Beware of finding your ideal love
Recently a friend of mine told me he had found the most perfect girl he had ever met and he was totally smitten. Conversation was amazing; she was beautiful, funny, engaging, proactive and seemed to have a lot of interesting life and career goals. My friend is a bit of a womaniser that’s never satisfied with any girl so I was happy for him, but in the back of my mind I felt that I had been there a couple of times before myself; I had also met this “perfect girl”, only to realise that there was a big catch to my great catch.
Sure enough, a few weeks went by where I didn’t hear from him while he was absorbed in his new love, and then he started messaging me again, this time to tell me how crazy she was and how he was thinking of ending it.
The girl, ideal as she was, also had a few “extras” that made the relationship problematic from his point of view. Apparently she was into “laws of attraction” and believed that everything that happened to someone was because they believed in it; that in itself is not a bad thing to believe and there is some true to that to a certain extent, but she took it to such an extreme that my realistic friend couldn’t stand it. For example, she would say stuff like people become bald because they get obsessed about loosing hair or that if you don’t believe in COVID-19 you can’t get infected. She also barely ever ate, she said that people didn’t need food, that it was all in their minds. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last and I believe my friend was smart enough to get out in good time.
I, on the other hand, am not that smart, because the two times in my life I fell in love with such an ideal, even if the girl later showed severe indications that she was far from who I thought she was, I still tried to make it work. This often led to a lot of resentment on my part where I would subconsciously do and say things to sabotage the relationship instead of walking away from it.
I’ve had had quite a few relationships in my life and dated many other girls here and there, and out of all the girls I dated and had relationships with I can always think back with some degree of nostalgia about a few fond memories, I think almost everyone feels that way — it’s only natural.
However the relationships I had with my “ideals” that later failed, I am utterly repulsed by all memories of them. I feel as if I was part of a cult that I myself created where I was totally deluded and intoxicated by the moment, despite the overabundant amount of clues that were there to tell me I should get out.
This is not to say I am resentful towards the women where I myself had projected an ideal, the responsibility of my situation falls entirely and squarely on me. I decided to enter the relationship, to stick around and ultimately my behaviour led me to my downfall.
Why do people get into these situations?
In the Western world (and pretty much almost anywhere now) we are continuously bombarded with the romantic idea of “The One”. Romantic comedies and movies don’t make this any easier, you are constantly reminded that unless you find that one ideal partner, you must carry on and keep looking.
A great example of this global delusion is on the TV show “How I met your Mother”, greatly summarised in this clip:
This eternal pursuit of a romantic ideal is idiotic and more often than not leads to an unfulfilled life, rather than a happy life. In my mind, I was always looking for that ideal girl to come by, and because I could never find her, I was content with sleeping around with girls and have short romantic affairs that gave me the spark and sexual stimulation I needed to get by, while in the meantime if I dated a girl where a long term relationship may have been prosperous, I would pass them along, still waiting for that ideal.
The truth is that “The One” does not exist, and if she/he does exist, you will never ever meet them. Think about this for a second, do you really think that out of the millions of potentially good partners in the world, you can really find the very best one for you? Do you even think that the person you are with now would have been your first choice if you had access to date anyone on the planet at the time you met them? More importantly, do you think you are the best person in the world your partner can get?
The answer is probably no, and it is ridiculous to even think that you will ever meet this such person, no magical destiny will bring them to you and you are a lot more likely to grow old and bitter than happy in a fulfilling relationship or end up divorcing.
The truth is that you don’t find your other half, rather, with time, and if all goes well, your less than ideal partner will become your other half, and only then that person will become “The One”
My parents have been together 54 years and you can tell they love each other so much. I can’t ever imagine my mother and father not being together, they are so integral to each other that’s is hard to imagine them apart. I also know that when they first met it wasn’t like a Hollywood movie, there were romantic moments but mostly there was constant love and perseverance through rough times that united them so strongly.
This is not to say that my parents have the most ideal marriage, it’s just that long lasting marriages are generally far from ideal, and marriages who hinge heavily on romance are generally doomed to fail because you can’t live of fireworks alone.
Why relationships with the ideal partner fail?
Simply put, relationships with an ideal partner fail because you are not dating the actual person, but your idea of that person; you are projecting, trying to find someone who is so much better than you are. If you start any relationship with intense romantic feelings because you feel that this person ticks every box in your mind, then your expectations that the sparks, butterflies and fireworks will keep coming are too high and you will just end up disappointing yourself.
There is another even more important reason why ideal partners tend to be far worse than many real, flesh and blood people you will date. And to know why you must ask yourself this question: are you yourself perfect? Can you safely say that you deserve the stars because you are a star? If the answer is no (and it most likely will be), then I am afraid that aiming to meet someone who is that much better than you are and that they will be interested dating you is just unrealistic, because chances are that your ideal partner will be able to pick and date people who are far better than you are. It is a harsh reality, but it is what it is, and in her/his position you would do the same, so no sense in whining about the unfairness of the universe. You can either put a lot of work in yourself to become this amazing flawless person, or you can find a human being to be in a relationship with. Perhaps a middle ground is best.
So if you meet someone who seems to meet all your requirements for an ideal person, then don’t be surprised when you find out other qualities about them that severely undermine all the things that made you giddy about them in the first place, because if those drawbacks didn’t exist, she/he would likely be with someone better than you.
What I have learned about great partners
I don’t want to sound overly cynical or grim in this post, miracles do happen sometimes but since they are so out of control and unlikely to happen, it’s idiotic to aim for this in life. Regardless of not being able to meet the most ideal expectations in the world you may have, you can still find happiness, and you can still find someone who is at least ideal for you in some areas, so that’s what you should aim for instead.
I am not a relationship expert or a psychologist. This is by no means an exhaustive list; these are just some of the things I have learned that I found to be true for me, which may or may not be true for you.
Aim for common core values not common interests
I am always surprised how people are going on about common interests when looking for a relationship and dating websites keep bombarding you with this idea that if you meet someone with common interests to you, that’s the key for a successful relationship.
There has been many times in my life where I met people briefly and found out we shared a lot of interests and talked for hours, and yet neither of us did any effort to keep in touch, because I felt I could not be friends with that person, and he/she probably felt the same.
I know a lot of people like this, people that I share a lot of interests in common, and yet I really don’t feel much of connection with them. And yet I know other people that I share few interests with where I feel strangely close to them. Weird right? Surely if all our interests match why didn’t we become friends/lovers etc?
I don’t think I have a full answer to this phenomenon as I am not a psychologist but I think part of the reason has to do with your core values. I find that if you share similar attitudes towards family, friendships and life is so much more important than if you share your interests about star wars, and you are so much more likely to be connected with that person. This is also why we are generally drawn to people from cultures that are more similar to ours in core values.
For example I feel that English culture in general has very different core values than Spanish culture and consequently I personally find it harder to connect at a romantic level with English women, even though I have met many who I enjoy talking to and found attractive as well.
Conversely I find fewer things to talk about with Japanese and Chinese people but strangely I feel a lot more connected to those cultures than I feel to English culture. It is hard to define why (and out of the scope of this post), but mostly I believe it has to do with personal space, individualism, and how each culture approaches relationships. For example in English culture sharing food feels like a transgression of your individuality whereas in Spanish and Asian cultures we share food all the time to feel a connection with each other. I’ve been at a table before with English people and if you ask them to try their food, many of them will look at you like you just asked them to stick your hand down their pants.
No core value is right or wrong they both have advantages and disadvantages, it really depends on who you are and what you feel comfortable with.
If your interests and hobbies really deeply define who you are (which is not my case) then maybe finding common interests in those areas would make more sense to you, but personally I don’t feel that having common interests in everything is really that much of a requirement to have a healthy relationship. As long as there is overlap in what you both enjoy in some areas it should be enough.
Settle for some ideal qualities and acceptable tradeoffs
You may not find the ideal partner, but that’s not to say you won’t find some ideal qualities in the person you end up with. I sometimes joke with my friends that if I could merge all the best qualities of all the girls I dated and discard all the downsides it would be with the perfect woman.
Instead of looking for a woman/man that has all your ideal quality checklist, settle for a woman that has a few of your ideal qualities where the tradeoff is bearable and you are both willing to improve on the downsides of the relationship. Also bear in mind that generally speaking any strength often generates a weakness.
A acceptable trade off for me is any that I can tolerate or be negotiated and improved upon relatively easily, or where I don’t mind cover myself for it. For example it would be nice to date a girl that can cook like Ferran Adria, but even if she cannot cook, I like cooking myself so I am okay with this if she helps me out with cleaning, whereas an unacceptable tradeoff may be someone who is chronically unhappy and threatens to kill herself if you want to leave her or has constant temper issues or keeps putting others down to feel better about herself.
Overall if the other person is uncompromising to mitigate or eliminate their faults to contribute to the wellbeing of the relationship then you are probably better off looking somewhere else.
Also bear in mind if that if there is one little thing that annoys you when you first start dating someone, multiply it by a hundred when you move in together. Some people are willing to improve themselves and these faults may go away or be mitigated if they are easily solvable, but don’t count on it, better count on being able to tolerate them.
Look how he/she treats others
When someone treats you better than anyone else in the world it can feel very flattering. “She treats everyone badly, but not me, I am must be very special!” If she is constantly putting down other people or treating those below her with disdain, then don’t be surprised to be treated that way at some point yourself.
Conversely if you do so much for this person and he/she treats others better than you, that’s also not good either, it may mean they don’t value you at all and you are just someone to have around until someone better comes along, beware.
I also like to pay attention to their stories about the past, how they treated previous boyfriends and friends. If they were ruthless to someone else during a breakup, brace yourself for the same treatment if the tables turn, don’t be intoxicated by the moment you are in now.
Observe the family
I once saw a comedian say that if you visit your girlfriend’s family and you feel lucky because they are all crazy but you got the good one, think again, because she is probably in the same boat.
Obviously I am not saying that a family is indicative of how a person is or that you can’t make it work if you hate your partner’s family and don’t get along with them, that would be ridiculous for me to say.
But having said that, I think that if you have a good rapport with the family of your partner and you like the atmosphere, how they treat you and how well you connect with them, you are a lot more likely to have common core values that will make your relationship work long term.
Look for qualities that mitigate each other’s faults
You are not perfect, there is something annoying about you, at least this is the case for most normal people. Sometimes it is much better to find someone who can easily tolerate or even embrace these faults of yours, rather than changing yourself completely.
Maybe your partner is very opinionated and talkative in a way that may alienate others and you are shy and a little socially awkward. That can work to both of your advantages, you will be able to be a better listener while at the same time your partner may be able to raise you up in social contexts.
Look at what they do, not what they say
Don’t be deluded if they tell you they would swim across the Atlantic ocean for you, instead just look at what they do.
This applies to everyone you meet in life. I have often met people who can come across as jerks when they open their mouths but their actions say otherwise, and vice versa, I have met people who are very superficially nice, but when you boil it all down, they are full of shit.
If I am only buying a coffee from you I don’t care if you are fake nice, because for that short of an interaction, I actually prefer you to be fake rather than rude. But when I need to share space with someone for a long time or I am in a relationship I prefer to focus on actions rather than words, because ultimately that’s the person you are truly dealing with.
I personally always try to underpromise and overdeliver, sometimes to a fault. I really don’t like to promise anything at all, in case I have to feel the shame and the regret of failing at it. So whenever I am in a relationship sometimes I come across as a little unromantic in my statements, even if I truly feel different. This may not be the most ideal approach though, as I’ve noticed that sometimes people take me too literally for what I say and not what I mean, even if my actions clearly say otherwise, so perhaps you should find a balance for yourself.
Read positive intent
Unless you have very good evidence and previous history to indicate that your partner is really attacking you (or anyone in general), there is no sense in you reading negative intent, especially if what’s said really has no effect in your life. You will just become resentful and bitter and ruin the relationship.
If for example your partner says you look thinner in another dress, there is no sense in interpreting it as him calling you fat. It may very well be that he means just that.
If you keep reading ill-intent over trivial things your relationship will go downhill very fast. Generally when you feel attacked by every statement, it says a lot more about how you see yourself than what the other person means, just think about that.
Keep your feet on the ground when looking for love, it is okay to have a checklist of what you want, but be realistic that you may not able to find everything you want without significant drawbacks. Remember that life is not a Hollywood movie, even the most beautiful and truthful “romantic stories” like Titanic and Romeo and Juliet are only so intense because they depict a short affair and the honey moon period of a relationship, when you stretch any romantic relationships problems will always show, it’s how you deal with this issues that will determine whether your relationship lasts or not.
Alternatively you should also be learn to be happy being single. Some people really feel they need to be in a relationship or the approval of the opposite sex to feel loved, valued and appreciated, which just shows they are not able to do it themselves. Learn to love yourself before expecting others to do it for you.