"Oh … My … God – He’s perfect for me!” “Just wait till you meet her!” “I’ve always admired this amazing couple, and now they want to add ME to their family – how totally hot is THAT?!?”
Ah … the glorious rush of infatuation. Sure, we might think we’re falling in love, but it’s probably not the case. Falling in lust, yes. Falling in love right away? Probably not.
Yet there are plenty of cases where two people met, sensed an immediate attraction, and became partners or spouses within a very short period of time. Many of those relationships have stood the test of time and adversity. So how do we know if the man, woman, or couple of our dreams is perfect for us?
Madisyn Taylor recently wrote, “We cannot truly connect with a person when we idealize them. In life, there are no pedestals – we are all walking on the same ground together. When we realize this, we can own our own divinity and our humanity. This is the key to balance and wholeness within ourselves and our relationships.”
Funny thing about those first few weeks of new love: We can be like a horse with blinders, idealizing our newly-found, potential mate. We focus on our similarities and totally ignore the differences. One young man I know was dating a guy he thought was “the one.” The first time he drove with the guy in his car he quickly found out his new beau hated country music. “UGH!” said Mr. Perfect, “You don’t actually listen to that shit do you?”
The young man did … actually. In fact, he was an award-winning country line dancer and two-stepper. Lunch was quiet, cue curtain, relationship over before it really started.
Years ago, a counseling client of mine had been so excited about a new man in his life. They were seriously dating, not just having sex, and had found so very many similar interests to enjoy together. The next week he came into my office looking quite dejected. “Wanna tell me about it?” I queried.
“Oh, nothing, but I broke up with Andrew. He just doesn’t have all the qualities I want in a partner.” I was surprised since things had been going well. “He just didn’t make the List,” explained my client. Turns out he had 20 must-have qualities in a potential mate.
Andrew failed to pass muster – he only scored 19 out of 20. Yes, I’m serious. I am not making this up.
So often we find someone we think fits the bill for us, but there can be a couple of nagging issues we just don’t want to accept. He snores. She drinks a little too much at times. He doesn’t wipe the rim of the toilet after he pees. They make plans without including us.
The answer? Why, of course, the erring member must change to fit our pictures! How clearly we see that, no?!? There are very few (if any) relationships where the couple or partners agree on everything. How boring would that be, anyway? It’s been said that if we’re exactly the same as our partner then one of us is superfluous. Differences are just as enriching to a relationship as are similarities.
It’s communication – not behavioral therapy changes, manipulation, or coercion – in which we must engage If our beloved has a tick or habit that bothers us. Successful relationships are those when partners accept each other for who they are, not for who they want each other to be. I stand by this quote I first penned over two decades ago:
You cannot have a relationship with someone’s potential.
This also means we may not be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s just fine. If that’s the case, best to allow those relationships and connections to dissolve organically. So why do we cling to the people who no longer support our vision of life by encouraging us, uplifting us, and loving us, particularly when we’re trying so hard to be there for them?
Because the other side of that equation is that while we’re “working on someone else” or trying to force them to change, the work we ought to be doing on ourselves goes right in the toilet.
It’s time once again that we all stepped back from the world around us, looked in the mirror one more time, and figured out what we have to give to the world, as well as what we want out of life. Don’t you deserve to have a life worth living with people around you who celebrate YOU?!?
Terry is licensed social worker in private practice, a speaker, and award-winning author. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org