How to Figure Out What You Really Want in a Relationship

Carol Lennox

Phot by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

Here are two exercise to help you get a clearer picture.

The following exercises are adapted from a book for single people, titled “Getting The Love You Want,” by Harville and Helen Hendricks. You can check out their version, which starts with listing the negative and positive traits of our parents, which they contend is what we look for in partners.Then list the traits of the partners we’ve chosen, and circle all the ones that are the same or similar. It’s a very powerful perspective.

For this article, I adapted it to simply list the traits of my past important love relationships. There have been seven. I've lived awhile. I hope my examples will aid you in doing your own lists and discovery.

Here is what I found with the first exercise.

Under each person’s name, I listed all the traits their positive traits. I also listed the most obvious negative ones any of them had that I don’t want ever again.

The top ranked attributes, in that six of the seven had them, are the following:


Great sex


The next ones, with five of the seven having these traits, in no particular order are:


Good cook


Financially stable (at some point)

Activist for good causes

Caring and nurturing





Good Father



The bad traits were:

Lying, cheating, and narcissistic gaslighting from three.

Several were unable or unwilling to commit at the time, for a variety of reasons. Proving to me on paper that I do tend to be drawn to very independent types. Or those who need therapy. Believe me, I understand both of those.

The second exercise was easier, quicker, and equally informative.

I asked myself, what qualities do I bring to a relationship? Here’s my answers:


Caring and nurturing





Activist for good causes




Ability to commit when it’s right. Working on not being attracted to those who can’t commit when it’s right.

Financial Stability, though not independently wealthy.

All the things I also appreciate in a partner. Except independently wealthy would be nice, for either or both of us.

My negatives? I lied to my second love during a very turbulent time between us. It was a miserable experience, and I learned lying is way too much trouble, and hurts everyone. I’m still gullible myself after all these years. I have a temper, although it is largely tamed now. Flareups are very infrequent and short lived, but that wasn’t always the case.

I do have annoying traits. Sometimes even I’m annoyed by them. Constant humming, lack of good organization, a fluid notion of time, vanity. Things that could drive someone crazy, but aren’t deal breakers. I expect my partner to have some of those, too.

What did I discover that you might also discover?

My picker isn’t actually broken, as I had feared. Most of my loves have had a majority of positive characteristics that I need in a mate. I’ll bet you find the same.

I’m now more acutely aware that I attract and am attracted to people with some level of difficulty committing, or maybe just committing to me at a particular point in time. I can work with and on that.

Overall, what did I learn that you can learn from doing these two exercises?

That there is hope. You can get clear on what you want in and from a relationship. Then you can go find it, using what you now know.

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My purpose is to inspire and inform. You can read more by me on, and on the Good Men Project. I've had a lifetime of valuable experiences, and I want to share the lessons I've learned readily, or been forced to learn. I'm a psychotherapist, a hypnotherapist, a mother to my amazing son, Blake Scott, whom I write about often. I also write about race, equality, social justice, sex, government, and Mindfulness, not in that order.

Austin, TX

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