Instead of Looking for the Right Person, Become the Right Person.

“Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person.” - Gloria Steinem

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.” - Tom Robbins

I want to preface this post by saying that just because I got married, I haven’t started considering myself an expert on love, relationships, and finding your soul mate. Not at all. But I read a study recently that got me thinking about how mixed up most of us are when it comes to looking for love.

Ladbrokes surveyed 1,000 British women to find out their thoughts on the “perfect man.” The findings overwhelmingly suggest that we’re all lusting after a clean-shaven, 6-foot stud with penetrating blue eyes, a slick hair cut, a powerful job, and at least 45k a year. The whole thing made my stomach sink.

When it comes to romantic relationships, I absolutely believe that the same life design principles apply to love as they do to every other part of our life. We need to get crystal clear on what we want and take consistent action to make it happen. But in this particular area, I think we usually get it backwards.

We often have a vivid image of our ideal partner, at least in terms of what they look like and perhaps what they do. But we don’t necessarily consider whether this is the kind of person who would make us happy or who is suited to the kind of relationship we want to be in. Often we don’t even create this image for ourselves. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the “perfect man” described above so closely resembles Don Draper (and so many other leading studs).

But we get so fixated on these ideals that we never stop and think about whether we’re even ready for the thing that we’re looking for.

What if we turned this process on its head?

If instead of looking for the right person, we start becoming the right person. If rather than looking for the perfect lover, we start creating the perfect love.

The way I see it, when you start learning to love yourself and become the kind of person who is ready for the relationship you want, you put yourself in a position to attract a partner who’s suited for you and to allow yourself to be happy with them. That might sound like an insurmountable task, but I don’ think it has to be. You can even grab a journal and get started right now.

Create a vivid picture of what the relationship you want looks and feels like. This is an opportunity to free write. Sit with a pen and paper and ask yourself: What role do you want a romantic relationship to play in your life? What kinds of things would you do together? How would they make you feel? Will they challenge you? Will they help you grow? What would you want them to do when you’re struggling or going through a difficult time? How much time will you spend together? What kind of future do you want to have with this person?

By taking stock of the kind of relationship you want to have, rather than writing a laundry list of characteristics you want in a lover, you might find that a very different vision of your ideal partner emerges. Maybe you’ve always imagined yourself dating a high-profile person with a powerful job but what you really want is someone to spend your evenings and weekends with pursuing your passions together. It’s not likely that someone with an incredibly demanding job is going to have time for that kind of relationship, so you might realize that the type of person you’re looking for is probably on a very different career path.

Ask yourself whether you’re at a place to be in this kind of relationship. If you’re picturing going on long runs with your future partner but you currently never exercise or if you envision dates at art galleries and museums but the most culture you get now is from Netflix, you need to get real with yourself about whether you’re currently in the position to attract the kind of partner you’re looking for.

You can’t expect a relationship to transform your life, so ask yourself: what personal development would make you the right person for the relationship you want? How could you start designing your life to better align with the person you see yourself as in this future relationship?

Wrap yourself up in love. This should really be number one on the list and it’s the one that needs to be practiced continuously. If you need your partner or rely on them for your feelings of self-worth, you’re looking for trouble. We can’t find another person to fill a hole inside of us. Of course we want a partner who will support us through difficult times and encourage our growth but if we don’t first get past our limiting beliefs that we’re not worthy of another’s affections and create a pervading sense of love for ourselves, we’ll always find a way to sabotage any relationship that comes our way. Create a daily practice that infuses your life with self-love and consistently take small steps that help you love yourself wholly and completely. 

Release your expectations. Of course we need to feel attracted to our partners, but if we bind ourselves to an arbitrary list of physical characteristics that any potential match must tick off before we’ll give them a chance, we miss out on a host of just-right-for-us suitors who become increasingly attractive the more we get to know them. Open your mind and allow yourself to believe that what you’re looking for might not come in the package you expected.

Get out there. I know that romantic comedies have us programmed to think that the perfect person is going to stumble into our path at exactly the right time and that totally does happen. But not always. I’m a big fan of ReeRee Rockette’s philosophy on dating: if you’re serious about finding a partner, putting yourself out there is only going to increase the odds that you’ll meet someone you click with. You can try online dating, ask a friend to set you up, or just regularly challenge yourself to try new things and go to different places. Maybe a handsome – and insanely interesting – stranger really will cross your path. And you’re guaranteed to have some great stories to tell!

Of course we all have our “type” - that certain type of person who just makes us weak in the knees and gooey in the middle; and that’s great! I just think it’s time to stop yearning for the perfect somebody to cross your path. Even when it comes to love, there are so many things you can do to start designing the life you really want. And when we work on fulfilling and loving ourselves first, the relationships we create will be so much stronger and sweeter.

What are your thoughts on the "perfect man" research? Do you think it's worth looking for love, or would you rather let fate take the reins?

Yours in love & mischief-making,

This post is a collaboration with Ladbrokes, written in accordance with my disclosure policy, which you can read here.

Photographs by Soops, check her out on Twitter and Instagram.