Dating can be pretty surface-level. Most people swipe on apps without having ever looked beyond a person’s photos. If you asked a person on the street what their “type” is, they’d most likely talk about a person’s looks.
And while attraction is part of the equation for finding love, there’s more to it than that. I’d argue that most of what matters about finding someone you’re compatible with isn’t something you can see with your eyes.
What matters most is having shared values and morals with someone. But, for a lot of people, they’re not even sure what those are for them.
Uncovering what matters to you in another person isn’t easy. I spent most of my dating life thinking certain qualities mattered that I couldn’t care less about now.
Do you know what values matter to you when it comes to dating? If not, don’t worry.
Through experience and a bit of research online, I’ve found that answering and reflecting on a few questions can help you determine what values matter to you most. And, in doing so, you’ll be more clear on what kind of person would make you feel most fulfilled, safe, and in love.
You may want to grab a pen and paper or open a new Notes app. You won’t want to forget your answers.
What makes you feel the safest with someone?
Think of someone you feel the safest with, not just physically but emotionally, too. Now contemplate for a moment what it is about that person that makes you feel so secure in their presence.
For me, my best friend makes me feel safe. Like many best friends, we’re both unabashedly ourselves when we’re together. No subject is off-topic, and we prioritize each other’s emotional well-being.
After thinking about why I feel safe with my best friend, I realize that his patience is the game-changer. Between my anxiety and constant worry, I need someone who doesn’t push me — a phenomenal realization to make on my end since my past boyfriends were far from patient.
When I started dating my current boyfriend, I instantly saw in him that patience I admired in my best friend. He cares for my emotions with calmness and ease. Him doing that helps ease my anxiety, a bonus.
Once you pinpoint what qualities make you feel safe, you can start to look for them in the people you date. Because what’s a relationship if you don’t feel secure with someone?
Who do you admire most in your life and why?
A great way to decide the kind of person you enjoy spending your time with is by thinking about someone you greatly admire. Consider things about them like the kind of work they do and how they treat other people when you’re out.
Now answer these questions: What qualities make you want to be around them? What do they have that you rarely see in other people?
Recently I asked the question, “Who would you like to have as a dinner guest out of everyone in the world?” on my social media. A slew of different answers from people came in.
Their answers revealed a lot about not only who they admire but why. For people who answered with their favorite author, it’s because they admired their mind. For others, their grandparents were the answer because of how warm they were to be around.
Applying that kind of thinking to your dating process could help you weed people out who aren’t people you’d admire in general.
When have you felt disrespected or misunderstood?
A significant part of being human is the fact that we can reflect on memories. In nearly all of my writing, I highly suggest that people reflect on their dating lives to avoid lousy dating patterns and ignored red flags.
So for this question, think about your past relationships — romantic or platonic — where you felt disrespected. If you can, think about specific scenarios that evoked these emotions.
How did that person act? What words did they use? What was it about them that made you feel unsafe?
Doing this myself helped me realize how much egos played into me feeling disrespected in my relationships. A few of my ex-boyfriends had one. Their egos caused them to see things through a lens of their needs, even if it hurt me.
So I tried dating people who weren’t egotistical or cocky. I valued the opposite of that trait: humility.
How do you respond to people when you’re afraid?
In the face of vulnerability or even an argument, what’s your knee-jerk reaction? Do you shut off from people? Or do you cling to them? Are you the kind of person to lash out?
Or are you great with communicating?
Relationship researcher, John Gottman, found five ways people tend to handle intense situations, four of which aren’t healthy. They’re Conflict-Avoiding, Validating, Volatile, Hostile, and Hostile-Detached.
Understanding how you handle intense situations can help you understand what to look for in a partner. If you tend to cling to people but are dating someone who shuts down, it’ll be hard to get to a place where you can healthily resolve problems.
Of course, you can work on handling conflict and vulnerability better, but a healthy conflict style may be a value you want to add to your list.
What makes you feel most fulfilled?
What makes you feel proud of yourself? What experiences make life feel worth living? What activities could you do for hours without even realizing that time passed?
Fulfillment comes from either having a purpose or passion, which, sadly, many people lack in their lives. But studies show that people who continue to feel fulfilled by having a purpose for living live longer than those who don’t.
So maybe what makes you feel fulfilled is volunteering with animals. It would be a shame to end up with someone who not only hates animals but thinks they’re not worth saving. Those mismatched values would eat away at you in the long run.
Understanding how you're most fulfilled means finding a partner who encourages, helps, supports, or participates with you because the last thing you want is to be with a partner who holds you back from living a purpose-filled life.
Once you have your answers to these questions, you’ll have an even better guide for helping you find someone great. Sure, other aspects of a relationship matter beyond morals and values, but these tend to be what make or break relationships in the end.
Your morals and values make you the unique individual you are right now; it only makes sense to apply them to your dating life, too.
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