Dear Abi,

How do you figure out what you want in a partner? I’ve been single for a while now, and I’m struggling to decide what exactly it is I should be looking for. I’m a pansexual poly switch, so I feel like my options are so broad I barely know where to begin! I don’t want to make some kind of unrealistic laundry list of demands, but it would be nice to have a better idea what kind of person I should be keeping an eye out for. Some of my past relationships have been pretty disastrous, so I wonder if maybe I’m just not very good at this...

Yours in bewilderment,

Anonymous and Confused


Dear A&C,

You’re wise not to make a “laundry list of demands” in looking for what you want in a partner - it’s all too easy to fall into that trap, and it leads to people missing out on relationships that could have been wonderful. I think the mistake you’re making is in thinking about your potential future partner in terms of identity rather than personality - identity politics is important, but there’s a lot more to a person than the labels they pick for themselves! Sure, you need your partners to be attracted to people of your gender, share at least some of your kinks and feel comfortable with your chosen relationship style - but what really makes or breaks a relationship is all the stuff that comes after that.

In a way, your job here may be made easier by the feeling that you’ve had bad relationships in the past. It’s often easier to identify what didn’t work than what will, so you can use that as your starting point to figure out what you want in a partner. Did you often feel like you wanted to go out and do things but your ex wanted to stay at home in front of the TV way more than you were happy with? That’s a good sign that you need someone as gregarious and sociable as you are, and even gives you a clue about where you might start looking for them. Have you struggled with a relationship where you felt like you weren’t having as much sex as you wanted to? You can take from that the lesson that you need someone with a sex drive that matches yours more closely.

When you’re thinking about this, approach it with broad brush strokes rather than overly specific details. When dissecting the old laundry list, give some thought to what you really want in a partner.“Dedicated to their career” is a better choice than “earns at least £40k/year”. You might also want to bear in mind an excellent piece of advice once given to me by my best friend - figure out what you want, make a list, and then stick with the person who makes you want to ignore it.

Ask Abi is a bimonthly sex advice column written by Abi Brown. Email your questions to [email protected]. Abi is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to genre fiction, social justice and M.A.C lipstick. Follow her on her website or @see_abi_write.



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