Are You The One? 5 Crucial Relationship Questions to Ask Yourself in Your 20's

The 20s can be an exciting but overwhelming time in your life.   Your romantic relationships are constantly changing and growing and what you looked for in a partner in your late teens or even last year is not what you want for yourself today.  Many twenty-somethings believe the “dating stakes” are high right now because this is the time to meet “the one.” Having a clear idea of who you are and what you want will reduce your stress and make this time of your dating life fun and freeing. 

1. Who am I? 

I understand this is a pretty big question and it will morph and change as you get older but it is an important one to ask yourself as often as you can. You can break it down into the following parts: 

What do I like? 

What do I dislike? 

What are my values? 

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “you can’t love anyone else, until you love yourself.” I want you to ask yourself “who am I?” because the better you understand and love yourself the easier the dreaded “dating dance” will be. If you don’t have a clear idea of who you are, you will end up wasting a lot of time going out on dates and in relationships with people who are not going to make you happy. Dating the “wrong” person definitely has it purpose, this is the time in your life to date lots of different kinds of people. Nonetheless your goal is to gain clarity of the kind of person you want to be with long-term, and the clearer you are on who you are…the clearer it becomes who they are.

2. What kind of future do I see for myself?

My mother has an expression, “if you don’t want to live on a farm in Iowa, don’t marry an Iowa farmer.” This phrase has always stuck with me because it is a mistake that many people make when looking for a partner. We meet someone really wonderful and have a great connection only to learn that we have very different views of our futures. If you see yourself as a fast-paced urbanite then you need to honor that part of yourself. You may not always live in the city but you will probably always want to have ties to a big city.  If you meet someone who loves the country and sees him or herself riding a tractor, you need to understand that one of you is going to have to compromise. If you know for a fact that you see yourself traveling constantly or running a huge business or making jam in Vermont, that’s wonderful.You just have to recognize that once you are in a long-term committed relationship, your dreams and their dreams need to align.

3. What qualities do I value in a partner?  

Now that you know a bit more about yourself and the kind of future you want, it’s time to think about the kind of partner you want. One exercise that I recommend for clients is to make a list of their ideal mate. It can be as long as you want. Be as specific as you can. Nothing is off-limits – this is your list and only you will be looking at it. It seems obvious that everyone is looking for someone who is “kind” or “smart.” But what kind of smart? Highly analytical? Emotionally smart? Technically smart? Visualization is a very powerful tool and by making this list you are visually the kind of person you see yourself with long-term. 

4. What are my relationship “deal breakers?”

You now have your list of qualities for your ideal partner – now what? What are your deal-breakers? What can’t you live with? Before I met my husband I knew that one of my deal-breakers was a sense of humor. Everyone has a “sense of humor” but I wanted someone that would make me laugh and would understand my own personal brand of humor. I also put “full head of hair” on that list. My husband is funny and quirky and…bald. While “full head of hair” was on my list, I realized I would rather laugh than run my hands through a thick head of hair.  It’s important to understand which qualities are “deal-breakers.” You will probably not find someone who meets all the qualities on your list so you need to make sure that you don’t compromise on what you really want.

5. Whether I’m in a relationship or I’m single, how will I keep my sense of self and recognize only I can make me happy?

When we look to other people or things for happiness, we are setting ourselves up for great disappointment. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean that you will never feel sad, angry, lonely or scared again. Being in a relationship doesn’t solve all of your problems. Issues that you were struggling with before you met this person will continue to affect you until you address them in a healthy manner. In every relationship you need to allocate a certain amount of time to be with your partner and a certain amount of time to pursue your own interests and outside friendships. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they are in a relationship to travel or take up a new hobby or buy a home. Live your life and enjoy your time alone. This will insure you that you are able to be a healthy and present partner once you are in a relationship. 

The answers to these questions will change as you get older and begin to define the type of person you want to be with.  We are all works in progress. The process of asking yourself certain questions will give you clarity and point you in the direction of your ideal partner.  It is OK to feel confused about what to say when people ask you, “what kind of partner do you want”, but don’t forget that the answers are inside of you.  Whether or not you are interested in getting married or being in a long-term commitment, it is always worthwhile to take the time to better understand yourself and what you want.

Kate Rufener