If the statistics are any indication, people are terrible at picking partners and spouses. Unfortunately, I know about this firsthand. Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. When it comes to romantic relationships, we’re all really just winging it. Most of the time, we go with the standard biological responses. On rare occasion, there’s a meeting of the minds and hearts and romance blossoms at a deeper level; we tend to think of that as “chemistry.” Humans enter into romantic relationships under a myriad of circumstances but I think it’s rare that anyone really puts any thought into what they are really all about.
Well, I don’t know about anyone else but I decided I wanted to figure this out. What should we look for in a romantic partner? What qualities should we seek? Should we stick with the standard laundry list of qualities about which we fantasize or should we go with a random approach?
Sadly, I haven’t figured out the game of attraction but I think I’ve figured out how one can know if someone is a good candidate for love. Just ask yourself this one simple question:
Does this person enrich my life?
I don’t mean “enrich” at merely a superficial level, but at a deep, meaningful level. Does your prospective partner add to your life in a substantial or profound way? Do you find that being with them makes you think of things in ways you never considered? Do they alter your understanding in uncomfortable yet healthy ways? Does being around them help you see the world from new, interesting angles? Do they open up a world of possibilities rather than doubts? Are they sharing their world with you in way that excites, fascinates, maybe even troubles you? Do they make you aware of your boundaries and take you to the edge of your comfort zone? Do they make you feel bigger when they are around? Do they inspire you to be courageous, maybe even adventurous?
I think that love is ultimately an additive property. The right partner is likely to be both exhilarating and unsettling. I think the expectation of many is that relationships are easy. However, my guess is that the best and healthiest ones involve a substantial measure of risk, particularly at the emotional level. So, by nature, romantic relationships require courage. I strongly suspect that many who think they are fit for romantic relationships lack the courage necessary to build a healthy one.
I think another reason some may fail often at relationships is that they are fundamentally unable to hold up their end of the bargain. Ask yourself: are you capable of enriching anyone’s life? Would you make a prospective partner better off for having known you? What are you passionate about? What excites you? What fascinates you? What scares you? And, more importantly, are you able to share those things? Some people are simply too uninteresting or selfish to be productive in a meaningful relationship. Romantic relationships, ones built to last, require two whole people. I think people assume they are whole but is that really the case? You need to be somebody first before you can have somebody, at least in a truly meaningful way.
If I had to guess, I’d say that most people are incomplete and they try to find love in a world of incomplete people. It probably shouldn’t surprise us that romantic love is so hard to find but most people aren’t particularly introspective either.
The interesting thing about “enrichment” is that it can apply to any meaningful relationship in your life. Do your friends and loved ones enrich your life? Do your children? If your children are not surprising, delighting, even disturbing you in ways that make you think and grow, that is likely a reflection of you. An incomplete person will make incomplete people. It’s not only important to grow but also to share with the people we want to affect. Love is a virtuous cycle.
So, if I had to give any advice on love, I’d say try to enrich others and find others who enrich you. If you’re lucky, you’ll find that person at the same stage of growth as you, someone willing to share your journey. Strive to be a worthy travel companion.