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How to Decide What Matters to You in a Partner

To explore how people are feeling about relationships now, Bumble partnered with reproductive health company Modern Fertility to conduct a survey about current attitudes towards dating and starting a family. Perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do to find a meaningful connection is to figure out what you’re looking for in a partner, so we asked what people wanted.

We found that when it comes to choosing a partner, the majority of respondents mostly care about having shared values (61%) and shared financial goals (51%). Almost half of respondents think that aligned family planning goals (49%) and career goals (48%) are important, and a minority of folks prioritize a shared desire to live in certain locations (39%), aligned political views (32%), shared hobbies (27%) and aligned religious views (25%). 

And all of that is great and helpful to know, but what happens when you’re not exactly sure what matters to you in a partner? Sure, you can say that you prioritize being with someone who is ambitious and wants to have a family, or that it’s important for you to have stability in life, but sometimes it’s easy to assign weight to those priorities without actually looking inward to determine if that’s really what matters to you. So we enlisted a few experts to share advice on how you can understand what qualities in a partner are important to you while also learning if a new partner fits the bill. Ahead, tips on how to figure this out.

Identify your “Happily Ever After Headline”

That’s a term coined by dating and relationship coach Michelle Manley. “This is your long-term intention,” she says, so it might look like getting married, being in a committed relationship, having children, or something else entirely. So for example, if you decide you want your future to include lots of kids and living near your family, then you can look for someone who is family-oriented and also wants to live in that specific place. But you should also identify what you might be willing to compromise on, like if you can deal with a long-distance move even if it’s not ideal.

Figure out your real dealbreakers

They might include things like having the same views on marriage or children, drug or smoking habits, location, or outlooks on finances. Then ask yourself why that’s a dealbreaker, advises psychotherapist Rebecca Hendrix. For example, if smoking is a dealbreaker, ask yourself why. “Perhaps it’s in opposition to the value you place on health and healthy living,” says Hendrix. Knowing the reasoning behind the dealbreakers can help you identify the aspect of someone’s lifestyle or personality that you actually care about instead of the symptom of it. That way you can rethink your dealbreakers. Perhaps you really care more about your partner having a healthy lifestyle than if they smoke, and maybe you can live with the smoking as long as they value wellness in other ways. 

Ditch traditional checklists

“Checklists are a terrible way to look for a partner and can often back people into unhealthy relationships,” says psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula. That’s because traditional checklists often prioritize traditional values we’ve been told to think about our whole lives, instead of what really matters to you. As an alternative, try identifying aspects of people’s personalities or lifestyles that are appealing to you, but challenge yourself by being open to meeting someone who doesn’t tick off every single attribute on your would-be checklist. So if you think you only want someone who is financially stable, but find yourself attracted to someone whose career might be in a stage of transition, challenge yourself to give them a chance.

Keep checking in with yourself 

Knowing what you want in a partner is not a think-about-it-once-and-you’re-done kind of thing, says Dr. Durvasula. She recommends checking in with yourself maybe once a month or once a season by reflecting on how your values have shifted or if your relationship has changed. “Be prepared to be open to those shifts,” she says. And if you start to realize that the person you’re seeing may not embody your values, “it’s important to be honest with yourself and consider how this may affect your connection down the road,” says Hendrix. It’s helpful to have an open conversation about where you both see your relationship—and your lives—going and how you can assess if your bond has long-term potential.

It can only be helpful to take the time to self-reflect and figure out if you’re seeking out the values you really want. “So much of life becomes about survival and making rent that we can forget what it is we’re really about and what matters to us,” Hendrix says. Knowing where you stand helps you think outside of all that to find a connection that’s right for you. 

*Note: when we talk about “women” and “men,” we are referencing survey respondents who self-identified this way, including cisgendered men and women, trans men and women, and other folks along the gender spectrum.