To be happy in a relationship, you need a partner who supports your needs and goals, also allowing you to pursue your interests. While it is nice if you get ample opportunity in a relationship to express your strengths, it is more important that you can pursue your interests AND get your needs met. But when you meet someone new, how can you tell if they’re a good match? And how do you know if you’re a good match for them? Ask yourself:
- Am I getting sufficient opportunity to pursue my interests and the goals that arise from them?
- Does the relationship lessen my stress?
Assessing a new partner can be tricky. As life unfolds, you are led in different directions—so you want to know that your partner will support you as you evolve. Since you can’t predict the future, try to sense if the person is supportive of you evolving. Do you get enough time to pursue your interest areas? Does he or she meet your basic needs today? Let’s pretend I just met my husband. Mr. Social usually goes a mile a minute. However, he needs quiet time to regroup. My preferred style matches up with this need exactly, so it is easy for me to meet it.
Of course, it’s easier to get along with someone in good times. That’s why it’s important to see how you manage when times are tough. When a stressful situation does occur, ask yourself, “Is this person increasing or decreasing my stress? If so, how?”
If you’re self-aware, tell your partner what you need them to do when you’re stressed, if they don’t already know. If they’re willing to do it, and you feel better as a result, that’s a positive sign. However, many people are unaware of their basic needs. This is where a good assessment like The Birkman Method® can be helpful.
Another way to determine this is to think back to the parent/grandparent/teacher who most encouraged your development. What did that person do? Can your partner do the same for you? If not, you must get it somewhere. If there is enough joy in your relationship, and you can get the needed support from someone else, the relationship can still work. But it is critical that you know how you will get your needs met.
Of course, relationships are not one-sided—it is equally important that you support your partner during difficult times. Ask your partner after a difficult situation if you were helpful. If there’s room for improvement, follow their requests and then ask for more feedback. We sometimes have to learn how to support another person, and you want to know whether you will be willing and able to do what is most helpful for them.
Stay tuned for the next article in our series on relationships. It’s on fighting fair.