Finding the Perfect Partner
First, you know there is no such thing as perfect, right? Of course we all have tastes and preferences and traits we gravitate toward, and things that we find sexy and attractive, from the external to the internal, from body types to personality to confidence to emotional intelligence, and so on.
Yes, we all have preferences, and that’s a good thing, but if you’re chasing perfect, you’ll be disappointed—and ultimately lonely. Because perfect doesn’t exist. It’s a mirage created by advertising and a fantasy we’ve been holding onto since we were taping posters of our teen crushes to our bedroom wall.
There is only perfect for you.
And that depends on where you’re at in your life. What’s “perfect” for you will change as you change. What was perfect for you in your twenties probably isn’t what’s perfect for you today—unless of course, you haven’t changed, grown, or evolved. But I know you have, so let’s talk about what’s perfect for you today.
OK, let’s put away the word “perfect” for the moment, because it’s overused and dangerous. Let’s start instead with the word important. What’s important to you? What matters? Think about all the relationships you’ve been through and all the things you’ve learned from them about what works, what doesn’t work, what you want, what you need, about love and loss, and all your unhealthy patterns. With all that information, ask yourself: What’s important to you today?
Does your person have the things that are truly important to you? Not every single little thing, because again, no one’s perfect. But the big things that matter. The deal breakers. The things you are not willing to negotiate, because you learned your lesson last time. The things that drive the engine of the relationship. If they do, then they have perfect in them—and it’s your job to find it.
If the big things that are important to you don’t exist in your partner/relationship, then this post isn’t for you. You need to read a different one, about when to leave or stop investing in a relationship that isn’t going anywhere or making you happy. This post is about having an engine that runs, but isn’t performing at its best. It’s about fine-tuning the engine instead of trying to replace it. Because most of us do have “perfect” partners; we just haven’t done the work to discover it.
Yes, perfect has to be discovered.
Perfect Lives in Imperfections
In every person/relationship, you will notice imperfections. There will be cracks. It’s just a matter of time before you wish your partner did something differently, acted a different way, was more patient, driven, understanding, or thoughtful. And if you only focus on what’s lacking, that lack will grow, and it will become the sun, and you will start looking in another direction. You will get curious about what else is out there.
Many stray and ruin something that could have been beautiful because they don’t accept people for who they are. And if they don’t change that mindset, it becomes a pattern, and then they will never experience lasting love—only short-lived honeymoons. They can get addicted to the fleeting potent shot (which isn’t love), instead of the life-changing stretch. This is why we must find “perfect” in our partners, instead of seeking perfect.
So how do you find perfect in your partner? Well, let’s examine the things that are not perfect. Imperfections: This is the gateway in.
She’s always late. He leaves the seat up constantly. She forgets her keys. He’s not as affectionate as you would like. His crooked nose. Her posture. The way he chews. His nagging. Her parents. The list goes on and on for what you might wish were different about someone.
Fine-tuning your relationship engine means to accept someone’s imperfections. It doesn’t mean you can’t express what bothers you, assuming you’re not referring to their physical appearance or things they cannot control. It means you accept them as they are. Not as they could be. It means you understand their story. It means you see them as a whole, complete person. Not someone you can mold into your idea of what they should be.
1. Accept everything.
Everything. How they behave. How they dress. Eat. Work out. What they say. How they see the world. (Remember, this is assuming that what you don’t like about them are not deal breakers). Know that you can’t modify your order. Whatever is on the plate is on the plate. Take it with a smile or return it. You can’t taste it, then ask them to modify it or cook it differently. People are not meals.
2. Stop comparing who you’re with to your exes.
This is a common pattern for all of us, whether conscious or subconscious, unless we make an effort to stop. There is no winner in this game. It’s a trap. There’s a reason your exes didn’t work out, so why do you want who you’re with now to be like them, look like them, or act like them? This thought pattern will prevent you from seeing all the beauty in the person standing in front of you. You’ll also be living in the past. You have to see every new relationship as a new, single-serving experience. And that’s the key word—experience. Don’t you want a new one? If he or she is like your exes, it won’t be a new one. And if you tie what you have now to others, it won’t have a chance.
3A. Instead of trying to change your partner, see if you can change yourself.
Ask yourself if there’s something happening on a deeper level. Are you comparing because you’re afraid of commitment, abandonment, or rejection? If you follow the thread down, you’ll see that it’s usually not about what you think it’s about.
They are already aware of what you don’t like about them. You have expressed it—if not verbally, then in energy and attitude. So instead of putting all your energy into trying to change someone, put all that energy into being a better version of yourself. Ask yourself what you need to change about you — your thinking, how you see the world and relationships, what kind of experience you want — so that you can accept them for who they are.
3B. Remind yourself of all the relationships that didn’t work and why.
Play back documentaries instead of highlight reels. Remind yourself that tracing old relationship blueprints will only kill your current one.
4. This is the most important step, because everything we’ve talked about is only 50 percent of change/growth…
The other half of the growth coin is execution. Okay, so you’ve decided to seek the perfect in your partner instead of the perfect partner. Great. Now ask yourself what that would look like in everyday action: How do you need to think? What fears must you conquer? What new way must you see your partner? What do you need to change about yourself to see him or her in that way?
I’ve been in many long-term relationships, including a marriage. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve compared. I’ve looked over the fence. I’ve loved soft. I’ve been selfish. I’ve searched for “perfect.” I’ve tried to change people, and control people. I’ve lost. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’ve gone to therapy—even became a therapist. And even through all that, I am still learning. I still struggle. I still get confused. I am still afraid. I still don’t know all the secrets to love and dating and relationships. But there is one thing I know for sure: No one’s perfect.
- follow John on Insta @theangrytherapist
Originally posted at Psychology Today
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