2 Common Mistakes in Choosing a Life Partner

Choosing a life  partner isn’t easy, is it? Emotions, expectations, unconscious patterns, memories from previous relationships – an endless choir of voices, telling us what to do, contradicting each other of course. So where can we get the clarity needed to make the right choice concerning our life partner? Let’s discuss two common mistakes, and a simple perspective that might help.

“Can’t live with her, can’t live without her”

“I love him so much, and yet he makes me so miserable”. “I love her , but she makes me suffer”. How often we hear our friends complain in these words about the miserable affair of their dramatic love life. Passionate but conflicted lovers entangled in each other, they seem unable to move ahead or move away from the relationship

Often very different in their temperament, these partners fascinate each by their difference. Novelty, passion and joy are in abundance and love seems to flourish. Such connections make a fabulous short-term romance – dramatic, emotional and unforgettable meeting of two souls yearning for romance.

Eventually, the drama of the initial spark has to make place for the  intimacy of mutual tenderness and understanding. But how can it, when the relationship is constructed on the excitement of different poles attracting each other, not on a balance of deeper needs and capacities to give of each partner? Her witty cynicism is attractive, but can she offer the words of support that he really needs? His masculine self-confidence is alluring, but can he give her the understanding she so desires?

When two people share a great deal of attraction but lack a necessary fit, the relationship faces a bleak future, as it doesn’t address partners’ essential needs. But since the attraction is so strong, it’s also difficult to walk away from it. The choice here is between a heartache today and a deep dissatisfaction and regret years from now.

“He will make a good father”

If emotion and passion aren’t enough to indicate the right choice, maybe the answer is to use a cold judgement, weighting in and out all the pros and cons, measuring the good and the bad to get a definitive answer?

A choice based on an attempt to make a rational evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of a partner is problematic. To try to quantify and rationalize the choice, based on a set of criteria that the partner is “providing” is to disregard the intangible, emotional, implicit dimension of the connection. Asking “is he good for me” is not the same as asking “does he make feel good”, and so an examination that is based solely on the practical side of the relationship is inherently limited, and partners that focus on it are making a compromise as to what they expect from the relationship.

Often it is a conscious compromise – people tired of looking for a partner, unwilling to wait any longer for the right one to appear may decide that it’s time to settle down on a “workable” candidate, even if he/she doesn’t stir a deep emotion. And this is perfectly understandable, and often justified.

But the same thinking is often applied in an already existing, deeply-rooted relationship. People say things like “he isn’t perfect, but he will make a good father”, “she will make a faithful wife”. What these words really mean? They mean that these people are making a compromise, choosing fit over emotion. They mean that the relationship lacks a significant measure of attraction, magnetism or enchantment, but has a reasonable fit, based on complimentary traits and mutual history. Unfortunately, often this reasoning isn’t fully conscious, and it is used as an excuse to justify the unwillingness to risk change and uncertainty, choosing today’s comfort over tomorrow’s happiness. This is a half-hearted choice.

Marriage of Attraction and Fit

Attraction is about having strong feelings for your partner. Fit is about realizing that he/she is right for you. A relationship without the first is comfortable but soulless, relationship without the second is a never-ending drama of mutually-inflicted suffering. So when choosing a life partner, let’s examine our emotions, let’s realize our needs. And let’s make choices. Conscious, courageous choices.

“Live out of your imagination, not your history” – Steven Covey


6 Replies

  • I have been reading up a lot about recently.  We often choose our partners because of subconscious urges to repeat the unhealthy patterns of behavior in our family of origin, in an effort to try and change the outcome as an adult.   Freud termed this repetition compulsion.  There are two modes of thought in order to deal with this effectively in an article I read recently.  This person had a habit of getting involved with women with borderline personality disorder.  In order to understand why he subconsciously chose these wounded partners, he researched a lot about it.


    “View #1: The Repetition Compulsion in Intimate Relationships
    as a Self-Destructive Mechanism to Avoid and Overcome by Choosing
    Partners That Trigger Less Intense Chemistry”

    In other words, be aware of red flags and RUN the other way, swiftly.  However, the problem with this is, wherever you go, there you are.  You still have unfinished business that needs to be resolved.

    This concept is talked about this unfinished business in other places, one source is David Richo’s When the Past is Present.  We always subconsciously carry with us traces of the things we learned from our primary caretakers. 

    The article I linked to talks about Imago Relationships, where we are compelled to find the partner who is most likely the biggest trigger for our unmet childhood needs and who often holds the key for resolving them.  The reason we choose mates much like our parents is because we have unfinished business to resolve.

    “View #2: The Repetition Compulsion in Intimate Relationships
    as a Purposeful and Required Catalyst for Full Healing Through
    Mastering Resolution Skills with Partners That Initially Trigger Intense

    Provided you have an intimate partner willing to work through some issues, you can use the relationship to catalyze healing and growth.  However, high chemistry often involves those subconscious triggers to the original issues and there becomes a problem of what do you do if your partner isn’t interested in growing.

    So, well, I say it’s not at all an easy choice.  And whatever conscious choices you make, there will always be some sort subconscious longings at play that might override rational decision-making.

    I really think what is needed is a requirement for all couples headed for marriage (or any long term commitment) go through an intensive relationship building and communication skills course.  Long term commitment to someone requires flexibility, negotiation skills,empathetic listening and communication skills, and if they decide to have children, another course in attachment parenting.  For all the technological ways to communicate, we have grown less competent in making deep connections and transmitting this skill to our children.  I say this from experience.  I wish I knew BEFORE I had children.  It would have made my journey a lot easier.


    • Casey,
      I LOVE your thoughtful comments, they add so much depth to the discussion. Thank you 🙂

      You are raising an important point – the question of how conscious can our choices be, when often there are unconscious forces in play, that are stronger then our own ability to understand ourselves. This is especially true in cases where, we didn’t have an example of a healthy relationship, when growing up.

      I was fortunate enough to have loving parents, whose own relationship was (and is) filled with tenderness and care. So for me, it was always obvious that such relationship is the norm, and nothing something extraordinary.

      That being said, self-understanding can improve our relationship choices, and it is attainable for most people, even without therapy. What might be more difficult to attain is the courage to act upon this understanding. So the question is, where do we muster the courage needed to leave a relationship that doesn’t work, or fix a relationship worth fixing?

  • I think the requirements start from childhood… the requirement is to see love, know love, feel love, and then when her hands is in his hand – then be in love … and since then, remain in love …For all these, the greatest requirement is to have LOVE in that heart … and trust me that HE sits in a silent and unknown corner of the heart from where he creates those unknown affects…

    • Hi, thank you for your comment 🙂
      You are right, childhood in many ways forms and molds our view of relationships. In this regard, you make a similar point to the one @openid-84487:disqus made.

      I definitely agree that our ability to love (which means to loose our defences, to become vulnerable, to fully trust somebody) is formed during our childhood. In the same time, there is still a lot to learn in adulthood about love and relationships: is unfulfilled love can be really called love? How to reconcile our idealistic view of altruistic love with the more realistic picture of our and our partners’ needs?

      But while we can’t change our past, we can change our future. So the question is, what it takes?

  • Pingback: Quora

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *