Getting Clear About What You Really Want in Dating
by Susan Campbell, Ph.D.

If you want to meet the woman or man of your dreams, it’s a good idea to know what those dreams are. Do you dream about snuggling by the fire night after night, or are you more drawn to the fantasy of traveling the world together? Do you long for days and nights of nonstop lovemaking, or would you sooner spend your free time in intelligent conversation? Or do you want all of the above?

Many single people resist targeting their talent search for fear of winding up with too few possibilities to choose from. Instead they conduct themselves so as to attract the widest possible range of eligibles — only to discover that they’ve attracted a whole bunch of people that they don’t enjoy spending time with!

When considering your wants, it’s useful to create a detailed and specific vision of how you want your relationship life to look, feel, smell and sound. Start by creating a picture of your ideal day with another, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep: Do you wake up together or at different times? Do you sleep in the same bed? Do you have breakfast together? What activities do you engage in together and separately? How much talking vs. silence is there between you? What sorts of things do you talk about? How much touching occurs between you? How does your body feel being with this person? How spontaneous and uncensored do you allow yourself to be?

Then, create a detailed picture of an experience you’d like to share with this person — an intimate day together or perhaps an adventure you’d like to have. Imagine taking this person to meet your family and friends. How would that go? Imagine you and this person having a disagreement. How would you deal with differences or conflicts? Imagine yourself bringing up a topic that is difficult or sensitive to talk about. Picture in detail your ideal scenario. Picture yourself making love with this ideal person. How does that feel? What does the other do that turns you on? What do you do to pleasure your partner? How much verbal communication is there? What’s the emotional tone like? What’s the setting like? Are any drugs or alcohol involved in your scenario? What about chocolate?

If you really put some time into answering these questions, you will learn a lot. You may find, for example, that the people you have been meeting do not fit with your stated values. Or you may realize that you have never in your life experienced safety or fulfillment in the presence of another person. Or you may discover that you have never considered the possibility that you and this ideal other could have conflicts or disagreements.

Getting specific about what you want is extremely important. When most people make a list of qualities they seek in a partner, they don’t get specific enough. They never get down to the nitty-gritty of relating. Remember, it is how people relate that is the crucial ingredient for relationship success, probably more important than what they like to do for fun, what they look like, or how much money they have.If you have trouble creating a really clear and specific vision of yourself having what you want, then the following exercise will help you: Recall a time in your life when you felt fulfilled and happy in the presence of another person. That person could be male or female; it doesn’t matter. What was it about the interaction or about this situation that contributed to your feeling so good? Was this person paying attention to you in a particular way? What was this person doing or how was he being? Take notice of anything that seemed to contribute to your feeling fulfilled. Now envision yourself sharing a similar type of peak experience with an ideal partner. How would this person need to be or behave in order to fit into your vision? What other experiences would you like to share with this person? Now envision yourself experiencing these things with this ideal partner.

The best way to get clear on your values is to look at which life experiences bring you joy or fulfillment. What peak experiences have you had? How do you choose to spend your free time? What was the best vacation you ever took? Recall a day that felt truly nourishing to you. What were you doing? Who were you with? Take time now to reflect on these questions and perhaps write your answers down in a notebook or journal. Once you are clear on what you want, don’t settle for less. If you do, you will find it difficult to actually give your full attention to the person you have “chosen” because you’ll always wonder in the back of your mind, “what would happen if I really went for what I want?”

Dr. Susan M. Campbell is the author of the new book, "Truth in Dating" (HJ Kramer/New World Library; 2004; 14.95). She has worked as a professional speaker and a dating and relationship coach for over 35 years. For more information, please visit:, call 800-972 6657.