Poll: What do you look for in a relationship?

post by Desrtopa · 2011-02-10T01:15:29.593Z · score: 4 (13 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 39 comments

Open to anyone, single or otherwise. What do you look for in a relationship?

A few questions to narrow down the responses:

 

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

 

39 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-13T04:13:49.849Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

When I was dating widely, first and foremost I was looking for the kind of nerd sensibility that appreciates role playing games, the works of Joss Whedon, comic books, Star Wars, Tolkien, etc. This is so much a part of who I am that I simply had no interest in people who didn't get it. And this requirement incidentally tends to select for high intelligence.

But that was theory. Now that I've been married for several years, what I appreciate most about my husband is not that he's a geek (though he is) or that he's smart (though he really, really is) but that he's a good man. I've come to rely on him for the primal, old-fashioned things that are almost taboo for self-possessed modern women to even mention: you know, the old protect-and-provide business. He does that. And it's important. So important, and sometimes I feel like it's blind luck that I ended up with a husband I can trust and respect on that level, because I certainly wasn't selecting for it consciously when I was a self-sufficient childless gal looking for a modern egalitarian relationship. (In retrospect, though, I think I was selecting for it on a subconscious level.) This quality also makes him a good father, which has become tremendously important since our kids were born.

What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

Well, I want a partner who can play different roles as the circumstances of our lives change. When we first got together it was about having fun, seeking out new experiences, and supporting each other in our aspirations. Now that we're parents it's like we're coworkers as well as romantic partners, so we need to be able to do all the things that are important in maintaining a good work environment: split tasks efficiently, provide constructive feedback, ask for (and accept) help where needed, and sometimes be each other's source of affirmation and reward. Also stress relief, that's really important--shared jokes and frequent sex. Someday we'll be old and I imagine then the role will be about companionship and maybe keeping each other mobile and independent for as long as possible.

How much time would you spend together, ideally?

Well, we live together, but I'd like more time alone with my husband: my youngest boy is still nursing, so even doing something like "date night" is hard. I'd like that though.

How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Highly important. Like I said above, I wasn't able to conceive of being with someone who didn't share the geek constellation of interests.

How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

Highly important.

What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Oh man. I didn't have nearly enough of them when I was dating. I look back on some of my previous partners and I think: If that was the person I had children with! If that was the person I was betting not just my life, but my children's lives on! Oh, but for the grace of Darwin...

I only ended relationships when I wasn't in love. When I was in love, I just clung with all my strength, even when it was or should have been obvious that the relationship wasn't working out: when we fought all the time, or when we were no longer having sex, or when my partner moved halfway across the world. In each of those cases I was dumped, and at the time I would have given anything to win my partner back, but in retrospect I am so grateful that my ex had the strength to end things when I did not.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-10T06:04:50.204Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Human, female, not a close relative, speaks and writes English, not severely mentally ill or mentally retarded, not currently in a monogamous relationship with someone else, not imprisoned for (or wanted for) a serious crime, between the ages of 18 and, say, 46, and is willing to have me as a prospective partner.

Those seem to be the most important characteristics. There are certainly others that are important, but they're probably not quite as important as these.

As for the other questions, I think I need more dating experience before I can figure out the answers.

comment by Costanza · 2011-02-10T23:10:16.086Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

...and is willing to have me as a prospective partner.

I haven't been single for years, but I recall that I was always very favorably impressed when members of the opposite sex showed the very good taste to be interested in me. I assumed it was a mark of excellent character.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-11T03:56:37.517Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't consider myself a particularly good "catch" at the moment. (I plan on changing that some time in the next year or so.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-02-12T10:30:21.430Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You've been seeming happier lately, but I wasn't sure whether you'd decided to complain less or things had actually improved.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-13T03:05:01.674Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I've been socializing more, but I'm still job-free.

comment by multifoliaterose · 2011-02-11T04:11:20.141Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For what it's worth I find you sharp and insightful. (Not that this is immediately applicable to your relationship situation in light of the fact that I'm a heterosexual male, but presumably at least some other people have the same perception.)

comment by Costanza · 2011-02-11T18:28:02.442Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Seconded!

Plus, he has almost five thousand karma points! That's like [appropriate gender] catnip, isn't it?

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-10T02:10:36.949Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

I don't find them annoying after a few dates. Which is a fairly high bar. The biggest contributing factor seems to be having the ability to understand what I say or a personality that tries to understand rather than arguing back with irrelevant stuff. This is surprisingly rare.

comment by justmyanonymousacct · 2011-02-11T16:52:19.507Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(Why anonymous? Because I have a relationship and I prefer not to write about it in "public".)

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Intelligence. (Ideally, someone slightly smarter than I am.)

Sense of humor--by which I mean someone who holds nothing too sacred to joke about, and who also appreciates terrible puns. And It's not enough to simply appreciate humor; they have to be able to crack a good joke themselves.

Kindness--I dated someone who was sweet to me but otherwise generally abrasive and obnoxious once. Never again.

Rationality--no, I don't care if they've read the Sequences. I do care if they're willing to engage in argument fairly, change their mind when appropriate, evaluate evidence rationally.

Emotional stability--I can't deal with the stress of dating someone emotionally fragile or overdramatic.

Sexual compatibility.

As for physical traits, most people are physically attractive to me once I've gotten to know them and found their mind attractive first. I have some preferences but I can't think of one that is a dealbreaker. But they do have to be physically attracted to me also.

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

Companion and lover. Someone I can escape from the rest of the world with, can trust to care about me and want to help me, can enjoy life experiences with. Also someone I respect and admire, whose life I want to share in.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

Ideally, we would live together, but be able to tolerate extended separation without getting upset. I like to be alone frequently, and to spend time with friends (even the friends my partner doesn't care for); I also travel for events and various opportunities. But it's very nice to have someone to come home to, to share most days with.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

We should have at least some similar tastes, or it's not enjoyable to share things we like. In particular, someone I date has to be at least tolerant of my musical choices, because I want to have music playing frequently. At the very least, they should not be dismissive or disdainful of the things I like.

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

Reasonably so. I don't hold extreme views on many things--particularly ones that are very complex. The ones that I do hold extreme views on are very important to me. I have to be able to respect my partner; I can't respect someone who holds many strong views that I believe to be unethical.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Being seriously religious. Physical or emotional abuse. Excessive jealousy. Lack of respect for me. Anti-intellectualism.

(Also, I've never dated anyone who could not write both music and code, but I don't think this is necessarily essential.)

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-12T21:47:51.325Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I peg you as female from this list. Would you mind satisfying my curiosity to let me know if I'm right?

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-14T16:14:11.718Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thirded. As much as anything else, I'd like it if this poll could give some illumination on any differences between what the women on Less Wrong look for and what the men do.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-13T02:35:22.725Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I peg you as female from this list.

I did likewise, starting from:

Ideally, someone slightly smarter than I am.

The emphasis on respect gave a similar impression:

Also someone I respect and admire

Guys are also slightly less likely to write:

Physical or emotional abuse. Excessive jealousy.

Oh, and humor, in this direction:

they have to be able to crack a good joke themselves.

That said, there were a few requirements there to which I thought "I couldn't have said that better myself". I'm thinking, let's see... 80% chance of female. That seems to be the odds that I would start making bets at.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-13T02:48:26.776Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did likewise, starting from:

Ideally, someone slightly smarter than I am.

Yep. I had several boyfriends who perceived me as smarter than themselves, and it was never, ever a good thing.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-02-10T02:38:04.237Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Mutual trust... being confident that they aren't going to do things to hurt me or act against my interests, and them being confident of the same with me.

Being able to communicate... that is, when I say things, I feel like they understand what I meant, and vice-versa, and there aren't too many things that we can't talk to each other about.

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

A source of companionship, sex, and emotional support; someone to make long-term plans with.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

A significant chunk of every day/night.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Not very, though a lot depends on available resources. Having surplus resources makes accommodating different tastes much easier.

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

Depends... basically, if we differ on things that are very important to me, that's a problem, but the majority of things I'm fine with difference.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Lack of trust, in either direction. Significant dishonesty. Abuse.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2011-02-10T17:45:48.473Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Ridiculously attractive. Chill. Trustworthy. Artistically talented.

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

I'd like a partner who raises my status by her classiness/beauty/awesomeness. Basically, a chick I can be hella proud of being seen with and associated with.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

Every night and some hours most days.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Somewhat important that my partner does not have strong likes or dislikes that are low social status. Mildly important to have actually similar tastes. I seem to get a big kick out of the few chicks who like dubstep and half-ironic sexism as much as I do.

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

I like ideologically apathetic chicks. Anybody who cares about any ideology is wrong, except for the smarter class of Singularitarians, and it would annoy me to have to ignore all of the wrongness of a girl who wasn't very reflective but still passionate about political positions et cetera.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

For a 'relationship' my standards are high enough such that a huge number of things are dealbreakers. The most obvious dealbreaker is lack of gorgeousness, which disqualifies a pretty huge population of women. Beyond that the next big filter is lack of trustworthiness. Passionate ideology is almost a dealbreaker but there are probably exceptions where a chick's passion is cute in some way and not merely epistemically contemptible.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-17T06:30:20.018Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Anybody who cares about any ideology is wrong

Love it. I plan to quote that. :)

By the way - excellent signalling via screening you have going there. I'm definitely convinced that you must be hot and suave to be able to declare such high standards so matter-of-factly. ;)

comment by cousin_it · 2011-02-10T10:59:21.139Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

I don't want myself to be like these girls on OKC that write long laundry lists of specific demands. People are allowed to be awesome in ways I cannot predict in advance.

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

See 1.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

Two or three days a week. I need a lot of personal time and space. Even when I'm completely head over heels in limerence, seeing the person more than three times a week feels "wrong" to me and I instinctively try to reduce it.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Not important.

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

Not important.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Being controlling, frequently "depressed", or having no interests. The three often go together.

comment by ewang · 2011-02-10T05:14:12.918Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think I may be the only Less Wrong member young enough not to have an answer to that question.

EDIT: That claim was stupid.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-10T17:30:38.265Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I think I may be the only Less Wrong member young enough not to have an answer to that question.

There is no reason that should stop you. Most people, when they are answering such questions, tend to give answers that are only loosely correlated with what they in practice end up seeking. You can make up random stuff with the rest of us!

comment by Costanza · 2011-02-10T23:18:34.478Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

An akrasia confession: every so often, I unintentionally remember what should have been very, very minor embarrassments from years and years ago, maybe in front of people I never knew at all well -- sometimes complete strangers. I'm probably the only one on Earth who has any recollection about these incidents at all. Still, to this day, I find myself mortified.

P.S. That doesn't let you off the hook, ewang. I am appalled and disgusted at your comment. Indeed, my mind is truly boggled. Hide your head in shame.

P.P.S. Not really.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-12T07:26:00.357Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I get that too. It does seem like an odd thing to happen. I wonder if most people get that or just some subset.

comment by Sniffnoy · 2011-02-12T07:28:05.938Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was under the impression most people got that, but I'm realizing now that was more due to famous quotes to that effect rather than any more direct or reliable evidence.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-12T07:43:20.585Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was under the impression that most people got that too. In fact I had heard, and thought credible, that of all the emotions that we experience it is embarrassment that we are most able to remember the visceral experience of down the track. Other experiences lose their emotional intensity a lot more rapidly.

comment by Zack_M_Davis · 2011-02-14T06:40:59.987Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do this too. Lately I've been having a lot of fun with the reduction of personal identity, so sometimes I try to console myself with the thought that because lots of people have said lots of stupid things in lots of years, the fact that I said something stupid the other year is just a trivial special case---my embarrassment is not uniquely important, and not really news. Somehow I fail to be consoled.

comment by Perplexed · 2011-02-10T16:08:48.020Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

...young enough not to need an answer yet?

You must be young if you think that this bit of stupidity is the worst you will ever come up with.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-02-10T17:27:57.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You must be young if you think that this bit of stupidity is the worst you will ever come up with.

Well, he could be thinking that he will be making a lot of stupid mistakes and expects to be haunted by all of the mistakes this bad or worse. (They have drugs and therapy that can help with that sort of thing. Prevention is better than cure! :P)

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-02-10T06:07:14.741Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I highly doubt that.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-02-10T06:05:41.408Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I might not be young enough, but I'm certainly inexperienced enough. :(

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-02-13T00:42:11.047Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If i was picky about what a person was like before they had gone out with me for awhile I'd never date anyone. Either they'll fall in line with my expectations or they'll dump me when I demand things they consider unreasonable.

comment by WrongBot · 2011-02-10T08:35:14.562Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Curiosity, analytic intelligence, emotional maturity, sex-positivity, the ability to admit to being wrong or making mistakes.

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

Depends strongly on the person in question and our current life-circumstances. My current girlfriend and I are quite serious, so if I start dating anyone new it would be with the intention of taking things slow for a while.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

I try to spend time with my girlfriend every day. For someone new, maybe a night or two a week? Relationships vary, and I don't like forcing them into uncomfortable shapes.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Moderately. Having mutual interests to talk about is really quite nice.

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

I couldn't date someone who wasn't some kind of humanist. Beyond that, I'm flexible.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Anger problems, sex-negativity, controlling behavior, extreme religious or political views. I'm unusually sensitive to markers of abusive relationships, because there are some mistakes that should only be made once.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2011-02-10T17:04:07.707Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know full well that answers I give here will be blown out of the water in the event of actually getting into a relationship, but here's the rough ideal:

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Curiosity, playfulness, filthy-mindedness, independence and a passion for things they find interesting. Extra bonus points awarded for either mathematical inclinations or musical talent, as I've been unable to outrageously nerd out with, or duet with, any of my previous partners. Dance training would be nice.

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

I would like to be someone's mutual hobby. There are a selection of important things in my life that I consider hobbies, and I would like at least one of them to be person-shaped.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

I think this varies an awful lot over the lifecycle of a relationship, and is heavily dependent on the nature of the relationship and the habits and behaviour of the people in it.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Not terribly important, but I can't imagine myself being attracted to someone without a reasonable amount of overlap.

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

See 4.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Irresponsibility and wilful selfishness. Abusiveness. Tantrums / terrorist negotiation tactics. Controlling behaviour. Gross insensitivity.

I think 6 is probably the most interesting question, since (seemingly in other people's answers, and definitely in mine) it appears to be a litany of horrendous past relationship experiences.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-02-10T04:20:39.938Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in a relationship, fwiw, and all the "ideal" characteristics are actually there.

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Trustworthiness, intelligence, accomplishment, depth, a happy and adventurous outlook, "chemistry" between us. I'm usually drawn in first by interesting ideas plus confidence (and all the usual primate stuff).

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

A boyfriend. Love, friendship, sex, someone to learn from, making each other stronger.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

See each other every day if it was practical.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Some things are more important than others. I couldn't care less about your taste in music, movies, or food. I do get along much better with people who like and understand science. Also, people who read for pleasure, especially literature and science fiction. It's important to share a "taste" for rational thinking. Exercise is a major thing to have in common (extra credit if free weights are involved.)

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

Atheist is preferable. I wouldn't date an observant Christian. Politics aren't super-important except so far as they reflect values. And shared values are rare, and pretty amazing when you can find them. I'm an individualist and humanist; I believe in self-actualization, personal independence, tolerance, and making human beings better off. Very few people really get that.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Honestly, that's the wrong question. You probably wouldn't date anybody who didn't have one dealbreaker trait. (Anyone except dishonest people or abusers? That doesn't narrow the population much.) Instead, I've got a heuristic: you should be winning at life more than me. Or at least the same.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-10T05:13:12.941Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You probably wouldn't date anybody who didn't have one dealbreaker trait.

Either I'm misunderstanding something here or you are. A dealbreaker is something that you cannot accept. If it's there, the deal's off, no other questions necessary. You absolutely wouldn't date anybody who had one dealbreaker trait, otherwise it's not a dealbreaker.

comment by luminosity · 2011-02-10T03:15:37.750Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

1: What traits are most important to you in a prospective partner?

Attractive, intelligent, interesting. Interesting is particularly important.

2: What kind of role would you want your partner(s) to play in your life?

Sex, romance, companionship. A source of interesting thoughts, pastimes, ideas -- contribution to my personal feeling of growth.

3: How much time would you spend together, ideally?

Several nights a week. 3, 4 days / nights is about ideal.

4: How important is it to you that you share similar tastes?

Relatively unimportant. Having some shared interests seems important as a point to grow things from. However, I want friends and partners who bring things to a relationship which I do not (and vice versa).

5: How important is it that you be ideologically similar?

It's not, barring dealbreakers below.

6: What, if anything, are your dealbreakers?

Thinking their morality is all morality. In particular, people on dating sites who write in profiles that they want a 'moral' partner are an instant turn-off.

No sense of curiosity, wonder, someone who doesn't actually think about things. Someone not trying to broaden their horizons, who has found a niche and is happy to be stuck in it.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-12T05:27:06.622Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Style, class and a scrumptious ass
  2. Sexually aggressive submissive
  3. As much as we can, outside of doing things we need for the future
  4. Well she'll be my taste and I'll be hers
  5. Irrelevant, unless it gets in the way of us being with each other
  6. Deception, violence, having raw sex with anyone else (I've never had sex without a condom and only want to have the same with someone similar chaste to condom-less sex...and I really want to have sex without a condom...apparently it's much better than regular sex!)
comment by advancedatheist · 2011-02-13T19:28:07.149Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Male sexual activity follows a Pareto distribution. I notice a bias against the men like me who fall into the tail of the curve.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2011-02-10T14:16:58.200Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is this some kind of rationalist test of near vs. far thinking and self-awareness?

I think relationships happen or not for reasons that have very little to do with what we far-mode believe about them.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-02-10T15:16:33.424Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No, MartinB suggested it in the Procedural Knowledge thread when a conflict of advice came up over differing expectations for a relationship.