How to choose a good partner, by Mira Kirshenbaum

Advice on how to tell if a relationship is good, starting with how to pick a good partner, from Mira Kirshenbaum:

How to pick a good partner:

You want to focus on are the kinds of things that go into making someone a good person. People who make smart decisions about who to be with tend to choose the highest quality person: the most sane, intelligent, honest, kind, reliable, sensible, generous, warm, good-natured person they can find. It's okay to be needy sometimes.

Being needy can be a sign of health and strength if what it really means is that the other person knows what she needs, and that what she needs is appropriate, and she asks for it. That's not being needy. It's called being effective.... People have a right to get their needs met -- for affection, for  feeling loved, respected, listened to, taken care of. If you're not able to do this for someone, or don't want to, don't blame them for being too needy. Either you don't have much to give or there's something about this person that makes you not want to give much to them.

Needy is often a word used to tell you that you're not the way they think you should be... no one is too needy unless the things they ask for mark them as unusual.... normal people vary in their needs.

Relationship chemistry is the science of delight. After all, delight is an important sign of love. Ask yourself:
  • Is the delight real, or is it based on an illusion?
  • Is the delight healthy, or does it grow out of something that will end up hurting you?
  • Is the delight long lasting, or is it doomed to come to an early end?
Ask yourself, when the two of you are together, do things feel easy between you, and are you able to connect? There are two parts to this. There's the easy part. Things are relaxed. It's not a struggle to find things to talk about. You're not worried about making mistakes. You're comfortable with who you are and with who the other person is. It's not that it's perfect, it's just easy.  And the second part: You connect. You talk about things that are really important to you. You're not clueless about what the other is feeling, and not just the good feelings, either. You have empathy for each other. There is room in the relationship for the deeper, darker parts of you.

Most people regret it if they stay with someone where most of the time things aren't easy and close. And most people who leave are glad they did.

Another important ingredient: fun. Fun is one of the five essential ingredients in relationship chemistry. Fun is the glue of intimacy. Here's why fun matters. It's one of the purest ways we show that we delight in each other.  So how to tell if you have this?

Ask yourself: When it's just the two of you, no other couples, no kids, no toys, and no props, do you feel that there's always the real possibility that the two of you will find some way to have fun together, and does this, in fact, happen fairly often?

Do you feel safe with your partner?

We need to feel safe in our relationships. We need to feel that we won't be hurt deliberately. We don't want to be belittled.Whatever it is you need to feel safe is what you need. If you don't feel safe with one of the people you're involved with, then you've just gotten the great gift of clarity.

Destroyers of trust:

  • Making the other person mad if you screw up a little.
  • Feeling put down if you make a suggestion.
  • Facing an ordeal if you talk about something you really want.
How do you know that someone you're involved with doesn't really respect you? That person's either going to marginalize you or criticize you... and if you're being criticized, that can be confusing, too, because it so often comes wrapped in the guise of admiration. Being put down keeps being explained as caring, as being based on a deep admiration for how great you could be, if only... if only you weren't who you are right now.

New relationship talking points:

Assumptions: whatever is important to you, you probably have assumptions and you need to ask the other person directly if your assumptions are true.

Fears: A fear is usually something that happened to us in the past that we don't want to happen again. For every fear, there's a question. Take your own fears seriously. You don't want vague reassurance. If you have a real fear, then you have a right to know why you should feel confident that this fear isn't going to be a problem.

Five essential ingredients of relationship chemistry: The five ingredients of relationship chemistry. You need all five ingredients. If one is  missing, the relationship is probably not going to make it. It can limp along for a while but over time, the missing ingredient will become more and more important, and soon the bad stuff in your relationship will swamp the good stuff. I know that sounds harsh, but I'm just telling you the truth. You're holding your future in your hands right now. Hopes aren't evidence. All you can do is look forward.... you wanted clarity, didn't you?

5 ingredients for a good relationship:



  • Easy connection
  • Fun
  • Safety
  • Mutual respect
  • Physical chemistry
  • In many ways, our experience of being in a relationship is our experience of the lifestyle we have in that relationship. That's right. We tend to experience the lifestyle more than the relationship itself, and more than the other person... these lifestyle issues aren't the wallpaper of our lives; they're the very stuff our lives are made of.

    Is this person good for you? (An exercise):

    Here's a technique I think you'll find very helpful. Do this the next several times you're with the people you're involved with. Right afterward, ask yourself how you felt while with each on a scale from -10 to +10. Do this several times to get an an accurate reading. Don't worry about WHY you feel the way you do. HOW you really feel is what matters.

    1. How smart do you feel when you're with them? You should never be with someone who makes you feel stupid. It's bad enough if the other person thinks you're stupid, but its even worse if they gets you to agree. ... This can be confusing when you're involved with someone who happens to be brilliant. But it shouldn't be. It's actually simple. There's a big difference between feeling someone is smarter than you are (but you're still smart) and feeling when you're with that person that you're just stupid.

    2. How happy do you feel? This is not about lifestyle now. This is about how you feel inside.... You can get to the point where you feel so bad about yourself that you don't really feel that you deserve to be happy. But you should never feel like this. We ALL deserve to be happy. Stop making excuses for why you're not happy with someone. Whatever your strengths and weaknesses, you deserve to be happy with anyone you're with. If you're not happy with one of the people you're involved with, stop being with that person.

    3. How hopeful do you feel? There are people we can be with who make us feel hopeful, that everything is going to be ok. And there are people who, whether they mean to or not, awaken the feelings of discouragement that lie sleeping in most of us. Here's why we fail to notice the ways people discourage us. Sometimes they just come across as being realists. So we blame ourselves. "What's wrong with me that I can't accept reality?" But sometimes these realists are really closet discouragers. What they call realism is a focus on everything negative. Another way people discourage us is they're discouraged themselves. They have such a downbeat attitude that it's contagious. They're not hopeful, so it's hard for us to be hopeful. And we can miss this because we blame ourselves for their being so discouraged. "What have I done wrong that you are so down on life?" It's time that you unconfused yourself. Forget about all the whys and wherefores. If you feel down most of the time, then you can't be in that relationship. You have a kind of negative chemistry that will eventually hurt the two of you. It will certainly hurt you.

    -- Mira Kirshenbaum