The Crucial Quality in a Life Partner You Might Be Forgetting About
This article was first published on mindbodygreen.
Bobby was the 64th man I dated after my divorce. An entrepreneur, he sold his first internet company for nearly $2 billion dollars. He collected $10,000 bottles of wine, purchased a six-figure telescope for his living room, and circumnavigated the globe with dignitaries. We were introduced by an amateur matchmaker (who prided herself on a 99% success rate). I cannot lie—after a lifetime of hard work and self-sufficiency, I daydreamed a bit about marrying a billionaire. Oh, the freedom it would provide!
The matchmaker said we had to go on two dates. On our first, Bobby talked a lot…about himself. He bragged about the people he knew and the places he had been, including NASA’s headquarters and the recent TED Conference. He shared details of his divorce, going so far as to call his ex-wife a “witch”—seemingly without consideration of the fact that she was the mother of his three children. He didn’t ask any questions. When I spoke, he bulldozed over me by speaking louder. He didn’t speak to me, as much as he spoke at me.
On our second date, I ordered a glass of wine. He told the waitress to cancel my order, preferring that I share his glass. He demanded that I take a bite of his steak, although I am a vegetarian. At the end of our evening, he impatiently asked whether we would be having sex, saying if I wasn’t interested, “many other women would be.”
Not surprisingly, I left unimpressed.
In my most recent e-book “Your 3 Biggest Dating Mistakes (And How to Fix Them),” I urge singles to focus on what’s important when searching for a partner. While many of my clients want a “rich” partner, I urge them to find a “wealthy” one instead. Rich people are a dime a dozen. Wealthy ones are the rarest of gems. Allow me to explain the difference:
1. A rich person buys expensive things. A wealthy person savors valuable experiences.
Money allows certain indulgences—fancy cars, expensive watches, fine food. But, wealthy people understand that life’s best experiences are available to all of us. Find someone who appreciates holding your hand during an evening walk, the scent of fresh roses, the visceral beauty of live music, and the sound of friends laughing over a shared meal. Life has many ups and downs. A wealthy partner will make you feel blessed no matter the circumstances.
2. A rich person mistakes money for class. A wealthy person understands manners are priceless.
Money cannot buy class. Want to be exceptional? Treat each and every person with respect and courtesy. Tip generously. Look people in the eye. Refuse to talk poorly of anyone, including an ex. Writer Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Bobby, unfortunately, made me feel like an accessory at the table, as opposed to a person with my own accomplishments, hopes and dreams.
3. A rich person talks. A wealthy person shares.
Rich people mistakenly believe that conversation is about domination. Wealthy people understand that conversation is a ping-pong, back-and-forth where both people feel heard, valued, and understood. As best said by Dale Carnegie, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”
4. A rich person mistakes accomplishments for character. A wealthy person understands that character is the ultimate accomplishment.
While Bobby’s career was laudable, the men who impressed me exhibited modesty, preferring to reveal their character slowly over time. My partner—Number 67 of the men I dated--visits an elderly client in her home every week. As a veterinarian, he not only treats her cats, he tends to her soul, providing warmth and conversation to someone who is lonely. He would never brag about this. But, this made him my everyday hero.
“No doubt about it, my happiest clients are those who have chosen partners who exhibit kindness and generosity,” said my collaborator and relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW. “These essential characteristics pay dividends time and time again.”
5. A rich person thinks about what they can have. A wealthy person thinks about what they can give.
We come into this world with nothing. We will leave in the same way. With luck, you’ll spend your life using your gifts in service to others. Our purpose is to leave the world a little better than we found it. Find a partner who motivates you to your highest potential. Work diligently on your own self-improvement so you can likewise inspire them to greatness. Relationships, when we choose wisely, have the ability to heal us from childhood wounds and the hardships of everyday life.