Ideal Partner Qualities - What to Look for in a Partner

Posted by Nikki Nolet, LMFT, Certified Imago Relationship Therapist on February 26, 2021 at 6:00 AM
Nikki Nolet, LMFT, Certified Imago Relationship Therapist
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Ideal Partner Qualities - What to Look for in a Partner

What ARE you looking for in a potential partner? For many of you, it may be easier to come up with a list of things you know you don't want than what you are looking for in a potential partner...and we can start there. 

Many people are often not aware of how we are attracted to our partners and that most of it is an unconscious process. Imago Relationship Therapy, developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, states that we are attracted to our early caretakers' positive and negative traits and search for those same traits in our potential partners. This explains that when we find our partner, we often feel "at home" with them, as it feels familiar to us.  

As humans, we are wired for connection, and it is within relationships that we grow and learn about both ourselves and our partners as we continue to make sense of the world around us. We essentially hire our partner to be the person who both triggers our wounding and who is also the very person who can help us heal from those triggers. This is the premise of the work we do as Imago Relationship Therapists and why I love the work I do. 

partners connecting

Now that I've given you a small glimpse into a partner's unconscious selection let's turn to the conscious factors we can control. When you list the traits or qualities you are NOT looking for, do you come up with a list that can span two to three pages in length? If so, that's not surprising. Why is it more challenging to pinpoint what you ARE looking for specifically?  

We don't like to limit ourselves, or sometimes we think we can change and adapt our way of thinking; or that the other person may be willing or able to do the same for us. Time and time again, in my practice, I see so many struggling to morph into something they think their partner would find more attractive or try to change their partner's ideas.  

If you're more intent on changing the other person rather than changing how you interact or think about that person, you may be trying too hard. This is why figuring out what you ARE looking for is critical to finding happiness in your future relationships.  

Often, we go about only knowing what you're NOT attracted to, but that doesn't narrow things down and doesn't give you anything concrete in the dating field. I'm here to tell you, we can't change other people—it's futile, and although you may make them see it your way temporarily, things will inevitably resort to their default nature. 

What's Most Important to You? 

Think about the important things to you, but start with things that are not physical. What?? Did I just ask you to put aside that long list you had for so long? I did indeed!

Qualities of a Good Life Partner

Focus on things that are not having to do with the physical traits of a person. It is essential to focus on who you are looking for specifically. What would you be doing with this partner if you were to paint the picture for yourself six months down the road, one year down the road? 

Therefore, be mindful of weighing the pros and cons. Ask yourself truthfully and carefully how these qualities might play out in a partnership.

Another typical example might be humor. You may love to laugh with your partner, but are you okay with witnessing your partner being silly or irresponsible when you are clear and focused. 

Sometimes the specific traits you are attracted to in others are the things you cannot safely express for yourself. So, you may become frustrated or cut off from your partners in the long term if you are not aware of how these dynamics might play out between you and your partner.  

If you are ill-prepared, it can leave your head spinning, akin to the movie The Exorcist if you're not careful. Take some time with this exercise to consider the qualities and traits that you would most admire or need from a partner, and distill it down to the top five. I didn't say this would be easy! 

What Are Your Deal Breakers? 

Also, list one to two absolute dealbreakers, which means if these qualities showed up in this person, you would be so turned off and disinterested in pursuing a relationship! Yes, only two.

Now distill your top five qualities you most need to your top three to four, and now you have the core values of what you ARE looking for in a partner. Harder than you thought, right?  

What Makes a Good Partner in Life

I could give you endless examples, really. So, here are a few I haven’t already brought up: 

What About Sexuality? 

Of course, being the therapist that I am, I would not want to overlook how much sexuality might factor into the relationship. It can be a problematic issue for some.  

Qualities to Look for in a Partner

  • Do you want someone that is physically affectionate? 

  • How often do you like to be touched or not touched?  

  • Are words more compelling to you than physical touch?  

  • How much sex would you like to have?  

  • How much sex would feel overwhelming/obligatory? 

  • Would you be better matched with someone more on the conservative side or more on the assertive side of expressing themselves?

If you are currently in a relationship, does your partner have the qualities you have identified, and what qualities do you have that your partner may be seeking? Do they align with each other's values?  

If you are single and searching, how do you focus on what you truly desire in a relationship versus what you are willing to settle for in love? We all deserve to have satisfying relationships where we can grow and learn about our partners and ourselves.  

We cannot learn how to grow on our own, but within relationships, we learn through experience and hopefully have an insight into who we are and who we want to be in our relationships. 

If you are struggling to find that ideal partner or struggling within a relationship right now, we are here to help. Check out our Imago Relationship Workshops and Relationship Therapy. We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!  

Discover more about Imago with our Imago Professional MembershipImago Professional Facilitators, Imago Professional Training and Imago Insights Education.

Connect. Transform. Thrive.

Nikki Nolet, LMFT

This blog post was written by Nikki Nolet, LMFT.  

Nikki specializes in sex therapy, intimacy, and relationships with both individuals and couples. Nikki helps partners and individuals build their trust, reconnect through safe and effective communication, and reignite the passion in their relationships by exploring re-emerging patterns, looking at attachment in our relationships, and creating a lasting connection that serves your relationship. Nikki holds a safe space for her clients, where she works with individuals, premarital couples, and couples in relationships. 

Nikki is a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator, a Certified Accelerated Resolution Therapist, an Advanced Certified Imago Therapist, and working towards a Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology. Nikki often incorporates Imago Therapy and Sex Therapy together in work with her clients, helping them reconnect with the erotic connection for which they may have lost familiarity. 

Her private practice is online and caters to clients of various geographical locations who need more flexibility and enjoy having the convenience of therapy from their chosen location. If you'd like to know more about Nikki, you can learn more at

Topics: Getting the Love you Want, Creating Healthy Relationships, Get The Sex You Want, Mature Love, Creating Happy Relationships, Dating, Dating Tips, Perfect Partner, Best Partner, Ideal Partner, Blogs

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The Imago Relationships Blog features content from our team of professional therapists, workshop presenters and facilitators who are passionate about helping you discover a new way to communicate and love your life.

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