‘Counting is the religion of this generation, it is its hope and its salvation.’
~Gertrude Stein

A couple of years ago, my roommate, another friend and I were trying to understand our individual relationship patterns and why it was they were not working for us.

Loverly L (the roommate/most treasured friend) suggested an activity in which we would list all of the characteristics that we wanted in a partner.  We would then slowly and methodically narrow them down to four,  the four most essential traits that our perfect partner would have to possess.

The idea was that perhaps we were settling, not necessarily for less than what society prescribes for a good partner, but settling in a way in which we were unknowingly compromising our personal values and desires.

Maybe if we consciously identified what we valued most in a partner and were to look for those things, then other traits, either frustratingly missing or present, may appear to be less significant.

For some reason I was unable to make this list.  As I later tried to complete it on my own, what I realized was that I am less concerned with personality traits than I am with relationship traits.

I find that, given the absence of psychopathy or mental deficiency, most people understand and are able to choose desirable behaviors when they want to.  When they want to be honest they are, when they want to be respectful they are, when they want to be attentive they are… when they don’t care, well…

People choose to behave in valued ways when they value the situation in which they find themselves.

Furthermore, I have no control over the behaviors another person chooses.  However, I do have control over what kind of relationship I am working to create.

The answer then seemed to be to create a context that is equally appreciated by myself and my partner, so that, on our own, we would each choose to behave in the ways that honor the relationship and each other.

I attempted the exercise once again and ultimately came up with four Core Traits that I wished to characterize my next relationship – Equity, Intimacy, Stimulation and Purpose.

Now it may come as a surprise to some of you, but I am an over-achiever.  And so I had to further explore what each of these concepts meant to me, discovering their subtleties and the expanse of their possible connotations…

  • Equity: balanced, respectful, reliable, generous, attentive, trustworthy, responsive, tender, sheltering, an exchange, supportive, holistic, integrated…
  • Intimacy: physical/emotional/spiritual closeness, conscious, present, nurturing, safe, affectionate, kind, generous, open, honest, aware, respectful, caring, compassionate, grateful, protective, joyful…
  • Stimulation: intellectual, communicative, spontaneous, exciting, interesting, surprising, educational, growing, challenging, adventurous, curious, creative, inquiring, wonder-filled, experimental, experiential…
  • Purpose: intentional, self-aware, centered, service-oriented, present, accountable, spiritual, conscious, empowering, prosperous…

Then I met my partner.

Does it still drive me crazy when his lateness makes me late?  Absolutely.

Does he hate the fact that I always turn off my ringer?  Pretty certain that’s a yes.

Are there other issues that I had no way of foreseeing?  Obviously.

But having this list has provided a good place to establish agreement on the form our relationship takes.  It has given a stable foundation on which we can build.  And it has provided a clear focal point to which we can return whenever we are uncertain…

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