Dating Fallacy #1: The Search for A Specialness in Love
Searching for an ideal “special” love, we all recognize that desire. It’s the quest to find that person who isn’t only kind and gives us special treatment, but who also makes us feel alive and full of passion, the ones we crave like a drug, even when they end up not being good for us.
We can recognize it when two people are infatuated with each other, almost to an obsessive degree of thinking about each other 24/7. Their eyes sparkle bright at the sight of each other, while they are consumed by an intense attachment too irresistible for either to deny. Romantic fictions have played with this particular quest for love in order to draw audiences.
And we recognize when it’s absent, like when a couple seems more inclined to tolerate each other instead of love their partner’s presence, focusing on the minutiae of their lives, bills, errands, who was supposed to do what, and so on.
Searching for some kind of “special” love seems like a noble thing to do. The alternative is to settle, and who really wants to do that?
But what if an over-insistence on finding that “special” someone might be more of a liability than an asset.
Searching for an “ideal” partner at the expense of ignoring a peson for who he or she really is can actually be a way of missing out on a meaningful connection.
It is a form of holding back from any relationship until “the right one” arrives to clear away all of a person’s relationship conflicts. It is a fallacy, an illusion that has kept many of us, myself included, from recognizing genuine connections in front of us.
This fallacy could also be called searching for the perfect connection. Steven Carter and Julia Sokol call this fantasy a search for a feeling instead of an actual person:
What is it that you are looking for? What is it you are hoping to find? Experience tells me that it’s not really a person you are chasing down the street, it is a feeling that you are after. That magical feeling so many of us are desperate to find is the feeling of “perfect connection” that exists only in our dreams (202).
I have fallen into this fallacy. At the time I was dating Taylor. We had a good relationship. We enjoyed each other’s company, shared similar outlooks, and she had all the qualities that would make for an amazing long-term partner. She was loyal, supportive, non-judgmental, and compassionate. But I couldn’t appreciate these things in Taylor because I wasn’t inspired to love her in the same way that I loved Haley.
Haley was a co-worker who inspired butterflies in my stomach. She would make me feel giddy. I treasured every scrap of conversation I had with Haley because I felt so high in her presence. I would become animated whenever we talked. I would stare at her with my eyes wide in wonder, trying to find any way to make her laugh or entertain her. I had a serious crush. There was only one problem. She didn’t feel the same way, and we barely talked. It was pathetic.
But I was addicted to the feeling she inspired in me. I wanted that special kind of feeling in a relationship, and I didn’t feel it with Taylor. I wish I had. Better yet, I wish I had recognized the difference between infatuation and a real relationship. Now I see that because I was so caught up in how Haley made me feel, I ignored the wonderful woman who was right in front of me.
Another instance was when I met Meagan, the first girl I was ever really excited to date. I felt wonderful in her presence. It was a feeling of exhilaration and anticipation. I felt overjoyed like a child on a sugar-rush. And I believe she felt the same way.
But as the relationship moved forward, the reality of our circumstances started to come in stark contrast to our idealized feelings.
Meagan started to disappear from time to time. We would make plans, but when I would call her, she wouldn’t answer. She once told me that she just needed to disappear in order to get away from all the problems she had with her family.
I was unable to handle the situation. I didn’t know how to communicate my feelings or needs at the time. And I was closed-off in my own ways. I am sure that made it difficult for her to get know me.
We never really communicated about anything that brought us closer, things like our values, our likes and dislikes, our plans for the future, and we didn’t meet each other’s real needs. But when we were in each other’s presence, we felt “special.” Meagan was like the ideal romantic partner to me: pale, skinny, brunette, sexually aggressive and adventurous, with a twisted sense of dark humor and sensibilities. I don’t know what ideal I was for her, but she saw something “special” in me too.
We were drunk on love. We were drunk on loving the ideal version of each other, but not the real one. I never really found out much about Meagan’s family problems, nor do I think she ever really got to know me.
We were only each other’s perfect ideal mates, and that was not enough to maintain a connection.
In total, I was not ready to deal with a partner who would disappear. Meagan was not able to get through my closed-off behavior. We ignored the reality of who we were to each other, and it cost us.
So, what’s the lesson? I found my ideal, and I was still unhappy. I was searching for a special feeling that I thought would bring me closer to what I was looking for. I was wrong. I should have been spending more time learning about myself. I should have spent more time getting to know my needs, Meagan’s needs, Taylor’s needs, what we were looking for, and how to negotiate those needs so that we could have had a mutually satisfying and meaningful connection.
I have learned that commitment problems have to be overcome from within, not from another person changing me. There is no special “right” person who is going to come along and remove all obstacles. I don’t want to chase a feeling and risk missing out on real people. Finally, I am not advocating for anyone to settle. Don’t settle. Just be mindful. And let that mindfulness involve recognizing when one is searching for a feeling instead of a person.
Carter, Steven, and Sokol, Julia. Getting to Commitment: Overcoming the 8 Greatest Obstacles to Lasting Connection (And Finding the Courage to Love). New York: M. Evans, 1998. Print.