We all have certain qualities that we’re drawn to when it comes to choosing a romantic partner —humor, success, good looks, intelligence… It’s totally normal to appreciate these things and they are a big part of what makes dating and mating fun. I’m a huge believer in the need to feel chemistry, attraction and excitement about whoever we choose as a partner. However, there is one quality, perhaps more subtle, that absolutely positively must be present in order to have a satisfying relationship. It’s kind of like a secret ingredient because it can’t necessarily be detected right away; but, without it, you are in for a very bumpy ride that is likely headed down a dead end street.
Here’s the cold hard truth: It doesn’t matter how successful, handsome or funny he is; if he doesn’t have your best interest at heart, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship.
This truth was first articulated to me about a decade ago. I was at brunch with a friend and her boyfriend—we’ll call him Mark. I was doing my usual thing. You know, eating up most of the airtime by giving a play by play of my latest argument with my then- boyfriend. Mark patiently listened to all of the reeeealllly important nonsense that I was so anxious to share. Then he asked me a question that cut through all of the noise: “Amanda, do you think he has your best interest at heart?” “And, if he doesn’t, why in the world would you want to be with him?”Wow. Pretty simple and profound, right? Well, I took his question to heart and got out of the relationship—two years later. Hey, I never claimed to be a fast learner, just a learner.
Why did I want to be with him? Because he was exciting, smart, funny, and successful, that’s why! Of course I was drawn to him. But, no, he did not have my best interest at heart. He wasn’t an evil guy; he just hadn’t evolved to the point where he could place someone else’s needs as high—or sometimes even higher—than his own. And, truth be told, neither had I. I wasn’t mean or evil either. I was just too afraid, too insecure and too needy. I wasn’t able to look at any of my romantic relationships without looking through the lens of “me, me me!” So, two good people, who were crazy about each other in a lot of ways, engaged in a dance of insecurity, pride and stubbornness until we eventually collapsed from exhaustion.
In order to get the kind of love you want, you have to be willing and able to give it. When you have someone’s best interest at heart you bend, you give, you encourage and, yes, you even challenge. But, it’s all aimed at helping the relationship and the person you are in love with grow and thrive. Humor and attraction are important. I certainly don’t want to live and love without them. But, having each other’s best interest at heart is an essential ingredient that holds a relationship together during the good and bad times. Without it, you won’t be able to feel emotionally safe, the freedom to grow and the security of a healthy relationship.
Think about the people in your life who have your best interest at heart. Doesn’t it feel like such an amazing gift of acceptance, comfort and love? And isn’t it sad that something that we all crave so deeply can be so hard to find in a romantic relationship?
Here’s a challenge for all of us whether we are in a relationship or still looking: Let’s try spending less time focusing on the size of our thighs or keeping score with our partner and more time focusing on being a kind, confident, secure woman who is brave enough to give— and receive—this rare and amazing kind of love. It’s just a sneaky suspicion, but I have a feeling that great things come to those who can view relationships through this lens.