One of the most important personal development skills in life is being able to choose our friends and lovers wisely.
Not having this skill often means a decreased chance of choosing a good friend or partner, and ultimately having a happy and stable life.
The idea of “romantic love” takes many down a deceptive path, where an initial flooding of the body with love hormones creates a belief that to continue with the relationship will lead us to live “happily ever after”.
Unhappily, affairs, domestic violence, and divorce statistics show a very different scenario.
The question is, why did we not see this coming? What did we miss noticing in our future partner that would have helped in avoiding these painful experiences?
The love hormones do in fact cause love ‘blindness” where we are more able to miss warning signs. With friendship, we see another person’s faults, but choose to ignore them.
The reality with “falling in love” is that we don’t keep a balance sheet of good and bad qualities of a person. All appears to be good.
The reasons for this uncritical acceptance can be many.
- Both parties show their best faces, and behaviour.
- One person can be extremely needy and willing to accept anything.
- One or both may have not had much experience in the dating arena.
- Age is a factor. A dominant older partner may seem desirable to a
- younger impressionable person.
- A person of higher status may seem very desirable to the other.
- One person may conceal an unfavourable past from the other.
- One or both may have poor decision-making skills, and be unable to make a mature and rational decision about the other person.
- One or both may be impulsive, careless or mindless about relationships.
- One or both may not have a clear idea of their own identity.
- One or both may have problems with establishing clear boundaries.
- You give in to family wishes/values rather than your own.
- One or other partner is prone to infatuation.
- Getting married and living happily ever after is a goal.
If you were in a romantic relationship right now, would you be prepared to step back and look at the other person in a more objective light?
Of course we are always subconsciously assessing other people, but with someone who is attractive to us, the assessment process is not as objective because we want them to like us, and we are unwilling to seem unaccepted of even parts of them.
First impressions are important, but they can also be wrong.
So how about drawing up a balance sheet with an assessment of at least your own decision-making skills about choosing a partner?
How would you go about it?
Firstly, you would list parts of your personality, choosing from the bullet points above.
Ask yourself these questions:
I think I have a problem with uncritical thinking about –
- Boundary keeping (especially sexual)
- Being excessively needy
- Having an overly accepting nature or idealising others
- Giving in to others, including my parents
- Not being sure of my own values
- Giving in to my culture or my peers
- Wanting to get married anyway
- Black and white thinking, e.g., once I have slept with someone I have to marry them
- She’s like my mother, so she’ll be the right one
- He’s like my father, so he’ll be the right one
- Fear of not having someone in my life
- He goes to the same church so he will be good for me
- She goes to the same church so she will be good for me
- He makes me feel good
- She’s really good looking
Write down your own list where you believe you could be uncritical in your acceptance of another possible partner
Step back and view them through another more objective lens. Observe, listen, talk to your friends about the person. They are usually quite perceptive.
If you happen to be in a partnership already this can still be a useful exercise for pinpointing areas in your personality that need attention. Doing this can help avoid future problems.
See my next article on things to consider when choosing a suitable partner.
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