How to choose the right partner for you when dating after break-up or divorce

052 3 Ways to Choose the Right Partner for You – with Susan Quilliam


Are you in the process of starting again, or looking for a new relationship?

I am so passionate about this topic. I can’t think of a more important decision that we make in our lives other than to figure out who to spend our lives with, and if we want a family, who do we want to have children with.

Maybe you’re dating, or even just starting to get back out there, and you’re figuring out what it is that you’re looking for and how you’re going to go about attracting the right person for you. It’s about creating and choosing the right relationship for you.

Our special guest for today is relationship coach and author of How to Choose a Partner, Susan Quilliam. Aside from authoring 22 books and serving as the Ambassador for Relate Cambridge, she also serves on the Sexuality Council of the Royal Society of Medicine, and is Patron of the Outsiders Charity advocating the relationship rights of less-abled people.

Susan is also the relationship agony aunt for The Sun’s Fabulous magazine, and consults to relationship organisations and charities.

She is passionate about helping people find, keep and enhance their intimate partnerships.

In this episode, she shares with us three practical ways and questions you can ask yourself to help you in choosing the right partner for you. We also delve deep into how childhood, family and past relationships affect our current relationships, attachment styles, Lovemaps, physiological and intuitive attraction, and a lot more.

Way 1: Getting the Past in Perspective

One of the things Susan gets her clients to do is look all the way back, not just into their own past, but also sometimes into their parents’ pasts.

“What messages have you learned about partnership? What messages have you learned about the way a relationship should be? This is going to affect who you choose.

In some ways, it’s much more important to look at what we want in a partnership than do that whole online CV thing of he/she has to be this way or that way, or look like this or fulfil these requirements. We’re encouraged to do that as a starting point, but actually, a person cannot fulfil any of your specific requirements and the two of you can still create the most wonderful partnership.”

What expectations you have about a partnership is one of the things that you need to start with.

The Iceberg Analogy

“The point [Helen Fisher] is making in her work is that there is a biological impulse in being drawn towards somebody and them being drawn towards us.

For example, it is very, very difficult to have a good relationship with somebody whose very physical presence makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Even if you can’t make logic of that or even if you can’t explain it.

But in reverse, that huge attraction, the feeling that this was “meant to be” and it’s exciting and it’s so wonderful when we’re together – that is only part of it.”

It’s just like an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg may be a compelling, physiological, instinctive, intuitive attraction, but that won’t necessarily carry you through. That type of attraction expires eventually, most of the time. It won’t necessarily carry you through the long run.

If that’s the only thing that’s keeping you together, what are you going to do with that when it’s gone?

But if, below the surface, it’s solid and there’s compatibility and you make each other happy long-term, that’s a wonderful way to start a relationship. But it isn’t the only part of the story; it’s only the prelude. You need to make sure that the rest of the story that you’re living with a particular partner is solid, too.

Way 2: Pay Attention to What’s Happening in the Present

People very often have a wonderful, clear checklist of what they want in a partner. I mean, don’t we all? But whenever Susan works with clients, she tries to ease them away from that.

“When I’m coaching people, I try to ease them away from that because different partners create different present realities.

The person who ticks every single box, when you’re actually with them, it may not feel all that comfortable. When you have a problem together, it may not work out. When you’re celebrating together, it may not be what you want.

So I try to get them paying attention to what’s actually happening in the present moment.”

I have four little checks:

  • What’s happening on a normal, day-to-day level? Are you happy, or trundling along? Are you texting each other? Are you spending evenings together? So what’s the day-to-day reality? Is it largely comfortable?
  • Something goes a bit wrong. You have a disagreement about what restaurant to go to or about people being tidy or untidy. In the present moment, can you resolve that? Can you meet an unhappy day and turn it around?
  • If you’re celebrating something together, how do you approach that celebration? Here and now, what do you want, and what does your partner want? If you’re celebrating in very different ways, over time, that may lead to feelings of nonappreciation.
  • When you have a crisis, how do you both step up to it?

Way 3: Look Into The Future

“I ask people to look forward five years, which, for many of my clients, they’re moving into a different life stage that might be moving from being unpartnered or partnered into having children, or it might be from being working into being retired.

Look forward to the future. First of all, look forward five years, then look forward maybe a little longer, maybe 10, 15 years.

And then take a big deep breath and look forward to the end of your life, and you’re looking back to all the things you did – what can you imagine? Can you imagine a life lived with this partner would have been good? Is this the way you want to spend your life?”


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Connect with Susan Quilliam


How to Choose a Partner by Susan Quilliam

Get it on Amazon UK | Get it on Amazon US

Mentions: John Money | Helen Fisher

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