So many people end up on my couch complaining that they either: a) cannot find happiness in their current relationship or b) can’t find the right man/woman. I argue that so much of this distress is brought on by an imbalance between what we look for in others, and what we truly want/need in our relationship partners.
Why do we fool ourselves? Or even better, how do we fool ourselves so often?
What happens is that people try to squeeze the square peg into the round hole. By being vague about what you need or want, you can pretend that what you have or who you meet is “good enough.” And good enough just may not be good enough.
What you can do to improve your relationship satisfaction is to outline your relationship wish list. This list should include three categories.
Category 1 – NEEDS – deal breakers – the traits a person must possess, or absolutely must not have, if they are to make you happy (e.g., no past marriages, must be Jewish, etc). These tend to be lessons learned from past relationships – the “I won’t make that mistake again” list. Or, these may be the things you most valued in past relationships, but you needed a few more items from parts 2 and 3 of the relationship wish list to make the person your right fit. These are your core qualities, morals, and characteristics.
Category 2 – WANTS – bending points – characteristics in another person that you would be willing to compromise on if the whole picture was great enough (e.g., might be okay with someone with kids, would consider relocating). This list should be the longest, and makes up the general descriptors of your envisioned mate – if category 1 is the outline, category 2 is the color. I once had a patient say he pictured himself with a woman who was very feminine in her dress – this wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was his mental manifestation of his future wife.
Category 3 – WISHES – fantasy list – those extras that would really sweeten the deal, tip you over the edge into bliss, but which are ranked 3rd because they may be more superficial in nature (e.g., tall dark and handsome, good job, super romantic). This is that “X-Factor” that is difficult to describe and unique to each of us, but you know it when you see/feel it. Unfortunately, the fantasy list often remains in the fantasy realm (or as descriptors of one-night-stands or unrequited love). However, when you find someone you meets your Categroy 1 requirements and has even one x-factor from category 3, now you’re onto something!
Once the list is made, then you can honestly apply these criteria to the person you are involved with or considering. Now for best results, this should be done as an exercise when you are single and not seeing anyone – so as not to taint the results. (This is how we fool ourselves, by “fixing” the outcome and listing criteria that describe your current mate, rather than your ideal mate).
You may not like what you find, that maybe the person you are with is wrong for you. But, you will like the results – a better fit between your wish list and your real life, your perfect match.