If you’re trying to find a good partner—male or female—one key is to apply your criteria before love takes hold. Your criteria might be things like, “a partner who wants to have children,” or “a partner who is financially stable,” or “a partner who is emotionally mature.” Whatever your criteria are, as soon as you find out that the person you’re dating fails to meet your criteria . . . move on. Move on before love takes hold.
Falling in love is a highly motivated state. It’s actually a state of need. We are biologically wired to fulfill this need by merging with another. When falling in love our brains are busily predicting the rewards of merging with another person.
One problem, however, is that our brains predict what will be rewarding based, in part, on that which is familiar. Familiar is rewarding—even when what’s familiar isn’t healthy. So if we come from a dysfunctional relationship with our parents, especially our parents of the opposite sex, or we’ve been in a series of dysfunctional relationships, dysfunction is what’s familiar.
If during the dating stage we tolerate things that we deem unacceptable, inappropriate, or just too difficult, but we stay in the relationship—then after we start falling in love—we’re apt to start bartering and trading off negative traits for positive traits. We end up compromising in unhealthy ways.
Early in the dating process we must turn away from that which is unacceptable to us—even if it is familiar—before we find ourselves committed to a difficult partnership, or a partnership based on the delusion that we can change the other person.
Maybe this will help:
- During the dating stage—one strike and he’s out.
- During the relating phase—two strikes and she’s out.
- During the mating (marriage) phase—three strikes and he’s out.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, of course all of these decisions must take into consideration a larger context, but my point is simple—early on in a relationship the other person hasn’t earned second chances.
The longer we’re together with our partner—assuming things are good—the more trust our partners earn. Some tolerance becomes appropriate. But even so, love is still conditional.
If we aware ourselves that our biological and chemical drives—love is like an opiate—leave us vulnerable to making poor choices, we can more consciously navigate the territory of love.
If we apply this idea of being rather intolerant early on, we can attract a partner who wants to meet our standards and this becomes the basis for a sustainable partnership.
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