Thanks to the brilliant work of a new wave of feminist psychologists and writers, we have been able to see a lot of content in the media and online about ‘red flags’ when dating. Undoubtedly, this is important information, and we should continue to highlight this as much as possible to help people navigate the world of dating and relationships in a safe, protective manner. However, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the less written about ‘green flags’ in relationships and within the dating world – what makes a partner “good?” What kind of person should we be seeking out, firstly as women, and secondly as feminists?
Being a feminist searching for a partner under a patriarchal society is harrowing at the best of times. It’s no secret that misogynistic people are everywhere. To add to the difficulties, women are taught from a young age that desirability is one of their key traits. By default, this means that a lot of women compromise their beliefs and morals to be with a less-than-socially-aware man in order to fulfill that societally implemented void inside them that can only be filled with the affection of a man.
This is not only devastating but also damaging in the long term to the woman’s self-esteem. As women, we deserve more. We deserve better. While we cannot change the patriarchal system in which we live in overnight, we can seek to do better for the sake of ourselves. So, below I’ve outlined a condensed list of attributes that may apply to an ideal partner, for a woman, and especially for a feminist woman.
1. They have an understanding of social issues and see the need for feminism in society
For some, this may seem like a bare minimum. However, I’ve honestly lost count of the amount of brilliant, educated, powerful women I know who are dating men with revolting views on the society in which we live in. If this is you, go look into the mirror right now and tell yourself YOU WILL NOT CHANGE HIM. Finished? Now go do it again. While no one is beyond learning, it’s unlikely that your boyfriend, who barely has a grasp on what it means to implement societal change, is going to be reading Angela Davis by your bedside any time soon.
Dating should be fun, and you deserve to be with someone who sees you, and other minorities, as his equals. Of course, feminist men can be abusive or generally awful human beings too. Being socially aware doesn’t equal being a good person, and if you’re struggling, please know that you are supported. However, being socially aware should absolutely be a bare minimum quality to look for in a partner. Leave your homophobic, racist, sexist boyfriend today. Or else, you risk not only being complicit in endorsing these beliefs but risk your happiness in a relationship.
2. They’re independent and understand that you are, too.
Codependency is rife within the dating world. While the need to be codependent often stems from adverse childhood experiences and trauma, the onus of the ‘looking after’ element of codependency often falls on the woman. This is due to the fact that women are taught from an early age that they are nurturers, that they are motherly. However, this can become draining in a relationship setting. While it’s okay to rely on your partner for many things in a relationship, you cannot be expected to look after a man – this is not your job.
Seeking therapy or deep self-reflection as a codependent person is a must. And you are absolutely not a bad person if you suffer from codependency issues. However, a healthy relationship is often based upon a mutual understanding that you are two separate people with separate dreams, lives, and minds. Therefore, it is usually healthier to seek out people who have an understanding of this, especially to avoid stepping into a ‘mothering’ role, which you did not ask for.
3. They respect your choices – whether it’s to shave or not to shave.
The word ‘preference’ gets thrown around a little too much nowadays for my liking. The word ‘preference’ should refer to what flavor of ice cream you like, not what a man wants a woman to do with her body according to his personal views of what a woman should look like. A man (or anyone, actually) should have ABSOLUTELY ZERO input in terms of deciding what you do with your own body hair. On the flip side, you should have zero input in telling them what to do with their body.
The choice of keeping or removing body hair is a deeply personal one, and it’s your decision to make. If someone tells you differently, leave them. And I actually mean leave them – how can someone truly love and respect you if they’re not respecting your bodily autonomy? They can’t. There are so many witty, attractive, intelligent people out there who will respect your choices—staying with someone who won’t is just doing yourself a disservice.
So, get their views on this topic out into the open early on. Ask them very targeted, ‘hypothetical questions’ on the topic. Don’t beat around the bush, so to speak.
4. They understand that you can’t change them.
Following on from the previous points about not being able to change your partner that you’re dating, it’s absolutely essential that they have a grasp of this too. You cannot change your partner’s mental health, drug addictions, their problems. You can guide them through the process of getting help, you can be a supporting ear.
However, crucially, you cannot be their sole source of support. You are not a qualified therapist. This is a very difficult situation for many couples, but if they don’t understand that you are not their sole source of light, the sole source of support, this is going to be detrimental to your mental and physical health. So, it’s important to establish boundaries early on. Make sure they’re aware of their problems, make sure they’re actively seeking support if this is readily available to the. However, you cannot be with someone who thinks you have some sort of supernatural healing powers. After all, you have to look after yourself too.
5. They are supportive of victims
This may seem out of the ordinary, but believe me when I say that you should listen carefully to how your partner or potential partner responds upon hearing of victims of abuse, assault, or violence coming forward about their stories. This is a deeply telling trait in a person. As a woman, we’re devastatingly likely to experience some sort of ill-treatment in our lives, especially while dating. If your partner is dismissive of others, they’d be dismissive of you too. One of the main perpetrators of victim-blaming in women’s lives is their partners: resulting in psychological damage and retraumatization. Also, their lack of support is often a sign of deep-rooted misogyny. Therefore, you must look for a person who is openly respectful of victims and their experiences.
While this is absolutely not a definitive guide to what to look for in a partner, it is a brief guide. The dating world can be an absolute nightmare to navigate. But start with telling these potential partners exactly what you want – there is no room for compromise within your happiness.