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When relationships are difficult or when they are hitting a bottom, many people ask themselves what is wrong with them… or with their partner. With the exception of a minority who really have to cope with deep problems concerning emotional and communicative issues, nothing is wrong with us. However, be aware that every one of us is a product of three major elements: genetic disposition, education by environment and adjustment through auto-feedback.
All three elements are in constant dynamic interaction with each other and this leads to an ever changing picture. By most of us these changes are rather subtle.
Recent research concluded that about 25% of the first marriages broke up within 5 years. This number is without taking into account the unmarried couples living together or those that are living apart. How can we be so wrong in our judgement? How can you discover the relevant criteria, evaluate them and differentiate them from the less important ones? And this topic is not only in relation to your partner, but also (mainly) in relation to you?
Please admit that it doesn’t make sense to evaluate your partner before you know what you esteem what really matters. And I am not talking about the obvious and very important criteria like respect, honesty, reliability, responsibility, etc.
Partners really can have fantastic qualities and they really can show genuine love, but if they don’t fit your personality, then it won’t work.
Look at it as it would be a puzzle: (his/her) pieces look smashing (your favourite colour), they show the ideal picture, the material feels good (hardboard, wood, plastic, etc), the size is OK, and …many of them fit yours… but are they really the most crucial pieces or are they the ones on which you concentrate on now in order to finish as quick as possible your wanted scene within the entire puzzle? And, please don’t forget that “human” puzzles – unlike hardboard ones – are constantly changing their shape. Therefore the ultimate parameter to evaluate a potential partner is: flexibility, the wish to adjust according to any new conditions that might present themselves. And this criterion, dear reader, only can be evaluated in time.
Some fundamental criteria will only change slightly without external help: biorhythm (early bird or night hawk), energetic or laid back, fields of interest, size of personal space, extravert or introvert, real friendship (the ability to accept without frustration the different opinions and behaviours of someone else; as long as they are not conflicting with the most fundamental criteria), general life style (not material but intellectual and emotional), level of ambition, etc.
Most of the people who are searching for a partner are searching for security: financial, emotional, and practical or in most cases a combination of them. A major question is what are the expectations from one partner and how can the other one sufficiently fulfil them in order to create a feeling of security?
The feeling of security is not only dependant from your partner but also from you. If your expectations are very high and your partner manages to realise them for – let’s say – 80% (which could be high, compared to the environment), you still could have the feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment and thus never get the feeling of security.
This leads us to the extremely important question – one of the most fundamental ones that one could (and should) question to him/herself with respect to relationships: what is/are the reason(s) of my expectation(s) with regards to relationships?
As stated above, it is not about the most fundamental reasons like respect, honesty, reliability, etc but rather the more personal ones, whatever they may be. Some people prefer to go for status and/or excitement rather than for happiness because they feel that have to show off with their partner. Why does my partner have to be an ass in sports, must he have a “six-pack”, must she have the “ideal numbers” of a page-3 girl, must he be rather wealthy, powerful, should she be artistic, well dressed according to the latest fashion, etc. Or – even worse – some of us do not have any particular criterion for their future partner at all; they are happy when they are able to find one at last. This behaviour is frequent with people who don’t have a high esteem of themselves and they go quickly for one or more major compromises. WRONG! If we are not happy with ourselves we will lock us up emotionally and we never will be able to generate an emotional link to our partner. Alienation is the result and separation becomes unavoidable. Being happy with yourself has nothing to do with pompous arrogance but with accepting and being in harmony with your compromise between your experiences and the standards of your environment. In other words what is my opinion about myself and what do I want to/can I change or adjust? If you allow this quest to go till the end it will lead you to your deepest me. Know yourself well before you search for a fixed partner. Experiment with self-analysis through open conversations with real friends and, vice versa, give positive feedback to your friends in search. It will allow strengthening friendships, to discover your bottlenecks and work them, and – last but not least – it will give you the possibility to learn about people in general, indispensable to your quest for the “real one”. But realise that many criteria are relative and only are temporary.
Don’t fool yourself; you cannot learn anything about yourself if you close up for others. You shouldn’t have fears to open up to your best friends. If one of them hurts you then it may be a sign that he/she didn’t understand you really and that he/she is struggling with emotions. In case it would happen frequently, then it could be advisable to create some distance with this person, but without breaking up.
A very important aspect about self-knowledge is to know if you are struggling with unprocessed emotional elements from your past: your “demons”, how you sense them and how their influence is on your actual behaviour. It becomes extremely difficult to evaluate potential partners in respect to your expectations if you didn’t treat your biggest bottlenecks before. Many good relationships broke up because one partner couldn’t free him/herself from his/her demons and the other one became fed up with it. Your need for security and comfort have to be a logic result from your real personality and not from some demons from the past.
Another element that is closely related to the above one is the entire background of your potential partner: everything he/she brings into the relationship and what you need to accept or reasonably can cope with. This can be: children, right of visit, obligations, alimony, debts, kind of job and schedule, chronic diseases, pets, etc. These elements are regularly overlooked but definitely are hard facts that will have an important influence on the quality of your relationship – sooner or later.
Compatibility between partners is an important element, but don’t overestimate its importance. It is excellent to evaluate the friendship part in your relationship, but not more than that.
You can be compatible about daily stuff like interests, housekeeping, finance, friends, hobbies, location of home, etc but also on the human level: contacts, humour, priorities of job vs family (also in professional crisis situations), ascetic/burgondic, human interest, flexibility/stubbornness, being able to relativate, participation, emotional deepness or superficiality, etc. Although you might think correctly that matches on those criteria might facilitate life substantially, it will not be sufficient. Don’t forget to look for differences too. If they seem important to you now, then realise that they me become a source of frustration in the future.
The criteria under the umbrella of compatibility all are there to evaluate the quality of friendship; so use them to evaluate the level of friendship in your new relationship, but don’t overlook the next major criterion: PASSION, the fireworks of relationships!!!
And now we come to the biggest pitfall of all, regarding relationships: (half)blindness due to passion. The feeling of passion results (chemically) in the production of a whole bunch of hormones, messenger molecules, pheromones, etc that altogether create a sense of euphoria, of an intense feeling of being in love. ENJOY IT, ABSOLUTELY!!! But don’t forget to “kick-off” in time. And I don’t mean that you should disregard the feeling of being in love, but that you allow a little corner for the Garden of Love. Many people have difficulties to distinguish between being in love and Love.
(Passion is another crucial element in relationships. Its downside, however, is that it blindfolds you for some lesser properties of your partner. Passion will evolve into a more mature state.)
Here’s a little help: Being in love is like making abstraction of your ego and focussing fully on your partner; you can compare it with the feeling that you have when you were deprived for a long time of your most favourite dish and that you then get it served: the intense impatience to enjoy it, the salivering by the thought that it soon is within reach, the visual pleasure when it is presented… and – at last – the euphoric and slow pleasure of the first bite…hmmmmmmm.
Love is not inferior in intensity that being in love but rather is a further evolution of it and can be compared with the intense joy of preparing the dish: the purchases, the preparations in the kitchen, the cooking, presenting and finally the pleasure in the consumption of the dish. It is a more mature sensation of the same kind of emotions and it has a more stable and permanent character. Love is equilibrium between your ego, your heart and those of your partner.
For those people who plan to live together one day, another crucial element is of importance, besides compatibility and passion: how does it feel to be in ones’ neighbourhood (for a long time)? Aren’t there fields of tension (are you feeling relaxed) when one of you “does his/her thing”? Can he throw his newspaper where he wants (at that moment), Leave the ashtray till overflowing? Can you put your slippers at his PC and leave your nail set on the staircase for a while? What about the kind of music and the loudness? Is it still OK at 9 am? When watching TV who takes the drinks out of the fridge and goes for the nuts? And… what happens when one of you is “on the weak side” and prefers to stay in bed? Does the other bother or not and life goes on as usual?
Here we arrive to the core of this criterion: is there resonance between you? I don’t talk about “being on the same wavelength” regarding some subjects, but is there a feeling of “unity” between you both where you really have the feeling that the other one is understanding you emotionally and is complementary to you in your most important criteria, and that you nevertheless get the space to develop your identity although it differs from that of your partner? And is this resonance dynamic, does it get the space to adjust itself according to the circumstances and to develop itself? Do you get the feeling that your personal development is supported by your partner?
Everyone also has lesser days (moods, stress, illness, etc). Don’t avoid showing them to your partner by hiding (I’ll wait/I’ll stay put) till it’s over, but look how your partner is responding to this situation. Is there also resonance then? Or if your partner has some less “polished” behaviours (accepting every incoming mobile call when you dine together), can you make a neutral remark about this? And does your partner change their behaviour? Give your partner the opportunity to adapt. Every relationship needs a “running-in” time. On both sides.
Making a reliable evaluation on the most important criteria of a relationship under normal daily conditions will take time. If you both agree a joint active-or excursion holiday of 2-3 weeks will supply valuable extra information in a short period of time.
A valid candidate has to fulfil a lot of criteria and each criterion has its own dimension and weight, depending on the couple. Evaluation will take time but can be done in a relaxed and playful manner; after all it is not an examination or the MOT. Avoid fixed commitments soon after getting acquainted or whilst being in the rush of love. Both parties have to get the opportunity to see the positive and negative sides of each other, evaluate them against their own criteria and eventually accept them. Only then you are on the right track for the next step whether it will be a confirmation of the relationship or dissolution of it. And in the case of the latter, here is some important advice: if you really are convinced that your partner is not the right one, break it up asap. Your feelings of pain, the habits, your fear of loneliness and your uncertainty about the future only are FAKE REASONS to postpone. Because they only are temporary. Good luck!