If you’re trying to find a good partner—male or female—one key is to apply your criteria before love takes hold. Whatever criteria you have—a financially stable partner, a person who wants to start a family, a person who is emotionally mature—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 person. As we fall 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 to us based 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 very early in the dating process we tolerate things that we deem unacceptable, inappropriate, or just too difficult, then after we tumble into love we’re apt to start bartering—trading off negative traits for positive traits. We accept things that in the long run will become unacceptable.
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 partner earns. 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.