My Response to “How to Pick Your Life Partner”
My short answer: You don’t.
Although I have to agree with the majority of this article (upon first read), the overarching assumption that we should be “picking” life partners seems to be misguided. I disagree with the idea that people should be going through their lives looking for that special someone, meeting various people and comparing them to their ideal husband or wife of their dreams. I don’t think having a life partner should be the goal, as if just having this person is the main point of it all. That’s the vibe I get from a title like “How to Pick Your Life Partner”, though my interpretation may be off. Just having a life partner is not meaningful in and of itself; it’s the nature of the relationship and love shared that is really important. And I know that I’m more idealistic than the average person when it comes to love and romance, so perhaps some people will not be able to relate to the things I have to say. I suppose that’s fine, but I really do believe that anyone could benefit from looking at love in a new light. For now, I am going to give the article the benefit of the doubt and say that it has an unfortunate title. However, I will read the contents carefully (for a second time) and attempt to break down and analyze what it is proposing. Note: I realize that with this title, the author is pointing out that the quality of one’s life partner is important (why else would he or she be trying to help people find the right one)? Still, the assumption that the partner is the goal isn’t that great, in my opinion.
The author’s first point, that singles are in a better place than unhappy married people, is a good one, especially at first glance. I agree with it. Society sends a frustrating message to people: You need to be in a relationship to be happy. But this is not true. Not all relationships are happy ones, and it’s absolutely possible (and healthy) to be single and happy. Yes, married people on average are happier than single people, but this is only an average. It does not represent real people or take into account individual differences. It seems obvious to me that unhappy married people would be less happy than singles; they are in a relationship with someone who does not make them happy, or worse, makes them feel horrible (but see, now I’m talking in averages). So I appreciate the author of this article for pointing these things out. However, I think he or she makes a mistake by saying that singles are closer to a happy relationship based on number of steps involved. In my mind, just because the number of steps are fewer does not mean the person will reach his or her goal any quicker. An unhappily married person may recover and find a new partner before the single. Still, on the figurative staircase, the single is rightfully at the higher position for now.
Next up: the author explains how important the person you spend the rest of your life with is. Agreed. Still, the idea of choosing this person does rub me the wrong way. The author presents this as a choice (and I guess it actually is), but I don’t think people should really be viewing it this way. My next words may be controversial, but I don’t think marriage is something that should be consciously thought over to the extent that this author is suggesting. But this is the kind of thing we say to people nearing marriage. Does he have a stable job? Does she want a family? Does he share my political views? Do we have shared hobbies? Should your future partner fit all of these things? Yes, absolutely! Should you be consciously thinking about it and asking yourself these questions? …I’m not sure. I find myself taking the stance that people should not need to question anything – there should be no question whether or not they want to marry this person. If they have to question it, there is a problem. These things should definitely be taken into account, and you should be compatible with your partner, but when it comes down to talking about marriage with your partner – there should be no doubt in your mind. I guess my main issue with this concept of choosing a partner is that it seems to be all about practicality, when I don’t believe that’s what love or relationships should be about. And I’m not trying to say something like “love is all that matters!” and to ignore practical things, but I do believe love should be primary. Rather than thinking about weddings and children and salaries and everything else, I believe the question should be “is this person who I want to spend all of my life with?” or “could I live without this person?”. With these figured out, you pretty much have the other stuff figured out too. Note: I have found the person I am meant to live my life with, and I have never consciously thought about whether my partner fits into my life the way this article is suggesting to do. My partner does fit into my life (perfectly), but it’s not something I’ve ever had to consciously decide for myself. It just is. Am I lucky? Yes. Does my situation apply to everyone? Probably not. But I think just tweaking the way you look at marriage will help make you more successful and happier. When you create conditions for loving someone like “does this person fit into my life?”, that can create problems. It’s temporary. And I think it’s a relationship based on the wrong things.
“People tend to be bad at knowing what they want from a relationship”. Agreed, for all of the reasons I mentioned previously. But the bit about most people not having enough practice before choosing their life partner? Mostly irrelevant, I think. Every person is different, dynamics are different, the way you will communicate with each partner you have in your life will be different. What you learn from one relationship will not likely be able to be carried over to your next one. So the whole idea about being “better” at relationships through practice seems ridiculous to me. The only way to truly get better at having a relationship is working on the one you are currently in. You don’t need to have multiple partners so that you’re totally prepared and ready for the “right person”.
Also, the author suggests dating a lot and searching for people online in order to find the right person. I mean, this is fine. I think he or she has a point by saying that society severely limits us by telling us the “acceptable” ways to meet the love of your life. It’s perfectly okay to meet and date many people rather than just passively going about life waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right. I give the author a thumbs up for this one. However, I do want to give people a heads up to be cautious about doing this, though. One common concept in psychological research is that when people are given more options, they end up being less satisfied with their choices later on. Sometimes less choice, less thinking and rationalizing, is the better route to take. People, I think, should learn to trust their instincts more. Less thinking about their partner’s qualities or seeing if they live up to their ideal partner could go a long way in creating a successful relationship. The more options you think you have open to you, the more you may think about who could still be out there for you (ooo someone better than your current partner??). And I think that’s dangerous. This is why I believe going with your heart (your instincts) is actually how people should form relationships. So, I disagree with the section of the article “Society encourages us to stay uneducated and let romance be our guide”. I am pro-gut. Another current psychological concept: our conscious, rational mind often makes bad decisions. Plus, romantic relationships are different from running a business. Romantic relationships (sorry Author), are about romance. Romance should be your guide; your heart and your instincts are better suited to guide you in this aspect of your life. It frustrates me when people believe that instincts and “feelings” somehow cause you to make worse decisions than logical thinking. This is not the case.
The article’s point that “Society rushes us” is spot-on, though. Couldn’t agree more.
I’m not even going to touch the section of the article relating to biology. Well, maybe I will a little bit. A flaw in this section is somehow the idea that our biology is fighting against us. This is not necessarily true. Our biology is also helping us. It knows what it’s doing. All of those chemicals it sends us is to help us fall in love and form attachment to another person. And that’s the point of it all, right? I don’t think we should be complaining about processes that allow us to have the thing we want in our lives. Sometimes they can mislead us, but they’re there for good reason (and do a great job when it’s the right person!) and shouldn’t be ignored.
The rest of the article is pretty spot-on in my eyes. I don’t have anything else to critique or add. All I have is support! I am thrilled that at the end there that the author commented on the partner “check-list” that so many people want to use to find a partner. I’m glad the author sort of cautioned people about using that so strictly. The person you fall in love with rarely has all of those qualities. Nobody is perfect, but you end up loving them anyway. That doesn’t mean lower your standards, necessarily. Just be flexible. Don’t turn down a possible love interest just because he or she doesn’t meet all of your criteria. Having an idea of what you’d like your partner to be like is great (as the author says, it really helps to know what you’re looking for), but it should be used as a guide rather than a checklist.
So after reading this article a second time, I still find myself agreeing with most of it. These are the areas in which I disagree:
-We should not be encouraging people to “choose” a partner
-People in unhappy marriages can bounce back and find the right person. They’re not necessarily in a really bad position.
-Rational thought should not be used as much as the author is proposing. Keep in the romance and trust gut feelings!
-Relationships should be based less on practicality.
-Dating around is not necessary to become good at relationships.
-Biology is just as much our ally as our enemy.
Thank you for reading! I would just like to say that this response was written mainly for myself (therefore, I have not cited sources), and I would be uncomfortable if anyone interpreted this as a professional (for lack of a better term) response to this article. This response is personal, though I have posted it to allow the public to read it as well. If it has caused you to think differently and/or more in-depth about relationships, that’s great. It’s also perfectly fine if you disagree with me. I enjoy meaningful discussions such as these. If you have any questions or comments for me, feel free to let me hear them!