Wow, big topic. Where to begin, who, how, when, where and why?
When not in a relationship, it is tempting to create an image of what the perfect relationship would be. It could include a physical description - this might be quite detailed or it might be a “type”.
Having this picture in mind, you might then attach personality traits to it - strong, silent, sultry, mischievous...
This image is growing and you may add political, social, religious values into the mix.
Then comes the considerations of how you will live and this can vary from totally monogamous, strict family values through to a totally open relationship with few limits or boundaries.
The more particular you are, the more real the image becomes. But once that happens, life becomes one long interview, measuring everyone against the criteria you have decided are essential to a successful relationship. Your focus becomes very precise, very narrow. It becomes easy to spot those who do not fit the picture. If you stop for a moment you will notice that 99.9% of people, at least, do not fit your imagined ideal. On a planet the size of ours it is quite possible that your ideal match does exist but it is even more likely that in your lifetime you will never find that one person. Romantic fiction causes all sorts of misery, it encourages a way of thinking that is neither practical nor possible for the majority of people. It creates the scene in which most people feel inadequate and frustrated. Fantasy is not a model for life, just the opposite - fantasy is fantasy!
Consider what happens when you do find this illusive character - how will you cope when they use their free will and express an opinion different from what you expect? That happens all the time, people are changed by their circumstances, they change ideas and opinions according to what they see, hear and experience. So what do you do when over time, the “perfect” partner evolves in ways that do not suit? Will you be able to accommodate those changes and do you acknowledge that over time you too will change?
Being open to new experience requires being open, not making yourself vulnerable or at risk but being prepared to try things that you had not previously considered. House buying shows on TV push the point by showing people the sorts of properties that they say they need, then throwing an unexpected option into the mix. So often people realise that there are other ways of satisfying their needs, in the case of houses it may be size, layout, location. With relationships it could be any feature.
When two people embark on a relationship they meld into a couple, they retain their individual personalities but are affected by the feelings of those closest to them. What you see on a first date is unlikely to be what you get five years later. Things grow and develop and they shrivel and wither, but if you will not even contemplate anything outside a narrow set of criteria, the chances are you won't ever get to discover that for yourself.
Dreams and aspirations are the foundations. Basic beliefs and attitudes are a sort of starting point but to return to the property analogy - houses are altered, extended and remodelled over time to meet changing styles and needs.
Build your dreams in a balloon. Be prepared to let the balloon flex, bend and re-shape. Be excited at the prospect of discovering new ideas, new ways of being, not foregoing your own needs but understanding that there are many ways of reaching a goal and that by only going down one route, you can end up in a lonely dead end. By being able to take a wider view, so many more options open up before you.
Along the way the most resilient relationships will change, simply because our lives change from day to day. Each day we have more experience than the day before, that can affect either partner at a conscious or unconscious level. Stresses come into being: misreading of feelings, intentions or desires come about. None of this is anyone’s fault, it is life. Being able to embrace change, to see challenges where others see boundaries, to develop skills where others would claim defeat makes the difference between an on-going and an ended relationship. The perfect partner that you built in your imagination aged 20 was probably not equipped to deal with the issues you face in your later years, because you did not foresee those needs and nor should you. Growing together, facing and adapting to changing scenarios is the lifeblood of any relationship.
If you are struggling to get off the starting blocks in finding a relationship or are wondering how to be that flexible supportive partner, talking to a therapist will help. A hypnotherapist can widen the view, build your confidence, enable you to recognise the resources you have and show you how to use them.
Life is an adventure not a struggle.