Thoughts from A Therapist // All I Want for Christmas is the Perfect Relationship

Photo by   Julia Luckett

Photo by  Julia Luckett

As Christmas nears, many of my single clients want Santa to bring them the perfect relationship and leave it under the tree (nicely-wrapped, of course). As a psychotherapist, I am happy to play cupid, but I insist on being a cupid based in reality. This column starts with questions you can ask yourself for reflection and to increase the likelihood of finding that perfect partner under your Christmas tree!

  • How active have you been in your search for a perfect partner? How did that work  or not work  for you?
  • How good are you at letting people come to you? Can you relax and let things unfold when you're dating someone?
  • What are your standards for your perfect partner? Are they the same or different than your standards for yourself?
  • How similar have you been to past (or your present) partner(s)? How have you been different?
  • What patterns do you see in your past relationships?  What do you see as your biggest obstacles in meeting your perfect partner?

I believe that there are many potential "perfect" partners for all of us, and that we could be happy with any number of people. So, if there is not only one "perfect" partner, what about finding a wonderful partner? Someone we can give to and receive love from, someone who's got our back, who puts up with us when we're cranky and when we're fabulous. Let's talk about that kind of partner. How can we find someone like that? 

To me, finding your perfect partner is a balancing act between being active and passive. 

What have you done to look for a perfect partner? How successful was your "hunt"?

The active aspect of finding your perfect partner is about putting yourself in places where you're likely to meet the kinds of people who are compatible with you. Yes, folks, you need to get off your butts and get out there into the world and be around people, meet them, talk to them, and see how you both feel about each other. 

The passive phase requires that once you put yourself out there, that you relax and let things unfold. It's not about forcing something or manipulating someone into thinking you're someone other than who you are. 

See the balance? Both phases are crucial: blow either one and your perfect partner(s) will never get to meet you, or, if they do, you'll be so anxious and intense that they'll run screaming into the night. 

Just how high should you aim for a perfect partner?  

Does this person need to be much more perfect than you are? Better looking? More successful? If this is how you're setting it up, good luck. Your perfect partner is probably about as well adjusted and/or messed up as you are. In fact, research shows that happy partnerships are forged more based on similarities than differences. 

Your perfect partner may be different from you in many ways, but you'll hit it off from the get-go if you have similar values, e.g., honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity. Study after study shows that similar values are the most important traits that happy couples share. 

To avoid repeating old dysfunctional dating patterns, it's important to identify the obstacles in your path toward meeting your perfect person. 

What has historically stood in your way from meeting great people and dating them?  Fear is a big obstacle for many of us.  We're afraid of getting hurt, falling in love with someone who doesn't love us back, or having our heart broken. Honestly, we've all had our hearts broken, and we will continue to have them broken and healed and broken and healed again and again. 

Luckily, you don't need to be perfect to attract the perfect partner. Start by considering the above ideas, and begin to tell yourself, "Some amazing person is going to be lucky enough to have me as their partner." And be willing to be surprised: the perfect partner for you may be on their way to you right now, but you might not recognize them. Let go of your old ideas and see what wonderful people you'll attract...and enjoy the process!



Born in northwestern Ohio (the oldest of four children), I grew up in a small farm town. I was named after my great-grandfather Michael, who reportedly had the first Ford dealership in the State of Ohio (he ran it out of his hardware store). Eventually, I escaped the farm and made it to the big city of Cincinnati, where I earned a B.A. in Personnel and Group Development. After graduation, I moved to London where I worked at a punk clothing store in Covent Garden. During much of my 20s, I lived in Egypt, Denmark, Greece and (the former) Yugoslavia and hitchhiked all over Europe. After returning to the USA, I earned a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology while interning for “Sesame Street” in New York City. In San Francisco, I was the Clinical Director for the Homeless Children’s Network and a counselor for Aptos and Potrero Hill Middle Schools while earning my second Master’s Degree. In San Diego, I’ve worked as a licensed psychotherapist for Kaiser Permanente (Point Loma Psychiatry), Psychiatric Centers at San Diego and San Diego Hospice. I opened my private practice in 2002.