An exercise in being aware of my needs

About a year and a half ago, my boyfriend texted me asking what I look for in a partner. Sitting on my couch, with pimple cream on my face and Frasier in my ear, I was caught completely off guard and rattled off a response to the effect of: “Someone caring and supportive and with whom I can build a life.” Vague then and vague now. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he responded with a distant “Yeah…”, told me he was in the middle of discussing it with friends of his and that maybe these are things you figure out after being in a serious relationship (which, up to that point, I had not).

Brimming with annoyance, I grabbed my phone and began compiling a list of qualities. I like to revisit it from time to time, so that is what I have done here.

  1. Intelligence. Someone with whom I can converse without ever getting bored. Someone who cares about the world around them, reflects on it and shares opinions. But someone who also knows that they don’t know everything, who is willing to admit when they are wrong, who listens to others, and who is continuously educating themselves.
  2. Someone who pays attention to the little things, who can recall details from stories I’ve told, who notices a new haircut or dress, who retains mundane facts about me like the name of the town I grew up in or my shoe size.
  3. Someone financially responsible without being petrified of spending money or the human embodiment of an expense report and, more importantly, who does not shame me for how I spend my money or, most importantly, for what they have spent on me.
  4. Someone who listens. Truly listens. Compassionately. Without formulating a response or establishing opinions on the matter until I am done talking.
  5. On that note, someone who gives me the benefit of the doubt. Someone who takes my side simply because they know me, trust me and see my experience of the situation as real. Someone who doesn’t automatically play devil’s advocate or cast doubts on my version of events because they know that I have already done it myself, and besides, it’s hurtful and invalidating.
  6. Someone who supports me in achieving my goals, who cheers me on, who gets excited over my accomplishments as if they are their own.
  7. Someone who likes my writing, wants to read it and thinks it has value.
  8. Someone who actively works on themselves, especially emotionally, which is so often deemed “women’s thing.” The marketing of books on emotional intelligence confirms that. I need someone who is not only aware of their issues but also actively fixing them.
  9. Someone who wants to get to know my friends and family. And what’s more: maybe even like them!
  10. Someone who takes my mental illnesses seriously, takes ownership of what they can do to help, and researches them to better understand their symptoms. But who also doesn’t coddle me and gives it to me straight even when it’s hard.
  11. Someone goal-oriented, who has ambitions and puts plans into motion to realize them.
  12. Someone who respectfully calls me out on my bullshit
  13. Someone who takes interest in my interests, if nothing else, because they know that getting to know the things I like is a good way to better get to know me.
  14. Someone who doesn’t (physically or metaphorically) roll their eyes when I start talking about feminism, who educates themselves on women’s issues, who is mindful of microaggressions, who calls out sexist behaviour in the people around them, who takes my experiences of misogyny seriously. The same goes for racism, homophobia, transphobia and all other -isms and phobias.
  15. Someone who values my opinion, who seeks out my advice and considers it, who wants to hear my point of view.
  16. Someone who is proud to have me on their arm, who eagerly introduces me to others, who feels lucky to be with me.
  17. Someone mindful of les petites attentions, who sees a book that they think I might like and buys it for me, who knows I’m having a crummy day and offers to cook my favourite food, who offers me a massage when they see me rubbing my poor neck.
  18. Someone who considers me part of their future and who factors me into their plans and decisions.
  19. Must love dogs.
  20. Someone unafraid to share their feelings, who tells me what I mean to them, who compliments me, who leaves me notes, who tells me that they love me whenever they feel like it.
  21. Someone who respects when I need to be alone.
  22. Someone open-minded, looking to try new things and meet new people.
  23. Someone not hung up on anybody else.
  24. Someone willing to work on the relationship, embrace its problems and actively seek solutions.
  25. Someone I can just be with, with no expectations or entertainment, who has a good time doing things like grocery shopping with me.
  26. Someone sexual and sensual, willing to experiment and mindful of boundaries.
  27. Someone dry and sarcastic with whom I can banter.
  28. Someone who shows up, especially when it’s hard and inconvenient.
  29. Someone who thinks I have good taste.
  30. Someone who isn’t intimidated or anxious when it comes to discussing larger, “deeper” topics, who has insights to share, and who enjoys diving into these conversations, even when they’re overwhelming.
  31. Someone who speaks highly of those close to them, who has healthy relationships with both men and women, who cares deeply about their friends and family (whatever that family is).
  32. Someone honest and transparent.
  33. Someone creative.
  34. Someone who makes me feel seen, wholly and completely.
  35. Someone who wants to share their life with me and for me to share mine with them.

That’s not to say that I’m the perfect partner. I know I am definitely not. In fact, I have realized that I have increasing difficulty exhibiting the aforementioned behaviours when they’re not reciprocated. And I know that I don’t always voice these wants for fear that I’m asking for too much. But I think this is a useful exercise, allowing me to collect what’s important to me all in one place.

Usually writing about love & relationships, mental illness, art and women.

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