Post No.: 0281
Many people simply don’t know what they really want in a partner until they meet that person. Many people find it hard to try to consciously describe their ‘purrfect partner’ – and even if they can, they can still easily fall in love with and marry someone who doesn’t fit that description. This is probably because most of attraction is unconsciously driven – as is indeed much of our decision-making in general – for better or for worse. (The unconscious relies on fast but crude heuristics, biases, schemas and emotions.) Apparently, men tend to be more sentimental than women regarding love (e.g. regarding the notion of ‘love (or really lust) at first sight’).
Our first love usually sets the tone and our expectations for all future relationships, so it’s great if our first fluffy love was great. But if it wasn’t then don’t despair, don’t be cynical, don’t stereotype and don’t give up because it was likely down to a sampling error – all that you’ve personally experienced so far does not mean that that’s all there is to ever experience… unless you’ve literally dated every other single person in the Solar System(!)
It’s arguably not about finding ‘Miss/Mr Right’ – it’s arguably more about not finding ‘Miss/Mr Wrong’. It’s about compatibility for a long-term partner. Consider what you cannot tolerate because when you accept a person, you accept the whole package, not just the good points. Make a list of incompatibilities and check if she/he has any critical compatibility issues before committing to her/him – don’t dismiss them over what you want to see or want to believe because you cannot count on that person changing these aspects about her/him.
Find out her/his personal and family values, level of education, level of religiosity (although the precise religion isn’t always a deal-breaker if two people are religious), level of cultural open-mindedness, her/his ambitions, aspirations, etc. early, to check for compatibility. These core values are usually the most critical compatibility points. Things like hobbies and interests, supported sports teams and national teams, or even if she/he hates cats, aren’t as important to match (although I’m definitely going to have an issue with the latter!)
Never get into a relationship thinking that you can change the other person in any drastic way. Try not to act on impulse for something that may be long-lasting in its effect, even though your chemical drives may be urging you to. Sometimes it’s the person one didn’t initially look twice at who wins one’s heart and lasts the distance in the end. Well if they are the one then they will be right for you both impulsively and after a period of careful thought. They will be right for you according to both your head and your heart. So no need to rush.
To help answer whether you’ve found a compatible partner and they’ve found one in you, reflect on – what does your future look like? Can you imagine a long, joyful and settled future with them? How do they regard family? Can you both compromise on such matters? Are you both on the same mental wavelengths? Do you share the same aims, morals and values? Do you intellectually stimulate or frustrate each other? Do they give you peace of mind rather than anxiety or pain? Do you feel that you need them? (As in deeply yearn for them rather than just want them?) Are they better than your former partners? (Don’t fall for the same types of losers again.) Can you tolerate their weaknesses/undesirable habits and do you appreciate or can you adapt to what they like? Do you see their potential to improve? (No one’s perfect but are they willing to learn and grow?) What have they taught you? (Do they drive your mind and spirit to grow?) Are they generous with their time, admiration, affection and other things? Do you feel a soulful bond? (A sort of ‘you and me against the world’ feeling, a curious intensity, a comforting sense of security/protection, you just ‘get’ each other, you can even fall in love with their minor flaws, you love them exactly as they are, you instinctively see eye-to-eye, they’re a partner worth fighting for to the end and someone you cannot imagine being without in words you cannot describe.)
How you order the importance of and weight these various compatibility points is personal but they are all important for a happy long-term relationship. And don’t forget that it’s not just about how this other person fits for you but also how you fit for them too.
Maybe also try the ‘perfect day’ exercise to see if you both have compatibility? Get each other to write down what the perfect day would be like. Where are you living? What are you working on? Who are you with? Then compare to see if your dreams are compatible with each other’s.
Although looks are hard to overlook and are instinctively important to us – remember that looks depreciate! And if you judge others in that way then it should be fair game to be judged in that way in return, and if you ignore people who aren’t ‘lingerie models’ or ‘tall, dark and handsome’ and you’re not on the same level yourself then think about that. Certain dating apps that focus on the way people look frequently have photos that are manipulated, faked or out of date anyway. And we can all look astonishingly different in the mornings! So there’s got to be much, much more about you and them than what’s skin deep. Meow.
Nonetheless, although attraction is or should be more than about what’s skin deep, having a mutual attraction is still a vital compatibility point. Potential incompatibility time bombs to watch out for are – social status differences, level of physical attraction and age variation, past relationships in terms of number and more significantly type (lengthy and meaningful or quick and superficial relationships), background, family, religious and ethnic differences that they or their family may not accept as they enter your family atmosphere or vice-versa (especially regarding the way children are raised or even having any children at all – you both must agree with the whole range of children matters and ideally be able to get on with each other’s friends and family for a smooth relationship), lifestyle or leisure differences that are too great, the balance of work, play and home life (so you’ve got to be able to share in at least some leisure interests and time together to associate each other with fun and leisure – couples that play together, stay together).
These are huge generalisations with evident exceptions to the rule because the relative importance of any of the above is again very personal – some things matter to some people more than others. But it’s best not to bury one’s head in the sand about these potential compatibility stumbling blocks but to directly discuss and negotiate them. Any of the above can be defused but only before serious commitment.
Whether you want to try to change yourself to suit a person you fancy is up to you. Adolescents are more likely to try this because they’re still trying to figure out their own identities (e.g. goth, raver, or goth raver). But as Post No.: 0083 points out – if you just be yourself then you’ll eventually find someone who is the right match for you just the way you are. This post is really a more detailed expansion of that post.
It’s good to experience at least one crisis together to see how you both cope together before deciding if you are the ones for each other. A crucial side of people’s characters to know can only be revealed when they’re under strain. We can all easily behave nicely when things are going well for us but how are we when things are not? So the key when dating is to experience a range of different scenarios to discover different sides to each other and therefore learn new things about each other.
Within reason, try to find and discover everything you can about your potential partner, including trivial minutiae, and reciprocally reveal the same for her/him to know about you too, such as favourite TV shows, music, foods, friends, childhood/school years, memories, preferences, quirks, everyday life, goals, worries, hopes and fears. This shouldn’t be difficult though because people in love tend to naturally want to understand and explore everything about each other, such as their country and culture if different. Get in and stay in the continually interested habit of keeping up to date with each other’s lives, thoughts and feelings so that you can be sensitive to each other’s changing moods. Never stop caring to know them, especially during the tough times. Making her/him feel known, understood and accepted is one of the simplest but greatest gifts to give. Meanwhile, it can cause hurt to not know these things because it demonstrates little care, attention and interest.
Simply spend quality time together every day that you can to catch up with things and enquire about each other; keeping in regular touch, whether physically or by other means. Show interest, awe and fascination. Spend time carrying out shared goals together too.
It’s often practically impossible to completely know each other (not least because we don’t often fully understand our own decisions and behaviours e.g. assuming we’re rational actors when many experiments prove that we’re not in many contexts!) so it’s a constant learning routine, and situations and things in life may change over time too.
It’s arguably better to explicitly speak out and let her/him know about your preferences rather than keeping quiet and accepting constantly being let down or harbouring private resentments. Sometimes people will put in the effort to do something for you if only they knew it was important to you, and no one is psychic thus it’s unreasonable (and fanciful) to expect people to be so. Likewise, encourage her/him to be open, forthcoming and to safely and confidently speak out without prompting if she/he is ever dissatisfied too. She/he might change her/his minor foibles or annoyances for you and you might for her/him. Even if you think people can mind read, the risk of errors is high and it’s easier for both sides to be upfront, transparent and honest.
Although possibly controversial or at least oversimplistic – attachment theory suggests that people either form secure (comfortable with intimacy as well as autonomy), ambivalent/resistant or preoccupied (preoccupied with relationships), avoidant or dismissive (dismissive of intimacy and strongly independent) or anxious or fearful (fearful of intimacy and socially timid) bonds. Attachment theory suggests that secure types have good compatibility with all types of people, whilst anxious and avoidant types shouldn’t get together even though they might be attracted to each other precisely because of their particular attachment types. Neurotic people are also generally bad in relationships precisely because of their neurotic personalities.
These guides aren’t foolproof and don’t guarantee anything because lasting love (as opposed to fleeting lust) is a complicated thing. Modern matching algorithms are yet to be anywhere near totally accurate (although one wonders if there’s a conflict of interest between matching perfect couples together quickly versus prolonging dating app subscriptions in order to maximise profits?) Still, there’s no harm in learning about how to improve one’s chances of success in the game of love, and central to that is compatibility.