Have you had a difficult time finding someone with whom you can establish a great relationship that lasts beyond just a few months, before one or both of you have chosen to either break up or settle for being less than happy (rather than be alone)? If so, the challenge likely starts with why you chose to be together in the first place. Most of us were either taught to focus on the wrong priorities when identifying our ideal mate, or we operate with no standards at all, just trusting our “feelings.”

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Do you actually know what to look for in a mate ideally suited for a healthy, lasting relationship with you? To get an indication, try this small exercise:

List your top 10 must-have qualifications in your ideal mate. (Really; take a few minutes.) Now, put a check mark next to anything on your list that represents what that person should look like (tall, curvy, blonde hair, nice abs, etc.), should have (a sports car, a six-figure income, a 700+ credit score) or can do (rock your world in bed, buy out the mall, make it to the pros). Then circle anything on the list that represents their character, personality or treatment of other people (loyal, caring, trustworthy).

If you have 4 or more checks, you are not likely to have a great track record of being happy in relationships that last more than a few months or so (the typical life-span of most relationships), no matter how ecstatic you may be when love is new.

The items you’ve checked are what we call attractors; they represent what a person is. The items you’ve circled are about who a person is (i.e. faithful, tender, compassionate, trustworthy, respectful); they are what we call sustainers. The problem is that attractors can and will change over time (income can be lost; a hot body at 22 will likely not be so hot at 35), bringing disillusionment, resentment and loss of interest as a result—all relationship killers. (A great reality check for this is to see how past relationship partners measure up against your list. An even bigger truth bomb: How do you measure up against your list? We don’t attract who we want, but who we are.)

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