How do you know when you’ve met the “right one?” Our romantic culture promotes the idea that each of us has a Mr. or Ms. Right out there – the one perfect match who will light our fire and laugh at our jokes and generally be our just right soulmate. In old musical comedies, an upbeat musical score and starry-eyed looks might accompany the appearance of Mr. Right from the object of his affection.
For most of us, reality looks rather different. We find someone we like – a lot, in fact – but if we hang around long enough, we discover that he isn’t perfect. He has a bad habit or two; he snores or belches or sings off key. He’s special, sure, but he’s not perfect. We find ourselves feeling ambivalent. There are few dreamy songs celebrating romantic ambivalence.
We face a dilemma: how special is “special enough?” How do we decide whether we are settling for a relationship we don’t really want (on the one hand) or setting such a perfectionist standard that we are likely to be forever alone (on the other)?
While romantic mythology might make us think that we’ll surely know when the right one comes along, life is full of choices we must make with incomplete information. Sure, someone “even better” might come along…. eventually. But holding out for perfection in a mate is a great strategy for living life alone.
Attraction is a combination of similarities and differences between the individuals involved. The precise recipe is probably unique to each of us. If there isn’t sufficient attraction to keep us engaged, the fires will go out eventually, no matter how much we might hope that we had met our match.
If you find yourself in this situation, try to look at whether you are compromising on qualities that seem like essential elements for you. Do you share compatible life goals, for instance? What about values? If one of you lives to party until dawn and the other hasn’t even been to a party since the first Bush administration, the two of you are either looking at significant compromises or a lifetime of arguments and disappointments.
Are you friends? Do the two of you work well together, helping each other solve life’s problems? Does he help you feel more stable, more secure?
Think about what’s important to you. Are you getting your core needs met? If not, are the two of you able and willing to make changes so that you can get what you want?
If your tendency is to find fault with everyone you date, it is time to look at your expectations. Often we project onto others attributes that we fear we have within our own selves. We’ll never find someone if we play that game.
A degree of ambivalence is to be expected within most relationships. Acknowledge your feelings to yourself, but don’t get sidetracked by them. Getting lost in self-doubts can lead to sabotaging a relationship.
It is possible to accept that a degree of ambivalence exists and still move forward with a commitment if you know your own mind and heart.
Should you share your feelings of uncertainty with your boyfriend? Be careful. Telling the truth is important, but so is being considerate of your partner’s feelings. It is one thing to acknowledge that neither of you is perfect, but quite another to muse aloud about the possibility of someone better coming along. If your speaking gives him the feeling you are about to leave the relationship, you may be being unfair to him and to yourself. Talking through your feelings with a friend or a counselor is preferable to hurting someone you care about.
John R. Ballew, M.S.an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. - www.bodymindsoul.org.