We all have this idea of the “perfect” partner, and many of us feel disappointed and even annoyed when we don’t get him or her.
A while back, I offered a workshop on this topic (“Finding Your Perfect Partner”). In this column, I’ve taken the basic outline for the workshop and edited it.
I hope that the column captures the essence of the workshop for you. I’ve included most of the questions from the workshop to engage your mind and heart. Let’s start with these:
Do you have a partner now? Are they perfect?
Did you used to have a partner? Were they perfect?
Would like a partner? Must he (or she) be perfect?
Is there such a thing as a perfect partner?
Do you believe that there is really only one person out there in the world meant for you?
Personally, I believe that there are many potential “perfect” partners for all of us, and that we could be happy with any number of people. So, if there is not only one “perfect” partner, what about finding a wonderful partner, someone we can give to and receive love from, someone who’s got our back, who puts up with us when we’re cranky and when we’re fabulous… someone who’s our #1, and vice-versa. Yeah…let’s talk about that kind of partner. How can we find someone like that?
The Active/Passive Balance
Finding your perfect partner is a fascinating balancing act between being active and passive. Consider these questions:
What have you done to look for a perfect partner?
Where have you looked?
How successful was your “hunt”?
The “active” piece of the process is about putting yourself in places where you’re likely to meet the kinds of people who are compatible. Yes, folks, you need to get off your butts and get out there into the world and be around people, meet them, talk to them, and see how you both feel about each other. Even Internet dating eventually gets to this stage.
If you expect the universe to “send the perfect person to me”, you have a big surprise in store. We can’t just sit at home and eat bon bons (do they still make bon-bons?) and wait for our Prince/Princess to knock on the door. If you’re too passive about the whole process, you’re likely to get discouraged too easily after a few dates and give up. Is this you? Do you have a history of “waiting” for something to happen without helping it along? Have you ever considered being more active in meeting people and dating? Is it hard for you to “do” things to meet people? If so, please consider these questions:
How active have you been in past searches for a perfect partner?
How did that work – or not work – for you?
The “passive” part of the process requires that once you put yourself out there, relax and let things unfold. It’s not about forcing something or manipulating someone into thinking you’re someone other than who you are. It’s about BEING; the active phase is about DOING. This part is really hard for people with control issues. They are terrified to let go and not control, manipulate and push each piece of the process into just where they want it. These people often miss out on perfectly great people – they scare them off by being too aggressive and controlling. These people are terrified of spontaneity. They have an illusion that by trying to control things, everything will turn out great. But, if this sounds like you, ask yourself this question: When you try and control everything, do things turn out great?
That’s what I thought.
I use the word “passive” here to mean “receptive” and “trusting”, e.g., if you do your bit (be active) then you can let go and let the universe do its part…and you can rest in the process. Some questions for overly controlling folks:
How comfortable are you with being “passive”?
How good are you at letting people come to you?
Can you relax and let things unfold when you’re dating someone?
See the balance? Both phases are crucial: ignore either one and your perfect partner(s) will never get to meet you, or, if they do, you’ll be so anxious and intense that they’ll run screaming into the night.
Dating the Dalai Lama
Just how high should you aim for a perfect partner? Does this person need to be much more perfect than you are? Better looking? More successful? Socially more skilled than you are? If this is how you’re setting it up, good luck.
Here’s a reality check for you. Sit down, take a deep breath. The truth is that your perfect partner is probably about as well adjusted and/or messed up as you are. I love what Marianne Williamson once said to someone whose standards in men were sky-high: “Nothing personal, but If the Dalai Lama was dating, would he pick you?” We may want someone much more together/attractive/fabulous than we are, but, this is very unwise. In fact, research shows that happy partnerships are forged more on similarities than differences.
Are you too picky? It’s common for most of us to get more selective as we get older. With wisdom comes discernment. When we’re young and experimenting with who we are and what we like, lots of people look like possible lovers. As we age, we fine-tune what we want and don’t want in our lovers. Not that we have to become bitter and rigid. We still – if we’re emotionally healthy – keep meeting new people all the time, but we don’t just automatically open our lives, our hearts and our legs to them.
What are your standards for your perfect partner?
Are they the same or different than your standards for yourself?
Your perfect partner may be different from you in many ways, but you’ll hit it off good from the get-go if you have similar values, e.g., honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity. Study after study shows that similar values are the most important traits that happy couples share.
How similar have you been to past (or your present) partner(s)?
How have you been different?
To avoid repeating old dysfunctional dating patterns, it’s important to identify the obstacles in your path towards meeting your perfect person. What has historically stood in your way from meeting great people and dating them?
What patterns do you see in your past relationships?
What do you see as your biggest obstacles in meeting your perfect partner?
Your Old Friend Fear
Fear is a big obstacle for many of us. We’re afraid of getting hurt, falling in love with someone who doesn’t love us back, or having our heart broken. But let’s be honest: we’ve all had our hearts broken and we will continue to have them broken and heal and broken and heal again-and-again. This is the nature of being alive. People break our hearts…not just perfect partners, but friends, bosses, family members…even pets break our hearts when they die and leave us lonely. You can’t get through life without having your heart repeatedly broken. Once you accept this, and know that you will always heal, it takes a big chunk of the fear away.
Here’s an exercise to work with your fear(s):
Begin by noticing that you’re afraid. See if you can just observe it and not judge yourself for it. You scientific types will love this: try working with fear like a science experiment. Rather than judge and beat ourselves up and try to force ourselves to “not” be afraid (like that’s possible), try to EXPLORE your fear. Take a more neutral, observatory stance….like a good Buddhist would! From the Buddhists I’ve studied with, they have some perspective on their fears, and notice them as they would a piece of lint on their clothes, e.g., “Oh, there’s a piece of lint.” And “Oh, there’s some fear.”
Once you notice your fear, check in with your body: how is your body feeling? Notice any body sensations like tight jaw, uneasy stomach, clenched hands, etc.? Just notice, don’t judge. Your body may automatically relax just from being aware of what it’s feeling.
Where in your body do you feel the fear the most? Pick one place and focus your attention there. As you breathe into this place, allow the fear to change or stay the same. Remember: you’re not forcing anything…let this be a gentle, easy process for you. You’ve been trying to “beat” your fear into submission for years, and it hasn’t worked. That’s not the way to do it.
As you breathe into your fear, you may ask it a question, such as: “What are you so afraid of?” Let yourself listen to the answer. Keep breathing. Take this process slowly. If you rush it, you’ll miss the wisdom. You may have another question for your fear. If so, ask it and let the fear respond. This is called “Dialogue” and you can talk with your fear (and other difficult emotions) to make peace with them, rather than to try to beat them into submission. Any time you notice fear (or anger or numbness or any other emotion) arise in the dating process, try this exercise. For most of my clients (and myself), it helps transform the fear from enemy into tutor and, eventually, friend.
Let’s look at another obstacle to dating: the illusion of perfection.
It’s Okay to Have a Stain on your clothes
Luckily, you don’t need to be perfect to attract the perfect partner. You know the score: you have a date with someone wonderful, you go to a classy restaurant and – of course – you spill something on your nice clothes and the stain won’t come out. So you are Mr. or Ms. Stain for the entire night. Fun, eh? Do you think that stuff like this blows your chances of making a good impression?
Let me tell you about one of my clients. This young man went off on a weekend trip with a guy he was seeing. These guys had been dating for a few months and this was their first real trip together. They splurged and flew to Denver where they rented a car and planned to drive from one fabulous place to another. Well, that was their plan. What happened in real life? Their rental car broke down…in the mountains. So, after much effort and frustration, they finally got another rental car. And THAT rental car broke down the next day. This is a true story, but it has a happy ending.
When my client came back, he told me all the awful stuff that happened during the trip, but do you know what he said?
“It was so awful, but Roberto handled everything so well, it was amazing. We laughed at the first rental car breakdown and laughed even harder at how awful things were when the second car broke down. It was like some horrible movie. But he handled everything so well that I found I could laugh about it too. After this trip, I love him more than ever.”
Many years’ later, these folks are still together: adversity cemented their love and mutual admiration. What could have been a disaster (much worse than a stain on your Dolce & Gabanna shirt) turned out to bring these two guys closer than ever. Moral of the story: you never know what will happen in life, and the unexpected will show you a lot about the person you’re with. How do they handle a rental car breakdown? A stain on their clothes? A bad meal in an overpriced restaurant? A parking ticket or a towed-away car? Life hands us shit, but what do we do with it? Could a broken down rental car (or the like) bring you closer to a potential lover? Could bad stuff show you and your potential partner just what you’re both made of?
Perhaps – in that case – we could welcome stains, no?
In conclusion: your next step
How will you recognize your perfect partner?
How would you like your next (or present) relationship to be “outside the box”?
By considering the ideas in this column, you’ve already taken your next step towards your “perfect” partner. You could even begin to tell yourself, “some fabulous man/woman is going to be lucky enough to have me as their partner”. And be willing to be surprised: the perfect partner for you may be on their way to you right now, but you might not recognize them. Let go of your old ideas and see what wonderful people you’ll attract…and enjoy the process!