The Perfect Mate–Part 1

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 at 11:25 pm


CounselorLetter

The Perfect Mate

(“Perfect Mate, Part 2″ is here)

The quest for the perfect mate clogs the online dating services. As Hope springs eternal, prospects who venture into the land of online dating seem to be in search of the perfect mate. Who can blame them? We all want to be wanted and loved.

Questionnaires and online profiles by and large focus on prospects’ similarities. The thinking seems to be that the more similarities, the better the match, therefore the greater likelihood of that match being made in heaven. At the same time, probably every prospect admits that there is no such thing as the perfect mate.

The bottom line is this: how does a couple actually raise the odds of choosing a really good partner? After counseling hundreds of couples over 29 years, I can’t honestly tell you I have the answer, but I do have some thoughts and observations that you might consider.

First, while it is true that having some things in common clearly adds to the mutual attraction, it is perhaps more important and productive to build a process that you can each rely on for managing your differences. Differences is the stuff you don’t have in common.

Second, a big part of managing differences is accepting the fact differences are what brought the two of you together. For example, one of you is male and one of you is female. That is a difference. Or, if you are a same-sex couple, the fact that you are two different people with different backgrounds provides for a fundamental difference between the two of you. Whether same-sex or not, in the long run there will be more moments of difference in the long-term than you anticipated. How those differences are managed is more crucial than your list of similarities toward achieving the depth of intimacy you want.

Third, redefine conflict as a difference instead of a fight. A fight is simply a poorly managed difference. Build on the fact that you are two different people, you are not adversaries. That is how you begin to build a new process. It is a process of cooperation, not competition. The goal is to be happy instead of being right. When you get good at it, nobody loses.

Often, our understanding of conflict/difference is a direct result of the model of conflict we lived with in our family of origin. For some, that was not a pretty picture. For others, there was no open conflict. Neither taught an effective process. Avail yourself to building your own special, hybrid conflict management system.

Back to the quest for the perfect mate. If that’s your goal, and you’re comparing similarities, see if one similarity includes a mutual desire to build a conflict management process. If it does, that’s getting close to perfect. It might not sound sexy right now, but trust me—later, when you need it, it will.

Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT

Go to “Perfect Mate, Part 2″

Contact Dr. Hutt

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