Now those wild optimists out there who read ‘How to find the perfect partner’, may be thinking “yes finally, someone understands what I’m looking for and is going to tell me how to get it!”.
You more realistic folk might think “well that’s impossible because there’s no such thing!”… and of course, you guys would be right.
However, while we may cognitively realize that it’s impossible, probably because we’ve heard or read it somewhere, it still doesn’t stop us, especially us women, from secretly expecting out partners to be perfect, and to also have those wild expectations of ourselves.
Turning ourselves into over-functioning harridans, hell-bent on proving perfection is possible and deeply bitter that our men don’t rise to the occasion, literally and metaphorically! as we feminize them when we let our masculine personas rule the roost!
“Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” -Voltaire
So what’s the antidote? Well, Voltaire put it perfectly when he said “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. A much more realistic way to make a relationship thrive is to recognize that that we are all deeply flawed, all of us and that’s because we’re wounded.
That way, with the hopefully ‘good enough’ man we chose, we can begin the lifelong process of minimizing blame, maximizing empathy and kindness, and patiently teach our partners how to love us. A good man who loves us will learn, and the wrong man won’t.
“We need to recognize a whole new way of loving is required.”
The important thing is that we recognize a whole new way of loving is required and that it’s probably the most challenging endeavour any of us will ever undertake.
For some of us making our relationships work feels like it’s on par with reversing climate change or solving world hunger, I would encourage you to believe it’s much easier than that, but it is a process that requires mindfulness, trial and error and lots and lots of patience.
I mean think about it, we would never expect to sit down at a piano for the first time and play the Moonlight sonata perfectly, yet many of the women I work with expect perfection from their first dates.
Developing a happy and supportive long-term relationship requires great communication, recognition of each other’s imperfections, and an ability to invite your partner to grow themselves, by gently and vulnerably showing them the effects of their un-grown behavior on you.
“High regard for each other is the greatest catalyst for change.”
You need to do all that while you focus enough on each other’s strengths to maintain the kind of high regard for each other that’s going to be the greatest catalyst for change.
Several things get in the way;
Firstly our inability to fight properly is huge. Research shows that fighting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are plenty of passionate and volatile couples who are successful in love, but is how they fight that’s the key. Certain lines can’t be crossed and the speed of repair is crucial.
Also I see this all the time, most couples get stuck in the content of the fights, and think they’re fighting about the kids, money or housework but what they’re really fighting about are unmet needs for security, validation, affection or excitement.
Secondly a thing called ‘confirmation bias’ tricks us into developing hugely exaggerated theories of our partner, usually based on a characteristic of theirs that’s the opposite ours.
Say for example, your partner is a lot more laid back than you, you may develop the theory that they’re weak. Your brain starts to look for things they do that corroborate that theory and ignore examples of behaviour that would allow for a more balanced view of them.
The solution to ‘confirmation bias’;
When you get stuck here try to remember that every characteristic a person has, has both good and bad qualities and focus on the good. So instead of seeing your laid back partner as weak, see him as patient. Look a bit harder and you may find that’s a quality you could improve on yourself, after all opposites attract right?
We are so attached to our theory that we forget that our partner has a completely different reality to ours and we spend a tremendous amount of effort on being right instead of just agreeing to disagree. When you find yourself stuck in that situation just ask yourself if you’d rather be right or happy.
Next on the list of how to completely screw up your relationship, is how we all commit a delusional little mistake called the ‘fundamental attribution error’.
It’s the tendency people have to overemphasize personal characteristics and ignore situational factors in judging others’ behavior. We tend to believe that others do bad things because they are bad people, and we ignore the situational things that might have played a role.
For example when driving to work someone cuts you off, you immediately think “you selfish sod”, instead of “wow that poor guy must really be late for something, how stressed he must be”.
Yet when WE cut someone off we believe we had to do it or we’d be late for the meeting, choosing to focus on the situation we were in rather than what that behaviour says about our character.
The solution to the ‘fundamental attribution error’;
My advice is when you find yourself blaming someone else think of your finger pointing at the other person and three other fingers pointing back at us, to remind us we are far from perfect either.
As if that’s not bad enough we tend to take it up a notch by doing something I call ‘prescribing intent’, it goes something like this... “you forgot mother’s day and I try so hard for our children, obviously you don’t love me”. Often this is more about the other person either being mindless or not realizing the importance of it for you, and they get so hurt or defensive for being accused of not loving you.
The solution to ‘prescribing intent’;
Try and separate behaviour versus intention and instead of reacting to what you think is ill intent, gently explain the effect of the behaviour on you.
I hope you found this helpful. You can hang out with me live and also get questions answered, weekly, at the Academy of Lasting Love Facebook Page. Like us and Facebook will occasionally let you know that we're live, follow us and it will always let you know on your Newsfeed.