There is no perfect relationship because people join to form relationships and there are no perfect people. However, you can design your ideal relationship by sharing things you would and wouldn’t like your partner to do and by getting clear on what your partner would and wouldn’t like you to do.
In my experience coaching couples, I’ve seen firsthand how expectations are often glossed over in the hope of “lucking into” the ideal relationship. This usually results in pent up anger, resentment and frustration that could have been addressed from the beginning.
I created the exercise below to help you envision your ideal relationship, starting with things you desire from your partner and those things you will not accept. A partner who would trust you, express a great deal of physical affection and make you feel cherished and important in his or her life. A relationship where your partner wouldn’t physically abuse you, lie to you or take your generosity for granted. Maybe you envision a partner who would give you plenty of emotional support and be carried away with all of your quirks.
Before you read further, know that you can complete this exercise at any stage of your relationship. It’s never too late to stop and check in with your partner. It’s also never too early to start envisioning your ideal partner, even if and especially when you’re single. Visualization is a powerful tool for manifesting what you want in life and in love.
Thinking ahead and using the last section of the table below, what would you create or work toward with your ideal partner? A business venture, a side hustle, a family? Write it all down.
The table below might seem easy at first but don’t be fooled! The more you brainstorm, the more you notice desires of your heart that you’ve never said to yourself and certainly ones you’ve never shared with your partner.
Life is way too short to allow yourself to be played in relationships. Don’t waste your time with the hope that if you play along long enough, he will make a commitment. Don’t deplete your energy hoping that if you show her how great you are, she will stop stringing you along and settle down.
I developed this checklist to help you determine whether you’re being played in your current relationship and to help you date smarter in future relationships. This checklist is best suited for couples in the earlier stages of dating – 90 days or less – when you’re paying attention to his or her actions, thoughts and words and deciding if he or she is someone you want to commit to long term.
How to use the checklist –
Write a list of your dating non-negotiables; some of which might be automatic deal breakers. Consider being conservative with your list. If you experience 1-7 of the items below, mark it as a yellow light and have an honest conversation about each one. If you experience 8 or more, it may be time to move on from the relationship.
1. The relationship is not moving forward.
Your partner tells you he/she wants commitment, love, kids, a house, etc. but never follows through on those wants. Your relationship is pretty close to being exactly where it was when you first got together. The only time there’s movement is when he/she thinks you’re about to leave.
2. The relationship is one-sided.
He/she gives you the impression that you’ve become a part of his/her current life. Your needs, wants and interests are secondary and while most new couples enjoy discovering fun activities together, your relationship is all about your partner. He/she isn’t interested in building a life with you, but stringing you along for the ride.
3. Your emotions are being manipulated.
You feel like you’re a puppet and your partner is controlling the strings. When you attempt to take the lead, there’s always drama. You often feel like you’re on a rollercoaster ride that never seems to stop. Sometimes you can’t even remember what started the ride.
4. You are made to feel inferior.
Self-esteem is a great thing but be on the lookout for narcissistic traits. Self-esteem is feeling good about you without feeling lesser of others. If your partner is on a pedestal and you’re polishing the bottom, there’s a problem.
5. He/She takes pleasure in criticizing you.
Nobody is perfect in everything. But he carries a big list of your faults and pull them like a six gun in Dodge City. She knows what you’re sensitive about and shoves those joking, harmless, snide remarks down your throat as often as possible. There is an element of play in all healthy relationships but when the jokes are cruel, there is a problem.
6. He/She will not commit to spending time together.
Dinner? I might be tied up. Weekend away? Let me get back to you. Church Sunday? I’m working late on Saturday, but I really wish I could. He always seems to be waiting for a better opportunity to come along. She can’t commit to time with you a month from now but if her girl friend calls, she’ll drop everything to hang with her.
He/she can’t commit on the spot but has no trouble cancelling on the spot.
7. He/She made early declarations of commitment.
You’ve been out once, or worse you’ve only talked online and he has already said, “I could see myself married to you.” He doesn’t even know your favorite color, but wants to spend the rest of his life with you? She hasn’t met any of your friends but she’s ready to set a wedding date?
8. He/She said, “Let’s sleep together so we can get to know each other better.”
If you hear this, you must know you’re being played!
9. His/Her cell phone or computer is a secret.
Dr. Phil said, “If you have nothing to hide, hide nothing.” If the cell phone is never on around you, there’s probably a reason. If he/she jumps when it rings and chastises you when you ask, “Who’s that?” you’re being played.
10. Your connection ebbs and flows.
If he/she wants something or it’s a special time of year you two are close. The rest of the time they ghost for long periods of time. Sometimes you feel like you’re just associates.
11. You have to jump through hoops for quality time.
Make the reservations. Drive to the spot. Pick the dinner locations. Set up the babysitter. It was your idea so you should be willing to do everything to make it happen even though he/she never plans anything.
12. You don’t have a title.
You’re not boyfriend, girlfriend, my man, my woman or anything else. If and when you get introduced, it’s just with your name, not with a title that explains who you are to them. He/she wants you to change your relationship status but never seems to get around to changing his/hers.
13. Your gut tells you that something is off.
You have a nagging feeling that you’re missing something. It could be nothing, your own insecurities or your intuition trying to give you a heads up that something isn’t right.
14. You haven’t met his/her family or friends.
Not family members, coworkers or anybody else. When they go to cookouts, you can’t go. He/She is not ready to introduce you to others until you make the grade first.
15. He/She flirts with others in your presence.
He/She feels completely free to hit on others or to entertain another’s advances in your presence. You don’t want to be with someone others don’t find attractive, but you also don’t want someone who won’t shut down attention, especially in your presence.
16. He/She has not moved on from an ex.
His/Her ex comes up often in conversation. You can tell that he/she’s got a pretty strong connection still going on even if they never see each other. You’ve noticed some challenges in letting go of a previous relationship.
17. There’s a double standard for behavior.
He can stay out all night. She can fail to keep dates. He can hit on others in your presence. She can forget to return your calls. But you cannot do the same without serious consequences.
18. You caught him/her cheating.
This should be a no-brainer but if he/she cheats, you are definitely being played. What’s your definition of cheating? Mine is simple – if he/she can’t do it in front of you, it’s cheating.