Who is your ideal person?

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

Last weekend, in the hazy post-party chat that occurs just as the sun rises, one of my friends asked me: who’s your ideal person? Meaning ‘what kind of person would you like to end up with?’ She’s monogamous, so she frames it as one, but ultimately it can apply no matter what your relationship style: what kind of person do you think will bring joy to your sex/romantic life? Who do you think might be right for you?

We’d been talking a bit about dating, and some of the relationships I’ve formed since I broke up with my ex. How I’m trying to avoid focusing on a laundry-list of qualities the other person should have and focus instead on articulating what I need and the different ways that need could be fulfilled. More importantly, identifying when those needs aren’t being met and stepping away rather than repeatedly hurling myself into situations which cause me pain. I think that when considering your ‘ideal person’, that’s where any answer should begin. Not ‘tall, dark and handsome’ or ‘good sense of humour’ but ‘how do I want them to treat me?’

This is something I often tell myself I’m good at, but the theory is easier than the practice. Because in practice, I’m always too busy looking at the person and seeing all the lovely things about them, and trying to treat them as nicely as I can so that they like me. Yeah, maybe they’re not quite as into me as I’d like them to be but… aren’t they funny? Maybe they did hurt me that one time or the other but… most of the time, aren’t they a joy to be around? Sure this person told me I was unattractive and I probably needed to lose weight/cut my hair/wear nicer clothes or whatever but… isn’t he cool or witty or great at shagging me?

‘Ideal person’ as my ideal man

So who’s your ideal person? Nineteen year old me would have painted a picture of someone punky-looking, sarcastic and horny: one of ‘those guys‘, you know? Maybe a dude who was cold or dismissive on the surface but soppy deep down, so I could feel special when he turned the spotlight of his romantic attention on me. Perhaps someone with a sexy hobby or an interesting job, or both. In my late twenties I’d have added ‘kind’ and ‘gentle’ to the list, maybe ‘supportive’ would be thrown in there too. More recently I might have added ‘good communicator’ to the list, as well as ‘someone who respects my opinions’, maybe ‘feminist’, ‘has hobbies/friends/a life‘, that sort of stuff.

And that’s how it works usually, isn’t it? We take our tentative first steps into romantic and sexual relationships with a vague idea of what we want based on what we see growing up. From the people who care for us when we’re younger, we soak up an understanding (good, bad, somewhere in between) of what love should look like and how to build it, and then we apply layers of our own tastes and preferences, influenced by romance novels or the Twilight movies or how many teenage hours we spend imagining what it’d be like to kiss that hot guy from My Chemical Romance. Then as we grow older, learn more about ourselves and other people and how the world works, we refine the list. ‘My ideal person won’t be mean in the same way that ex was’, ‘my ideal person will fulfil this need that I only managed to identify recently’, ‘my ideal person will be into this kind of music because I’ve realised I can’t live without regular gig trips’.

“Here’s what my ideal person looks like. The challenge was always to define them well enough but I’ve done it now – time to go out and find them!”

My answer today is different.

What my ideal person looks like

I’m tired of coming up with criteria to add to an ever-growing list of what I want from men. The older I get the less sense it makes to frame my life around the idea that one person will come along to put the cherry on top of the cake that is my future. I don’t want to define my ‘ideal person’ in terms of a man I might bump into in the pub or on the tube, far less one that I might meet on a dating site. My ‘ideal person’ shouldn’t be about who I want to meet, but who I want to be.

My ideal person is someone I want to become: a woman who knows what she wants and is confident enough to express those needs and desires to those around me. Someone who has healthy boundaries that she’s able to articulate and hold firm. Someone who spends less time trying to impress men and more time pleasing herself.

The freedom I’ve had over the last couple of years to explore polyamory, and singledom, and the liminal space between those two things, has made me less convinced than ever that ‘who is your ideal person?’ is a helpful question. I do miss a lot of the things that I enjoyed about monogamy, but there are some things that I find myself terrified to consider again: cohabitation, tying oneself to another person financially, all the stuff that fell broadly under the ‘commitment’ umbrella when a loved-up younger me got excited about it last time. Realising this came as something of a sad shock: although I don’t think I’ve ever been especially pro-marriage, and definitely not keen on having children, building a life with someone has always been fairly high up on my list of desires. Apart from anything else, it feels inconceivable that I’ll ever achieve my dream of building a Grand-Designs-house-with-basement-sex-dungeon if I don’t have a partner there to get me pregnant in a caravan help cover the cost of bridging loans and bring me coffee while I put up the cladding.

But we live and learn, and one of the things I’ve learned is that tying my life to someone else’s is not – right now – an exciting prospect, much less a romantic one. And exploring other relationship styles means I’ve learned that I can find comfort and happiness in places other than monogamy. This doesn’t mean I’ll never yearn for the kind of teamwork that comes when you commit to building a life with someone, but when I articulate this to people usually the response is that I need to heal, learn to be vulnerable again, work on my trust issues, and all that blah blah whatever. If I can do that, the received wisdom goes, then I will turn myself into the kind of person who will be able to meet someone worth being vulnerable for. Someone worthy of my trust, who can show me that I won’t be mistaken if I hand it over.

This might be true, and it might be useful, but it’s always framed in terms of ‘who’s next’? “You’ll find someone else!” Inviting me to consider who my ideal partner might be, and therefore what I can do to attract them. But frankly I lack the motivation to change and grow if I’m only doing it to secure a man who might just be able to complete me. Not least because I think that one of the changes I personally need to make in order to grow is to dismantle the structure inside my brain that trains all other thoughts to grow around the concept of ‘pleasing men’ in the first place. I don’t want to spend my life subsuming my own desires to make myself likeable (and fuckable and loveable) for men. I’ve spent the last two years trying to disentangle my life from someone else’s, then making tentative steps towards remembering what it was I loved about that life before I wrapped it all around him. Tying my future not just to a new person but an imaginary new person doesn’t seem very satisfying.

So who’s my ideal person? When my friend asked me this question I told her I don’t have an ideal partner. My ideal person isn’t the man I hope to meet one day, it’s the ‘me’ I hope to become.

My ideal person is a woman who enjoys her job, makes time for her hobbies and friends, and goes to bed at night feeling satisfied with her days. My ideal person is someone who knows when to say ‘no’ as much as when to say ‘yes’ – who steps outside her comfort zone occasionally, but doesn’t spend her whole life doing what other people want in order to gain their approval. My ideal person surrounds herself with others who know how to treat her like this and would never treat her like that. My ideal person has all of my best qualities, and few of my worst ones (few rather than none because… well… nobody’s perfect). My ideal person earns enough money to get by, doing a job she enjoys, in a home where she feels safe, and gets to spend her spare time having fun (be that sex, pints, jokes, playfulness, seriousness, teamwork or mutual projects) with people that she loves and trusts.

The challenge was always to define my ‘ideal person’. But I’ve done it now – time to go out and become her.

God, fuck. Fuck.

It just feels too fucking hard.



  • eye says:

    It is hard.
    You’re doing brilliantly.
    Cheering you on from the sidelines at 64 having just worked this out myself!

  • Jon says:

    Oh wow.

    You’ve perfectly described something I’ve been feeling but couldn’t explain what it was (albeit from a male perspective in my case). Thank you. I really appreciate this piece.

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Yup, this is the best way to answer this question. And frankly, with the odd adjustment, your description of your ‘ideal person’ seems like an ideal we would all aspire to be!
    It’s easier said than done of course… and because perfection is impossible, we can never quite reach that ideal. But it feels like knowing what to aim for puts you halfway there already.

  • David says:

    It’s funny, I’ve had a load of tremendous wanks to your filthy writing over the years, but these days I find it’s your contemplative pieces I most enjoy. This one is great.

  • Quinn Rhodes says:

    Fuck, GOTN, I love this so much. Thank you for writing this – it’s so important. I definitely went through something similar back in January, and it’s part of why solo polyamory in general is my chosen style for relationships. I’m my own primary partner, and I’m building a life around myself. Working to become your ideal person is really fucking hard but it IS possible (*waves to you as someone else who also recently started therapy after YEARS on a waiting list*). And it’s also so rewarding. I’ve fallen in love with myself so much since stepping into my gender, and I am so proud of the person I’m becoming. I actually like him.

  • Molly says:

    It is SO hard.


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