When you’re single, you feel like you know what you want. And it seems like Dating Fact. I know what I want. I know what I need. But do you ever wonder if what you want is realistic? Maybe your Wish List is really just Dating Fiction and there are some Must-Haves in any relationship.

Our resident dating guru, Matchmaker Stacie Ikka, examines the difference, starting with how to give your Wish List a Reality Check.

How to turn your dating wish list into a reality check list

THE (FICTIONAL) WISH LIST 10 Must-Haves that will make your relationship great

Dating Fiction, aka “The Wish List” covers the “I want” statements when it comes to your partner.

  • You want a partner who shares the same interests as you.
  • You want a partner who makes the same amount of money as you do (or more).
  • You want a partner who has achieved the same level of education as you (or higher).
  • You want a partner who holds the same religious/spiritual beliefs as you do.
  • You want a partner who is f*cking hot. Like Calvin-Klein-billboard-poster hot.

And so on. These wants have merit but they appear on a wish list because that’s all they are. Wishes. Hopes. Preferences. Ideals. These are the nice-to-haves, which we often confuse the must-haves.

THE FACTUAL REALITY CHECK  10 Must-Haves that will make your relationship great

Now for Dating Fact. These are the “Reality Check” scenarios that happen in real life—not just in your imagination.

  • You and your guy both love to play golf. You have a blast but as soon as you are off the golf course, things are just not the same. You can’t really put your finger on it…
  • You and your spouse are accomplished in your respective careers so why does day-to-day conversation between you continue to fall flat? How can he be so smart, and yet such a piss-poor communicator?
  • You both earn six-figure salaries but are constantly fighting over finances. Things were different in your last relationship, when you were the breadwinner.
  • You have the best sex life out of all of your combined friends. You know, because you’ve asked. But your hot tamale is kind of disrespectful to you in public, and even worse in private–outside of the bedroom, that is.

Given the reality check scenarios that occur in real life, it’s time to unseat the Wish List as your relationship guide and replace it with the following list. These are the must-haves that will take your relationship for good to great.

RELATIONSHIP TIPS: THE 5 MUST-HAVES FOR GOOD LOVING

1. Empathy.

Feeling for another person, being able to put yourself in their shoes, will help you to understand each other, even when you disagree. How do you show empathy best? Try Active Listening, a mirroring exercise used to reframe your partner’s position to make sure you are hearing correctly.

2. A clear understanding of your own priorities.

You need to know what’s most important to you in life so that you can assess whether they are aligned with your partner’s goals. True compatibility can’t work if you don’t know who you really are and what you really want. Examples of priorities you need to define: to start a family, travel the world, amass as much financial wealth as possible, save the world, focus on health and wellness, and the list goes on.

3. Shared values. 

Sharing priorities is not enough. You need to have the same values in the end. For instance, you may agree that financial stability is a priority, but you also need to know to what end you are saving. Experts say that the demise of many relationships is due in large part to finances. Which is only partly true. It’s not the presence or lack of money that becomes a problem but the way the money is treated. You can’t have half the partnership spending all of it while the other partner is trying to save it, or vice versa, without a life plan.

4. Affection. 

Never underestimate the power of touching. Sex is awesome (hopefully) but touching, on its own, goes a long way toward creating both emotional and physical intimacy. Whether it be having your hand on his while having a heated discussion (sounds weird, I know), him unexpectedly kissing the back of your neck while you slave over the stove (cliché, yes, but so?), cuddling before rolling over onto your own side, private sleeping spaces, holding hands while walking, kissing for no reason, or any other form of touching, affection is the glue that holds a relationship together.

5. A love contract. 

While you don’t need pen to ever touch paper, an agreement of some sort is key to any relationship’s long-term success. So many couples fail because they do not take the time to negotiate the division of responsibility in their relationship. From the trivial Who will take out the garbage? to the more complicated How will we divvy up finances?, questions have to be asked. This exploration should lead to a negotiation, which in turn becomes the love contract—to be revisited, renegotiated and respected, throughout the time you are together. 10 Must-Haves that will make your relationship great

Stacie Ikka is a professional matchmaker and Relationship Consultant who works with male and female, LGBT clients of all backgrounds, across North America. You can find her at sittinginatree.com.

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