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