and buddy. Become comfortable in being by yourself and happy,” Dr. Herdani said. “Get to an emotional, mental, and physical space in which you don’t need a partner but want a partner. This fosters a healthy, interdependent relationship.”
Dr. Timothy C. Donovan, a clinical social worker and Gottman Certified Couples Therapist, suggests creating a resolution that involves a healthy mindset about meeting someone or dating in the new year. People who are desperate to find that perfect person may be setting themselves up for unrealistic expectations — and likely disappointment. He said it’s all about having the right attitude.
“In a way, you are both checking each other out to see if you want to go further, which can be a way to slow oneself down and not rush yourself, not act on desperation,” he said.
A healthy first date should be about looking for common interests and compatibility, not trying to impress someone with boasts or white lies.
Couples Therapy Inc. counselors also recommend making lists, either before a first date or early in a relationship, to ensure your needs are being met.
Dr. Herdani suggested the first list be all the dealbreakers you don’t want in a partner. Those may include abuse, addictions, children, or certain religious beliefs.
The following list should be a realistic description of an ideal partner, and the third list should be a description of the ideal relationship. Elements may include respectful communication, honesty, trust, and commitment.
Dr. Renée Del Rio, another Couples Therapy Inc. therapist, touts a similar three-list plan. First, she suggests writing down all the nonnegotiables in a partner such as whether you want to have children or share a religion. It won’t work long term if your partner doesn’t feel the same way.
Second, she suggests writing a list detailing the preferences you have for your relationship partners. For example, maybe you want a partner who lives in your hometown to simplify splitting holiday time between families.
Finally, she says that individuals need to identify the dealbreakers they have in terms of emotional compatibility and personality type.
“If quality time is your love language, perhaps you know partnering with a workaholic doesn’t work for you,” Dr. Del Rio said. “If you share your lists with a trusted confidant, then you are even more likely to be true to your needs.”
This list exercise makes it easier to identify what you want in a partner and more thoughtfully screen for people who fit those desires and can ultimately make you happy.
Early reflection about the values and characteristics you find important can go a long way in saving time and disappointment when you start dating. It’s easy to get caught up in emotions, the excitement of a new attraction, and forget what is most valuable to you, said Dr. Donovan.
“That means taking the time ahead of dating to identify those qualities with some definition and not just vagueness, including that he or she is a nice person,” Dr. Donovan said. “It can be a way to stay within oneself and be mindful of those attributes that are important to them while dating.”
Another thing to identify early on is your attachment style, said Dr. Kathy McMahon — also known as Dr. K. There are four different adult attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and chaotic.
“Secure is: ‘I’m OK, you’re OK.’ Anxious is: ‘I’m not OK, you’re OK.’ Avoidant is: ‘I’m OK, you’re not OK,’ and finally chaotic is ‘I’m not OK, and neither are you,” Dr. K said.
It’s never a good idea for an anxious person to get into a relationship with an avoidant person because it fosters instability. Dr. K called it a “horrid mix.”
Most people yearn to be secure, but it takes time and self-work to get to the right mindset and emotional resilience. Knowing yourself makes it easier to put yourself out there and express your needs effectively to future partners.
Listening and taking action are also crucial for long-term success in relationships, said Dr. K.
“Listen to what a person you date tells you on that very first date, and take them seriously,” she said. “Then, act in a genuine way. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. If you claim to love all sports, but can’t bear to watch any, you’re planning a future life of all sports all the time while someone else feels they found their perfect match.”