Couple holding hands

Are your expectations keeping you single?

The man or woman you think you want to spend your life with might not be the partner you actually need. I’ve learned this from my own experience and from chatting to others whose husband, wife or partner is nothing like the person they expected to end up with.

In my line of work, I have lots of these conversations and they’re my favourite sort. I love hearing people’s experiences of relationship. In recent weeks, I’ve been struck by the number of women I’ve met who’ve told me their partner is “not their usual type”.

I can relate to that. The fixed idea I had about the man I wanted to marry prompted me to rule out my now fiancé when we first met, and to leave the relationship a few times in search of someone who ticked more of my boxes. It was only when I understood what I truly needed in a relationship that I was able to see that this man in front of me could give me exactly that.

In my thirties, I thought I should be with someone similar to me, perhaps another multilingual, international journalist or someone with an equally impressive career and lots of drive and ambition – someone restless with a thirst for adrenaline. I was looking for a carbon copy of myself.

And maybe if I’d continued along that path and stayed in my hectic news reporting job, I might have ended up with a man like that. But burnout, grief after losing my dad, depression and recovery from an eating disorder led me to a moment of awakening in which I realised I needed a slower pace of life and a different, more gentle career path.

I transformed my life and aligned my work to my authentic self but despite that, I still had an expectation that my partner would be a high-achieving, globe-trotting lawyer or doctor type. My fiancé didn’t fit this bill – he worked to live rather than lived to work – and at first, I judged him for it.

He wasn’t ambitious enough or driven enough, I declared to my friends. He wasn’t as outgoing or as chatty as me either. What on earth would we talk about? And would he fit into my circle of international journalist friends in London? He was an engineer who lived by the beach in Poole.

A few years on and eight months since we got engaged, I now know he’s exactly what I need. I needed someone calm, solid and steady as an oak, not emotionally up and down like me. I needed someone to remind me to stop working and stop worrying, to live more in the moment and to take more holidays. I didn’t need someone who was married to his work or constantly striving for more – I did enough of that. My friends all love him because they see how good he is for me, and I adore living by the beach.

So I wonder, are your expectations of the kind of person your future mate should be keeping you single?

If you suspect they might be, can I suggest that you take some time out to get in touch with your needs? What do you actually need in a relationship? Love, support and companionship, perhaps? Kindness and gentleness? Understanding?

And what qualities would complement yours?

If, like me, you’re prone to riding emotional rollercoasters, do you need someone who’s calm and steady? At first glance, calm and steady can seem dull to us emotional livewires but perhaps it’s exactly what we need. It was in my case. Or if you’re calm and steady yourself, do you need someone with more spark – someone to bring more emotion into your life?

We are all unique, with different needs and there’s no one size fits all approach, but why not try broadening your horizons and thinking outside the box? Explore dates and relationships with people you might normally ignore, and be open to meeting men or women who aren’t your usual type.

Be curious when you meet people, rather than rushing to judgement. If you have a tendency to rule people out at first or second glance, try giving them a bit more time and the benefit of the doubt. And if you tend to dive into analysis, mentally dissecting the man or woman in front of you and measuring them against a checklist, try to quieten the head and engage the heart.

How do you feel in their company? Do you feel at ease and at peace? Do you feel content?

Let me know how you get on and do comment below if this post resonates.

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