What Being Shut In Taught Me About Love

While things are bad with the Covid-19 lockdown everywhere, this is not the first time I’ve had cause to shut myself off from the world outside. And, suffice it to say that the last time was far worse for me, personally.

That time I had committed myself to search within myself for what qualities I was looking for in a partner, and whether I could be more aware of what love and partnership mean. It was not an easy question to answer, but a lot of alone time is great for thinking something to death.

And that experience, which was about seven or eight years ago, changed me profoundly and for the better. So, if forced isolation could work out for me — there’s hope for all of us.

Since at least some of you might be pondering this question at this very moment, I thought I could share my list of qualities to look for in a partner to maybe help you succeed in your search.

You might be wondering that it is extremely difficult, and self-conceited, to look for someone possessing all these qualities. And you’re absolutely right. This is not an all-or-nothing list, rather I think of it as a top-down list of priorities in life. Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this of this as:

Ray’s Hierarchy of Love©.

If someone is genuinely kind, they need not possess any of the other qualities and are still worth a lifetime of love and respect. However, if someone is humorous or intelligent but not kind, then there’s less chance of a fulfilling relationship.

Love is not a one-way street, so even when using this list, in this order, it should say something about you that these are the qualities you value, in this order.

Love is also not something so uncomplicated that I expect this list to be immutable in each person’s case. It takes a lot to form a fulfilling relationship, which is why the qualities I mention here are very broad, and can manifest in a number of ways. Don’t be limited in your understanding.

You have to earn the right to partner with a person who possesses these qualities.

[A very important caveat — this is not a shallow list, it isn’t for grocery shopping in the singles market. Treat every person with respect, and be ready to ask yourself if you possess these qualities before you look for it in others. After all, why should such an extraordinary person commit their lives to someone who isn’t bringing the same value to their life?]

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

The world turns on the kindness and compassion of large-hearted people. Though, tragically, there is always a shortage of such individuals. You should be willing to borderline worship someone who can always look for the best in others, who shows you how to abandon privilege and take up a cause, who teaches you to love animals, and uses their time to make the world a better place.

Look for people full of love, not just love for you. Someone like this will always make your world beautiful, and give you hope and happiness even in the worst of times. If you find someone like this, you better hope you’re worthy.

Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

Many relationships fail because one or both persons don’t know what they are looking for. If someone doesn’t know their triggers, which part of themselves they need to free and which parts to rein in, if they don’t understand when they are repeating patterns — then, sorry, but hurt and pain is bound to follow.

A strong relationship needs to be able to withstand tests, a couple needs to be able to reconcile and come out stronger after conflicts. And, for this to happen, they need to know themselves thoroughly, as if they can step out of their bodies and observe their own reactions.

Have you ever had fights where neither person knows what the other wants? You may not guess it, but that is usually because of a lack of clarity about needs in at least one partner. If someone is self-aware, they know how to work out every knot, and that’s the recipe for lasting love.

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

Oh boy, is this the time for someone with a good sense of humour! Nothing relaxes and reassures like someone who is able to cut tension. There’s no place for a wise-ass, and humour can all too often be used to harass (that’s why they need to be kind and self-aware ahead of humourous). But a kind person who also knows how to crack jokes even on the toughest days can stimulate you more than any lavish holiday, for example. Laughter will keep you youthful and vibrant.

Apart from keeping you laughing, humour shows you the person is not taking themselves or others too seriously. They need to direct their humour at any and everything, barring none (otherwise there’s prejudice). If they demonstrate this anti-authoritarian urge it could very well mean they will not expect you to make choices based on preconceived notions.

Treat this quality with caution. Humour can just as often be used by people as a weapon, or in self-defence. So understand where the humour is coming from, or you may end up lacerated by it.

Photo by Luke Michael on Unsplash

If you’re looking ahead to a long life together, and you should, then avoid stagnation at all costs. Find a person who is curious and who seeks and shares knowledge with you.

This is not the same as intelligence, though that may very well be part and parcel. It’s about wanting to understand and discover more at every chance. It’s about going out and seeking new experiences. It’s about seeing the stories behind the ordinary. It’s about new music, new cultures, new narratives, new words, new places, new everything.

A healthy sense of curiousity is what keeps you happy and engaged even when you’re locked in for three weeks. And, it’s contagious.

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

This wasn’t originally on my list. But, one time a friend scoffed when I hold him my list and said it’s delusional if I declare looks don’t matter. That made me think — was I being honest by not including physical beauty in my list?

Fortunately, it wasn’t a difficult answer to find. Attractiveness does not, and should not, exist independent of these qualities. To my mind, and I am sure many of you will agree, there is nothing attractive about a conventionally good-looking person who is devoid of all humanity, who possesses neither kindness nor intelligence. Attractiveness does not co-relate with looks.

You may enjoy a short dalliance with such a person, but you will never rely on that person to hold your hand through the ups and downs of life.

On the contrary, someone who glows with the power of these qualities will look ravishing to you when they’ve just woken up, when they’re sick, when they’re miserable or happy. Because every time you look at that person you will find everything you’ve wanted from a partner, and naturally you will be looking at the most beautiful thing in the world.

So, sure, looks matter. Feel confident you’ll find the most beautiful person in the world if you find these qualities in them. It’s just not the fifth quality, rather it’s the proof that the other qualities reside in that person.

And how do I know this list works? Because, unlike the last time, I’m not alone during this lock-in. And there’s not a moment of this time with my partner that I am not cherishing — even when forced in by a virus.

After all is said and done, please remember, you need to look for these qualities in yourself before you look for them in others. But, don’t be harsh — it’s never too late to be kind and compassionate, or self-conscious, or funny, or curious. Right now is the time to work on yourself.

Sumit is a writer and photographer living in Mumbai. He’s trying to break the internet before the internet breaks him.