About a decade ago, I became involved with a guy I jokingly referred to as “a Romantrix.” Don’t bother Googling that term. I made it up to describe someone who dominates you so much with hot pursuit, that romance is inevitable.
This particular Romantrix inundated me with love letters, flowers, candle-lit dinners, and continuous promises to love me forever. Unfortunately in his mind "forever" meant seven months.
I eventually discovered he was cheating. He was more than a two-timer. He was a three- and four-timer. So all that intense pleasure from the beginning of our relationship quickly led to lots of pain. Shortly after our break-up, I discovered a fascinating article in the New York Times about the psychology of evil.
The article highlighted what it called “The Psychopath Checklist,” a helpful list that criminal psychiatrists use to test the potential of someone being a hardcore psychopath, capable of committing repeated evil and violent crimes.
Guess which traits evil psychopaths share?
- Extreme charisma
- Need to always be doing something
- Feelings of high self-worth
- Pathological lying
- Proneness to boredom
- Emotional unavailability
To my amusement, all these adjectives were also very appropriate to describe my Romantrix — an adorably charismatic, fun, active, confident guy — who turned out to be a total Prince Harming.
One of the top traits to look for in a partner is an appealingly strong character. Think about it. Charles Manson, Stalin, and Mussolini were all considered passionate, charismatic, attractive, and intelligent back in their day. But just because they had that popular wish list of qualities, doesn’t mean they would have made good partners.
Seeking strong character always matters far more than personality, because character will determine how someone behaves — and/or misbehaves! Personality is the tip of the iceberg of who someone shows themselves to be. Character is the true foundation.
A relationship is only as strong as how you handle challenging times. Your relationship will always suffer if either you or your partner displays poor character during conflicts, disappointments, stress, crisis, temptation, sadness, monetary challenges, illness, misunderstandings etc.
For this reason, I believe that instead of looking for that popular wish list of qualities (sexy, funny, successful, smart etc) you should be seeking a “wish feeling.”
And the number one feeling you should seek is the feeling of safety. (In my book, it's even more important than love!) Without safety, you'll never feel true love, because you’ll never feel comfy being vulnerable enough to reveal your true self – thereby experiencing true intimacy.
Without strong character values, the challenges you face as a couple will steamroll your relationship. However, if you embrace strong character values (honesty, empathy, good communication and a devotion to self development), then during tough times you'll be open to discussing problems, listening with an open mind, empathizing with an open heart, talking honestly, and evolving — so as to make sure problems don’t keep repeating.
A person with strong character is also able to see how a relationship is not just there as a “den of pleasure.” A relationship actually serves a secondary function.
The Two Functions Of A Relationship:
1. Den of pleasure — for fun, companionship, sex,laughter, etc
2. Laboratory for growth — the ultimate place of challenge for each of your souls (core selves) to be inspired and supported to stretch, grow, evolve!
Unfortunately, many people only view a relationship solely as a place to experience that “den of pleasure,” leaving out the soul-ly aspects of a relationship: lab for growth.
If you're not able to view a relationship as serving both of these two functions, when problems arise, you’ll think: Hey this is no longer a fun den of pleasure, I’m outta here!
But if you each understand how a relationship serves this double function, then when challenges arise you’ll understand that sometimes you have to leave the den of pleasure to head into that laboratory for growth, and that’s A-OK!
In fact, that’s even awesome! Why? Because one of the most important things we should all do is live a life with a passionate commitment to self development! We should always be open to stretching and growing into our best selves!
To be clear: You shouldn’t want a relationship where you each try to change who you are. And you shouldn’t want a relationship where you keep disrespecting who the other person is.
Instead, strive for a relationship in which you support each other in evolving into your truest and best selves, where you deal with challenges as an opportunity for growth! And it’s always “strong character muscles” (and not tight buns or thick wallets) that will help you to achieve this esteemed mission!
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