Who should you be in a relationship with? Or should you be in one at all? And if you are in one, how can you tell if they’re the “right” person? This is the age-old question: when is someone good enough and when are we expecting too much?
Okay, let’s start off with the fact that coupling is an entirely fabricated mental construct. You might have a favourite person to spend time with, confide in, and even have sex with. But the reason you’re not spending more time with, or confiding in, or having sex with other people isn’t because those things wouldn’t at times feel natural, it’s because of mental borders or restrictions or limits you place on yourself using language.
Being in love with someone doesn’t stop a guy from getting an erection when he sees a woman he finds extremely attractive. That’s the biology that magazine covers are trying to harness. That’s a part of us. So I want to be clear: if you want to couple off that’s fine, but we can’t discuss this issue with you assuming that coupling is natural when there is strong biological evidence that it clearly isn’t. It’s just how society is currently set up in many places, at this time in history.
All that said, since our societies train people to think of themselves as half of a couple, it makes sense that this will be your first inclination. And if we’re not going to be in tribes, at least pairs or families make it a little closer to the real world, where none of us can actually survive alone. So if you’re going to date or get married, you can’t expect perfection but you can start off on the right foot with a good understanding of what traits and qualities are most likely to lead to happiness in the relationship. Fortunately—and probably very surprisingly—this isn’t complicated.
Who should you be with? Someone who wants to be with you. Told you. Easy.
Think about it. Do you want someone that is attracted to your appearance? No, because that will inevitably change drastically. Do you want someone who is attracted to your wealth or status? No, because those too are very likely to fluctuate. Do you want someone that’s attracted to your personality? Now we’re starting to get into healthy territory. Your personality is essentially who you are. So yes, you want someone who wants to be near someone like you. The rest is all superficial.
Start paying attention to the couples around you. 50% of them get divorced and even in the 50% that’s remaining there are many relationships that are less than respectful. This means a very large percentage of couples simply aren’t very nice to each other. They’ll complain and chide and ridicule and insult. An enormous percentage of their exchanges will exist to point out mistakes or offer correction. How the person drives, how they spend money, how they look, how they act, who their friends are, what kind of shape they’re in, etc. etc. etc., all hidden deep within their “normal” exchanges.
Think about that again: a very large percentage of couples simply aren’t very nice to each other. They are either actively unkind or passively unsupportive to their spouse and their objectives. So obviously, odds are you’re in this group. So who makes up the other group?
A much smaller percentage of couples admire each other. They don’t solicit their partner’s advice out of obligation or respect, they do it because they genuinely want their input to be a part of their deliberations. They think so highly of their partner it’s like going to get advice from the greatest guru you’ve ever heard of. Those couples are fans of each other. When their partner is out of earshot they’re more likely to be complimenting them than they are to be offering judgments about them. Simply put, they act as though they feel very nearly perpetually in awe of their good-fortune in having such an excellent source of love, support and information constantly available to them.
All day long I see couples losing track. They take each other for granted. They forget why they got married, or they didn’t get married for good enough reasons in the first place. Of course you should also have enjoyable separate lives with friends etc. but your spouse or romantic partner should essentially be the number one confidante you have. They should be the source of information you trust most. They should be your hero and you should be theirs. It really should be a mutual admiration club where you both just want to constantly show your gratitude for the other person being in your life.
This has several advantages. People who feel safe and secure perform at their best, and so it’s likely that the loving couples really are getting the best advice. There’s also less energy applied to unnecessary friction and arguing, and both parties experience the health and energy benefits of less stress. Not to mention they’re acting as far better guides to their children. While other kids are learning to argue, judge and complain, those kids are learning kindness, gratitude and love.
I’ve watched people waste their entire lives in a relationship they don’t like, all because they don’t want to be seen as having “failed” when they end the it. They over-calculate the damage and under-calculate the upsides of a more positive change. You’re better to be single than be disrespected or live unadmired. Every human being is worthy of love and admiration. It is never a matter of whether or not you’re worth it—you’re born worth it. It’s a matter of whether or not you’re with someone who can see you clearly enough to recognize how mazing you are in your own unique way.
You don’t have to sort out difficulties. You just have to focus on realizing yourself, and then pay attention to who naturally feels compelled to be near that realization. Be closest to the people who love the way you naturally are.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.
Attached are some links relevant to the discussion:
How Long Should a Relationship Last?