Finding Compatibility: How To Choose The Right Partner

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated June 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

According to a 2023 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, 46.4% of U.S. adults (117.6 million Americans) are single. The dating pool for those who are looking for love may be vast, but choosing the right partner from that pool is often challenging. While there may not be one single “right” person for you, there are likely certain standards and qualities you’d like to have in a romantic partner. If you are struggling to determine what these qualities are, it may be beneficial to begin your dating journey with self-reflection. One potentially helpful place to start is by determining your attachment style. Next, you might look for a suitable partner by attending events related to your hobbies and seeking someone who shares your values while remaining aware of potential red flags. A licensed therapist can help you navigate the dating process with in-person or online therapy sessions.

Getty/Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa
It can be challenging to find the right partner

Determining your attachment style

Developed by psychologist John Bowlby, attachment theory can serve as a potential explanation of the types of connections we tend to form with others. 

While the theory originally concerned the relationships between children and their parents, further research on the topic has found that adults may have their own attachment styles, particularly in romantic relationships. While individual styles can vary, the four primary adult attachment styles usually include the following:

Anxious-preoccupied attachment

Individuals with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style may consistently seek the attention and approval of their partners. This need for validation often stems from low self-esteem or a poor self-image, which may result in the fear that their partners will abandon or reject them. 

Dismissive-avoidant attachment

Those with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style often place a high value on their independence and may fear getting too close to their partners. These individuals may establish strict boundaries to ensure that relationships remain casual, and they may become distant if they believe that a partner wants a more serious commitment. 

Fearful-avoidant attachment

Individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style may struggle to trust their partners and frequently believe they are unworthy of love. They can also find it difficult to depend on others, often due to a fear that their partners will eventually reject them. Despite these fears, they may desire intimate relationships and pursue the acceptance and connection that romantic partnerships can provide. 

Secure attachment

In many cases, a secure attachment style is the healthiest and most beneficial for a person to exhibit. Secure individuals tend to have a positive attitude and a sincere sense of trust toward their partners. In addition, they typically do not struggle with self-esteem and don’t usually need excessive validation from their partners to maintain a healthy sense of self-worth.

By determining your attachment style and gaining an understanding of other attachment styles, you may be able to search for partners with a similar or compatible style. You may also find that your current attachment type isn’t healthy. In these cases, it can be beneficial to consider therapy before you start dating. Once you believe that you’re ready to date, it may be helpful to use various techniques to find the right person for you. Below are three methods that may make your search more effective.

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3 tips that may help you find the right partner 

After determining your attachment type, you might begin to look for a partner using the following strategies.

  1. Look for someone with similar traits and values

You’ve probably heard the phrase “opposites attract,” but research suggests that the opposite may be true. In one meta-analysis involving 199 studies and millions of couples, researchers found that long-term partners often shared similar beliefs, personality traits, and habits. While the traits that couples shared varied in percentages, the most closely aligned generally included education level, IQ, political and religious beliefs, and vice-related habits, such as drinking or smoking. 

Researchers also found that couples may be likely to share dominant personality traits, such as those included in the Big 5 model: openness, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. 

To find partners with similar values, it may be helpful to join organizations that reinforce those values. For example, if you place a significant level of importance on faith, it may be beneficial to attend a church in your area that adheres to that faith. Make sure to take advantage of opportunities to meet others outside of church services by attending events like fundraisers, picnics, volunteer opportunities, potlucks, and other community-oriented functions. 

  1. Attend events involving your hobbies or passions

In addition to joining organizations that espouse your values, it may be helpful to attend events that involve your hobbies or passions to find people with similar interests. For example, if you are an avid reader, it may be beneficial to join a book club. If you’re more interested in sports or physical activities, you may decide to look for an intramural sports team, running club, or biking club. Whichever activity you choose, you can search in your local area for groups that share your interest and find out how to attend their next meeting. 

If you don’t have the time to attend an in-person club, you may also find individuals with similar interests through internet groups. These can be found on social media sites like Facebook or messaging platforms like Discord. Depending on what your interests are, these groups may participate in discussions about material relating to your hobbies, provide up-to-date news about your passions, or list events that relate to your interests. 

  1. Watch out for red flags

While red flags can vary from person to person, it may be universally beneficial to look out for certain behaviors. It can be important to note that many of the behaviors listed below qualify as abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or domestic violence, it can be essential to reach out for help immediately. One resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can be reached by dialing 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). 

Abusive or red-flag behaviors may include the following:

  • Poor communication: Communication skills can be essential in a healthy relationship, so observing a person’s ability to communicate can be important early on. Poor communication skills can manifest in several ways, such as passive aggression, refusing to speak, an inability to compromise, a lack of empathy, interrupting someone while they are speaking, and attacking someone verbally. 
  • Jealousy: Occasional feelings of jealousy can be normal, and communicating these feelings can be a regular part of healthy relationships. However, if a partner is overcome with jealousy, it may result in behaviors that could detrimentally affect your well-being and relationship. For example, if a partner constantly accuses you of cheating, becomes angry if you speak about past relationships, or monitors your whereabouts at all times, your mental health and the strength of your partnership may be negatively impacted. 
  • Love-bombing: Love-bombing usually refers to a manipulation or emotional abuse tactic involving a significant amount of praise, gifts, or exclamation of feelings early in a relationship. While many cases of love-bombing can be intentional, some can be the result of an unconscious defense mechanism rooted in a person’s insecurity or fear of abandonment. 
  • Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can cause a person to question their reality, memory, and behavior. Partners can gaslight you through multiple methods, such as questioning your recollection of events, diverting your focus to something unrelated to the situation at hand, telling you that your feelings don’t matter, or pretending to forget (or denying) that an event happened. 
  • Physical abuse: Physical abuse in relationships may be difficult to acknowledge, but it can be vital to seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing it. This type of abuse can manifest in multiple ways, such as pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, slapping, pulling of hair or clothing, strangling, and physical restraint. It can be important to look for the signs of physical abuse in others as well, and these can include cuts, bruises, burns, and black eyes. If an individual doesn't want to explain how these injuries happened or seems to be lying about their cause, that may also indicate abuse. 
A female couple stand outside while holding cups of iced coffee as they laugh together and lean into one another lovingly.
Getty/Mireya Acierto
It can be challenging to find the right partner

Therapy can help with dating and relationship challenges

Finding the right partner can take a significant amount of time and effort. During this journey, many individuals encounter struggles that are difficult to manage on their own. While it can be helpful to talk to friends and family members, some situations are easier to face with the assistance of a mental health professional. A licensed therapist can help you address the challenges of dating, identify negative behaviors or thought patterns that may stop you from finding a partner, and discuss other struggles in your life that could be impacting your well-being. 

However, balancing work, school, dating, therapy, and other responsibilities can be difficult. In addition, in-person therapy may not only be inconvenient, but in some places, it can be inaccessible. Those living in rural regions or health professional shortage areas (HSPAs) may have difficulty finding a therapist. If they do find a professional, they may need to wait months before an appointment is available. In these cases, it may be beneficial to explore alternative options, such as online therapy. 

Benefits of online therapy

Online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp can offer a convenient and effective way to address relationship challenges from the comfort of your own home at a time that fits your schedule. You can attend online therapy individually or with your partner, which can make it ideal for managing relationship challenges. 

Effectiveness of online therapy

Research suggests that couples who use online therapy often experience improved relationship satisfaction and mental health outcomes. In addition, researchers found that online therapeutic interventions can be as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy. 

Takeaway

Finding the right partner may be challenging, but there are several ways to refine your dating strategy and look for a compatible significant other. This process may be easier if you begin by learning certain information about yourself, such as your attachment style. Once you are ready to date, it may be easier to find the right partner if you look for those with similar values and traits, attend events that relate to your interests, and watch for red-flag behaviors. If you are struggling with dating or relationship struggles, it may also be beneficial to speak with a therapist, whether that be in-person or online.
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