When you set out to find someone to fill that void in your life, you tend to develop an image of them in your mind: lovely smile; nicely dressed; passionate about their interests, a steady job – maybe a great sense of comedic timing or a quick wit. But it’s easy to descend further into pure fantasy and construct some kind of Total Recall perfection from a menu of desirable attributes. By mentally selecting for height, body type, social status, specific skills and interests, intellect, domestic ability and financial status, what we’re really doing is deciding that pretty much everyone isn’t quite good enough for us. It’s time to forget about this perfect person, because they don’t exist.
Go for values, not attributes
When you’re conjuring up your dream love interest, you’re often focusing on superficial attributes. Attributes are a basket full of goodies that we discover along the way – they should not form the sole basis of whether or not we invite someone into our lives. Shared values and goals, on the other hand, are the best indicator of whether you’re a good match. Very different people who want the same things are going to be stronger as a couple than very similar people who want different things.
Values aren’t just about the priorities you ascribe to aspects of your life – they are the things you consider so important that breaching those values is an affront to your core being. Political and social values, justice systems, relationships with family, religion or secularism, and relationship parameters – these are the sorts of things many of us use to define ourselves and our limits of acceptability. Imagine what a terrific start a relationship would have if you both closely align on many of these points. And if the spark doesn’t become a fire, you may well have found a very dear friend.
Holding up a mirror
The other trap people can fall into, particularly people who are quite comfortable in their own skin and enjoy their own company, is to look for someone who mirrors them. They are looking for someone who likes the same music, movies, books, art, politicians, home décor, holiday destinations, food, physical activities and method of socializing. What they are really looking for is a clone, and that’s a recipe for disappointment. Why not find a complementary partner – somebody who is at ease with your personality traits, and appreciates your personal taste, but does not necessarily echo each and every sentiment? Besides, who really wants to spend the rest of their lives being completely unchallenged by a dissenting idea?
Don’t limit your selection pool
When we get stuck on features like long hair or a six-packed torso, and attributes like job title and financial status, we are deliberately putting on the blinkers for all those cropped-haired, slightly paunched, middle-income singles out there that might just be perfectly suited to us. Paunch can fluctuate and jobs come and go, but our desires, our core personalities and our hopes and dreams tend to stay with us. When we start out in harsh judgment, we are not only limiting our selection pool, we are setting up roadblocks for real love.
The power of attraction
Don’t underestimate the power of attraction. When two people click, suddenly the person you wouldn’t have looked twice at in the street becomes wonderfully vital, interesting and a pleasure to behold. The features you weren’t quite sold on initially are seen through a new lens of appreciation. That local government or retail job that really turned you off doesn’t at all define them, and is now irrelevant. What you’ve realized is that a certain charm and personality can make the aesthetically average person suddenly irresistible. You share ideas on society and politics and you both feel strongly about the same causes, and there’s so much to talk about. They will not be perfect – because everybody is flawed – but they just might be perfect for you.