What? Am I saying that you should choose a wrong person for your love partner? No, of course not. But hang in there with me. I’ll be discussing how to avoid really choosing wrong, and choosing wisely and realistically instead.
After I read author’s Alain de Botton’s May 29, 2016 article, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” in the Wall St Journal, I thought about my research findings about love.
He makes very important points. I will expand and refine them for you with what I learned from my research and decades of being a therapist for more than 12,000 people. I organize my advice by focusing on the most common questions.
1. Should I listen to my heart or my head?
Oh, so many of the people I’ve counseled ask this question. Their head and heart are at war. They want to know if they should trust their feelings or the seemingly more rational discussion that goes on in their head.
In most western countries, we’ve learned to give more weight to our feelings, including that “gut instinct” that we believe is proof that we are making the right decision.
So, what’s the answer? It depends on whether this alignment is really good for you—or not. Wise decisions rest on an alignment of your head, heart and gut, but—oops–they could fool you into thinking you are choosing a good partner.
Let’s dig a little deeper in the next question.
2. Shouldn’t I rely on just feeling comfortable with someone?
As the author Botton mentioned, we tend to like familiarity. Often our choice of love partner activates feelings of emotional comfort and familiarity because our relationship with this person fits in too well with our family’s rules, roles, relationship styles and life lessons and beliefs.
If you liked the ways of your family, you probably absorbed how to think, feel and act toward your grandparents, siblings, parents—and you! Your family’s behavior and words taught you about love, trust, men, women, self-esteem, success, and management of stress and disagreements.
If that paragraph above sounds like your family, then go ahead and choose someone who fits in with your family!
But perhaps your family taught you to mistrust, argue, to damp down upward mobility or education, to mismanage stress or temper, to put others down to feel better or to be fearful and anxious about taking chances in life.
If that paragraph in some way describes your family, then you might unknowinglychoose someone who fits into that style. Your relationship might not reveal these issues in the beginning, but they can emerge later.
But beginnings in love blind us. And then—boom! One day, the unwanted surprise hits you: Even though you did not like the ways of your family, you developed an emotional comfort that is not good for you!
So, feeling comfortable may also not be the best way to judge whether someone is good for you or not. Are you beginning to see how easy it is to choose the wrong person—while thinking and feeling that this person is good for you?
Even worse, seeing the problem does not lead you to break up. Why? It’s very hard to go against your family. It’s as though you are being disloyal to your country. Often, the people in my study said they not only felt disloyal but they felt afraid.
Afraid? Why? Being disloyal to your family’s way activates fear of abandonment—the most fundamental fear of all humans (and primates, too!) You’ve seen that scene in movies where the person who needs to separate and be different from his or her family hears comments such as these from their family members: “Who do you think you are?” “You gonna talk to us again, college-boy?”
Read the next question to learn how to detect whether it is a good or bad thing if your partner fits into your family.
3. So, how do I know if my love choice is good for me?
Do I like and respect my partner?Life always has surprises. There is no sure way to know if your partner is good for you, but here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does my partner act respectfully to me?
- Do I like who and how I am in my relationship with this person?
- Do I want to stay in a relationship that is just like my family?
- Can I risk losing approval and closeness in my family of origin by making a healthy choice who does not fit in with them?
4. What’s wrong with holding out for The One?
And here we finally get to the advice in the title of this article: The wisdom of choosing someone who is only a little wrong for you.
The discussion, so far, has been mainly about how and why we tend to choose someone who is wrong for us.
If you set your goal to find the perfect person who is your soulmate, then chances are you will not be as happy as you could be. Why? Because there is no one perfect person in the whole wide world for you! There are lots of wonderful, healthy choices of partners who have quirks and shortcomings—just as you do!
So, how do you choose a lesser imperfect partner? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are my partner’s shortcomings improvable—and are they willing to learn? Am I?
- Are we a good problem-solving team who can resolve issues without blame?
- Can we respect and learn from each other’s differences?
People who search for The One are actually not searching at all. They are too afraid of love.
I wish you an almost perfect love!