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What are You Looking for in a Relationship? Answering Dating’s Most Important Question

Finding “the one”? Sounds easy, right? Nope. If only…

In reality, my friend Jane learned the hard way that finding true love takes intention, not luck. Jane asked herself, “What am I actually looking for in a partner?” after mediocre dates and dead-ends. She had never thought it through before.

As Jane reflected on her core values, relationship goals, and ideal qualities in a life partner, everything changed. She finally had clarity on what she wanted and needed in love. Jane’s approach to dating was completely transformed. Rather than going out with any guy who asked, she carefully vetted potentials against her must-have list. She turned into a girl with clear intentions.

Within a few months, Jane met Mark. They were a perfect match. They had the same spiritual beliefs, wanted to have children, enjoyed doing adventurous activities together, and had a strong connection. She got intentional. Success followed.

“What are you looking for in a relationship?” That’s huge. Your answer influences partner choice, experiences, and long-term compatibility.

Want marriage? Travel? Intimacy? Freedom? Family? Identify your priorities. Read on to learn how to reflect on your core desires and articulate them when dating. This clarity will set you up for relationship success.

How to Answer “What Are You Looking for in a Relationship?”

First dates. Dating apps. Friends and family. People ask this question a lot. Generic answers? “Seeing where it goes” or “Whatever happens.”

While those vague responses seem safe, the best way to answer “What are you looking for in a relationship?” is to:

  • Be honest. Don’t downplay or hide your relationship goals. Intimacy is fostered through authenticity, especially in the modern dating scene wherein an honest answer is at a premium.
  • Be positive. Focus on describing your ideal relationship rather than what you don’t want. Negativity is a red flag.
  • Own your desires. Express your desires openly. Shame-free.

On a date? Share your hopes – settling down, traveling, building a life together. Share your truth.

The right partner will appreciate your openness and likely share your overall vision. On the flip side, hiding your intentions can waste everyone’s time and lead to hurt feelings down the road.

That said, generic answers happen because most people haven’t spent time reflecting on what they really want in a relationship. They look for a partner not knowing what they are looking for.

Soul-searching needs to come first. Only then will you be able to clearly communicating your goals to others. Keep reading to learn how to get clarity on your ideal relationship. Know yourself. Know what you truly want. Answering gets easier.

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How to Determine What You Want in a Relationship

It all starts with knowing yourself. Know what you truly want in a relationship. Without this clarity, you’ll likely leave a trail of heartbreaks for yourself, your dates, and supporters. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Understand Your Core Self

Shockingly, most people have little self-awareness about their innate qualities, values, interests, emotional needs, and relationship style. Take time to reflect on your personality, passions, principles, communication style, love languages, and vision for your life.

Self-knowledge is the foundation for identifying your ideal relationship. Journal, talk to close friends, and even work with a relationship coach or therapist to better understand your core self.

Step 2: Reflect on Past Relationships

Look for lessons, patterns, and insights from your previous relationships, both positive and negative. What personality traits or behaviors did you admire in your partners?

What were the causes of the issues? What values did you share or differ on? What felt good or bad about the dynamic? All of this offers clues into your relationship needs and non-negotiables. Heal from the past, but don’t ignore useful takeaways.

Step 3: Admire Positive Qualities in Others

Pay attention to what traits, principles, and attributes you admire in the people around you, not just potential partners. Which qualities catch your attention or make you think “I’d love that in a relationship!”? Look beyond superficial traits to character, values, and personality.

Does kindness inspire you? Wit and humor? Creativity? Loyalty? Success and drive? Their priorities and worldview? This reveals ideal qualities.

Step 4: Articulate and Internalize Your Relationship Needs

Summarize your thoughts on what you need in an ideal relationship, including emotional needs, shared values, personality compatibility, communication style, pace, interests, and future vision. Putting your thoughts into writing crystallizes your ideals.

Regularly review and reflect on your list to crystallize and internalize what you want and need in a partner. Find a partner that aligns with those ideals. This allows you to date with intention, discernment, and confidence.

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What Are the Top Qualities to Look For in a Partner?

Key traits: Emotional maturity. Mutual trust and respect. Friendship. Physical attraction. Clear communication. These are essential for healthy relationship. Beyond the basics, reflect on your unique needs and desires for the ideal partnership for you.

Then, have the “what are you looking for” discussion with potentials to determine if you share the same vision and priorities. Ask them to articulate their relationship must-haves too. Understand each other’s needs. That’s compatibility. That’s long-term success.

Everyone’s “must-haves” are unique, but look for:

  • Honesty. A relationship built on deceit is doomed. Seek a partner who values truth and authenticity even when it’s difficult. This builds trust and intimacy over time.
  • Respect. Equality. Honoring boundaries, needs, basic dignity – always.
  • Friendship. Real friendship. Fun. Shared interests. Enjoying each other’s company. This forms the foundation.
  • Physical Attraction. Natural chemistry and attraction matters, even if it’s not the most important thing long-term. Excitement to be together.
  • Communication. Healthy expression. Listening. Understanding perspectives. Conflict resolution. This helps avoid building up resentment.
  • Kindness. A kind partner uplifts you and makes you feel supported through life’s ups and downs rather than criticized. This brings out your best self.
  • Emotional Maturity. The ability to manage emotions and communicate needs. Lack of maturity can cause relationships to fail.
  • Humor. Laughter relieves stress. Brings couples closer. Reflects intelligence, creativity, flexibility.
  • Continuous Growth. An eagerness to continuously improve, learn, and grow together. This prevents stagnation in the relationship over the long-term.
  • Work Ethic. Sharing ethics around effort, responsibility, and determination. Laziness leads to resentment.

Keep these positive qualities in mind when dating and having the “what are you looking for” discussion with potentials. You want to be with someone on the same page! Only by doing so can you have a successful relationship.

How Do You Know When You Have Found Your Ideal Partner?

You’ve found the right partner when:

  • You both feel comfortable and secure in the relationship. There’s a sense of emotional safety, trust, and stability.
  • There is general harmony between you, even amidst the occasional disagreement. You handle conflicts maturely, with empathy, compromise, and communication.
  • You face external difficulties and obstacles together rather than growing apart. You’re allies overcoming life’s challenges together.
  • Encourage each other’s growth, dreams, aspirations. Your visions for the future align.
  • Joy and meaning can be found in the simplest gestures and moments together. Grand romantic gestures are wonderful, but not required for happiness.
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The ideal partner helps you become your best self while you do the same for them. Your individual strengths complement each other and fill gaps. You know you’ve found “the one” when your committed relationship leaves you feeling secure, understood, supported, valued, and loved every day.


Modern dating is complicated. With hookup culture, app exhaustion, idealized social media relationships, and deceptive catfishing, looking for a relationship and genuine love can feel hopeless. In fact, adults say that dating has gotten harder in the last decade.

Yet like my friend Jane learned, intention and self-awareness can cut through the noise. By first identifying your core relationship needs and then seeking someone compatible, you increase your chance of finding the right partner.

Don’t leave love to chance. Take time to reflect on what you want in a relationship. When dating, choose potentials who share your values, vision and key qualities. Openly discuss hopes and deal-breakers. And most importantly, believe you deserve the kind of partnership that helps you thrive as your best self.

Have you reflected on your ideal relationship? Share your insights in the comments – your friends will thank you for the wisdom! And don’t forget to share this article if you know someone struggling with modern dating. With intention, we can still find real relationships, even in these crazy times.

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