How do you know if this is THE ONE?
Well you don’t know, but here are some thoughts to bear in mind. Online dating offers an enormous choice of people to meet, but only a small number, around 100 if you are in a big city, will have what it takes to make a meaningful relationship with you.
My friend and colleague Dr Michael Perring talked with me about the dating scene, and introduced some ideas I wanted to share. We talked of friendship, different types of love, and unconscious drivers or attractions which can send us into wonderful partnerships or disasters!
We also agreed that the first thing we notice is what we see. We can be deceived by looks, drawn to or repelled by what we see, but humans are visual animals, and first impressions are hard to overcome, so don’t present yourself looking like something you are not!
A wise person once told me that if you don’t have friendship you don’t have the basis of a relationship. But what does friendship actually involve? Dr Perring has thought about this and concluded that you need respect, liking, trust and knowledge.
Respect ensures that you will treat each other well, bringing kindness and thoughtfulness to your meetings, along with consideration of the other person’s feelings and opinions. If you are not respectful and do not feel respected then move on.
Liking? If you don’t actually like someone, why spend time with them, it doesn’t make sense. On the other hand there are people who put us off at first acquaintance, and then turn out to be real gems, “Pride and Prejudice” with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy being a case in point. Sometimes we need to take more time to decide.
Trust is the underpinning of all intimacy and closeness. Feeling safe with a person, being able to be honest about your concerns, fears and hopes, feeling relaxed can indicate that this person is true and trustworthy. A relationship needs to be trusting to allow vulnerability which is an essential for intimacy.
Finally, knowledge? yes, learning a person’s ways, how they think and react, their life stories all help build trust. These learnings take time and a number meetings to emerge. You will not know if this person can be your true trustworthy friend after a first or second meeting, although you may feel that all the ingredients are there.
Talking of love, Dr Perring spoke of 3 main categories, libidinal, romantic and companionate. A relationship may encompass all three of these, and over time one type or another may prevail, but without love a relationship cannot survive healthily.
In my work as a therapist, I have come across couples where one partner had agreed to the relationship, but without love, seeking security, financial benefits, children and so on. These relationships can end painfully, children are hurt, it doesn’t often work.
Sometimes love grows, and with arranged marriages this is often the case. The partners accept that they are committed, and with familiarity, safety, sex, the feelings alter with the months and years.
Libidinal love, sexual chemistry, excitement and attraction are fine when you have them, a lot of hormones go into creating these feelings, but if the hormone hit and excitement are not sustained, and mostly they are not, other feelings of attachment need to replace them. If the friendship has not been forged, there is no ongoing basis for the relationship and people look elsewhere for the excitement that has gone. It is not necessary to have libidinal love to create a sustained and satisfying partnership.
Romantic love, candlelight, music, shared intimacies, little touches that tell the other you care, special occasions are all part of romantic love. Romantic love softens the atmosphere between a couple. Shared dreams and softness, tenderness are all part of romantic love. Some people are not into it, it is not a prerequisite for an ongoing fulfilling relationship, but it is nice! Romance can be created at any time if the wish and the will are there, but it is not essential. It may only enter a relationship at special times, like holidays.
Companionate love is the ongoing, long lasting, warm connection shared by people who have developed interests and values in common, have routines and novelties to share, retain interest in each other, but are not living in each other’s pockets. This is not a static state of love, it changes as circumstances change, but it is more likely to last than sex or romance.
There is a lot more to love than we space for here! In any relationship there is always more to learn about each other, so maintain curiosity in companionate love however much you think you know.
Snares and Pitfalls
The longing to find the right person can cloud our judgement. Unknown to us, our brains carry pictures of the carers from our early life, the positive aspects of them as well as the negative. Many elements of a person’s make up are not evident in early meetings. Sometimes what can feel very comfortable and “right” is related to the brain being reminded of a carer or parent who treated us badly, or had some very difficult traits. The brain logs the familiarity, but not the reason for it. We need to notice if this person is like a parent or teacher and check that they are like them in ways we loved, not ways we feared. Just because it feels right, does not mean it is right.
When you first read the person’s profile and look at their pictures, think carefully about what you see. Is it a coherent account that hangs together? How do you feel inside as you consider it? If the dating web site does not contain screening questionnaires, be prepared to meet a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess. Be careful to present yourself as you really are, without lies, and expect the other person to do the same. If the profile does not match with the person you meet, be cautious.
We humans develop styles of relating which fall into mainly 2 types, those who want a lot of closeness and those who don’t. There are some folk who flip between the two, and others who do not relate much at all, but the two main types are more common. Both styles are fine, just different, and we tend to choose someone who operates the exact opposite style to our own. If you want to learn more about this, then ask Google about attachment styles and see what appeals to you. Space precludes further explanations of this important element.
Be open to possibility, look your best, behave your best, and stay aware that the other person will be doing the same. There is more going on underneath the surface than is immediately observable.