My husband and I were married on June 26th thirteen years ago and have been together for seventeen years. We have two children who are eight and four years old. In honor of our anniversary, I thought I’d share my thoughts on picking a partner. I am pleased with my pick! And I have some great stories to tell. Here are seven key ideas to think about when selecting your partner for life.

  1. PARTNERSHIP. The key word is partnership. In some way or another you become partners for life and how that looks will differ for every couple. Life is highly variable. This requires that we make continued efforts to negotiate all aspects of life with one another in a kind and respectful manner. In a relationship, respect is found in your commitment to come to a mutual agreement.

We both had prior long-term relationships before we met. So, by the time we started dating we had a pretty good sense of what we were looking for in a partner. We were in our late twenties and met on the job. I was a management consultant based out of NYC and he was on the client team of the project I was staffed on in Hartford, CT. I commuted to and from NYC to Hartford every week.

  1. ENVISION YOUR FUTURE LIFE. Visualize the life you want to have in the future and find someone whose qualities are consistent with that vision. What do the future elements of your life look like such as a house, kids, pets, vacations, and hobbies? Where might you live? What kind of wealth do you realistically need to make that happen? Dating experience helped me decide what I did and didn’t want in a partnership. Make a list if it helps.

We didn’t really know one another that well but I found myself driving my future husband to NYC to visit his cousin for the weekend. An eighteen-wheeler crashed on route 95 and our two-hour drive turned into a five-hour standstill. On the trip, I learned that my future husband was a collegiate athlete and exercised regularly. Keeping in shape was really important to me. But I’m not a natural athlete so I longed for a relationship with a guy that had more of a natural get-up-and-go than I did. So, this was check for me on my list. And he was funny! Joke after joke, story after story, I found myself nearly in tears (of laughter) as we sat on route 95. Being funny wasn’t necessarily on ‘my list’ but what a bonus it is to have a partner with whom you can laugh. Laughter is healing.

  1. COMPLIMENTARY QUALITIES. Consider that the qualities that you look for in a partner may support areas where you are not as strong as a person. This constitutes the complementary aspects of your relationship where you build one another up. These complementary qualities are a necessary glue where you truly are better together, greater as a united pair.
  2. ENJOYMENT. You must enjoy spending time with your partner simply talking, sharing, laughing.

I didn’t expect an accident on route 95 to start a relationship with my passenger but it did. So, he began to visit me every other week in NYC. He’d always greet me with a bouquet of flowers that he picked up from the street vendor on the way to my apartment. I’m as tenacious as they come and I also have no problems with a guy giving me flowers, holding the door, or any other simple ways that make me feel special. Nowadays that’s morphed into him making me eggs on a Saturday morning and watching the kids while I go to a yoga class. I learned early on that he has a great metabolism and needs to eat all meals on time or he will get grumpy! I tend to organize the weekly meals. So, I try to make sure he has a healthy dinner weeknights after he returns home from work. The special things that we do for one another change as time goes on but it’s important to continue to do them and to acknowledge them.

  1. FEELING SPECIAL. Chivalry is not dead. We all want to be made to feel special to our partner. Discuss with your partner ways you both can make the other feel special, supported, loved. If your partner doesn’t make you feel special when you are courting, he or she probably never will.

After we had been dating for a short while I decided to test one of my non-starters. I knew that I wanted to travel the world and for me having a sense of adventure and global awareness was an essential quality of a partner. I studied international business in undergraduate school, did an exchange program in Germany, and backpacked around Europe for months. A few years later I received an International MBA where I worked in Germany in banking and again traveled extensively. Travel is in my blood. For various reasons, my future husband hadn’t traveled much and he was rather conservative. This concerned me; so, I tested him. Within a few months of dating we went to Ireland, an easy trip. About six months later we went to Spain, which was a bit more challenging given the language difference. He turned out to be a great traveler and we had a nice time on both trips. But I still wanted to be sure he would be willing to travel to more adventurous destinations. So less than a year later, when he arrived at my Manhattan apartment with his flower bouquet, I told him excitedly that I bought us flights to Egypt! He understandably was a little taken aback but he didn’t say he wouldn’t go. He was still courting me after all! So, a couple months later we traveled to Egypt. Once again, it turned out to be a great trip that was very adventurous for us both. So, after a year and a half of dating I was able to check the very important ‘willingness to travel’ box on my list and I was pretty sure we might end up being partners for life.

  1. TEST YOUR NON-STARTERS. You certainly don’t have to do what I did but testing the qualities that are essential to you is a good idea. First, identify what is essential to you about a person and about your future life. Figure out what proof you need in order to be sure that you and your partner are the right match. And look out for those qualities. Find hobbies that you enjoy doing together to strengthen your partnership.

In the photo above, I’m enjoying a lovely sail aboard a felucca boat on the fabled Nile river in Cairo about 16 years ago. You can still enjoy a felucca excursion on the Nile today.

The final and fun story. During the trip to Egypt, we hired a driver for the day to take us around the temples in Luxor. We asked him to stop at a papyrus store because I wanted to find a painting for my wall. I ask a lot of questions and like to chat with people. The owner of the store was explaining the symbolism and the meaning of the hieroglyphics on the various pieces. Somehow, we learned that the store owner had two wives. I’d never met a man with two wives so I asked him if his wives got along. He looked at me quizzically, clearly this was a question he had never been asked before. He seemed to have never even contemplated whether they got along, nor did it much matter to him. But he apparently found my questioning cute and generously offered my future husband five camels in exchange for me. To be his third wife. My future husband quite nervously thanked him for the offer, said I wasn’t for sale, consummated the purchase of the papyrus, and ushered me out of the store as quickly as possible. Random driver, random papyrus store on a desert road in a foreign country, and an offer to buy his girlfriend for five camels was quite enough for him I think!

  1. THE RIGHT PARTNER WILL NOT TRADE YOU FOR ANYTHING!

Have a sweet life!

To download Five Keys to Unlocking Health, Happiness, and Meaning in Life, sign up for my mailing list www.tarramitchell.com. For more of my thoughts on leadership, personal growth, and success as find me on Twitter: @tarrammitchell and/or Facebook: @tarrammitchell.

Tarra Mitchell is incorporating her distinctive background in business and yoga to contribute to the great conversation around leadership and consciousness. Her upcoming book, The Yoga of Leadership, shows how personal wellbeing is connected to success to inspire and empower leaders to lead healthier, happier lives, and better connect with and engage their teams.

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