The 'Three Things' relationship theory that's painfully true.

AFL Women's
Thanks to our brand partner, AFL Women's

When it comes to romantic relationships, there’s one thing we ought to remember.

You get to choose three things.

If you get more, that’s a bonus. If you get less, it won’t work.

I’ve termed it the ‘Three Things’ relationship theory and it goes like this: When finding a partner, perhaps one you’d like to spend the foreseeable future with, you get to choose three qualities that mean the most to you.

They might be; a great sense of humour, an intellectual equal, a wonderful conversationalist, a mind-blowing sex life, a perfect housemate, a great travel companion, a best friend, financial stability, overwhelming attraction, the life of the party, a confidante – the list goes on.

I discuss my relationship theory on this week’s episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below. 

But you can never, no matter how hard you look, find someone who has every quality.

The cultural blueprint of what romantic love looks like is entirely misleading. We are socialised to expect a soul mate who is something other than human; flawless and all-encompassing.

They will fulfil you, we’re told, offering a life you could never have imagined.

You’ll stay up until 3am talking about the universe, and politics, and religion, while intermittently having the best sex of your life.


You’ll be overwhelmed with your attraction to them, while also understanding them to be your best friend – the person in the world with whom you share everything.

They’ll be the ultimate roommate, and travel partner, and parent, and friend, and additional family member, and shopping companion.

You’ll agree on everything, of course, and share all the same values, except whether to store the bread in the fridge or the cupboard, which just leads to a wonderful, harmless argument, leaving you both in stitches.

You’ll laugh harder than you’ve ever laughed, but they’ll implicitly know how to behave when you cry harder than you’ve ever cried.

There are things you won’t need to say, because, well, you just understand each other.

You’ll like the same people and the same restaurants and the same TV shows. You’ll both want a dog – a big one – and three children, and you’ve both always wanted to go to the Maldives on your honeymoon.

They’re your other half.

If the world were to evaporate, and it were just the two of you on a desert island, you’d give each other everything you could ever need. Things would be okay.

This vision of romantic love is something we’re entitled to by virtue of being born into Western culture.


We’re fed it by Snow White, and later by celebrities who have people comment on their Instagram photos “#couplegoals”.  The assumption that we will find someone who somehow embodies all the things we’ve ever wanted pervades movies, television shows, novels and advertising.

But it’s a lie. And one that infiltrates millions of relationships, setting them up to fail before they’ve even begun.

To be clear, this is not a reality that should make us sad. It’s not necessarily pessimistic.

It’s exciting.

Because we need multiple relationships in our lives to be fulfilled. We need lots of people, with lots of varied and brilliant qualities, to enjoy all the conversations and experiences life has to offer.

Your partner is just one person, in a big world, who has qualities you love. They won’t complete you, nor should they.

If you’re single and want a partner, then ask yourself what three things matter most.

Just three.

And then try to find somebody who has, once you get to know them, the Three Things you’ve been searching for.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner AFL Women’s.

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here.