Love is not as complicated as we make it out to be
Too often, we make finding a partner about finding someone who meets a check list of criteria — most of which doesn’t even matter when it comes to a meaningful relationship.
We’re create demands to distract ourselves from the real work of discerning what’s important.
And I’m not going to tell you what you should want; I’m only suggesting that we define it better. Sometimes people get hung up on things that don’t really matter in love. They forget that in order to prioritize one thing, you have to de-emphasize others. If you try to shoot for “everything,” you end up with nothing.
#1 for EVERYONE: Emotional Maturity
Self-sufficiency. Emotional health and stability. Responsibility. Grace.
Without it, there’s effectively no relationship.
And with it, everything else will follow suit.
This isn’t just number one on my own list, it’s the most important thing in any relationship, and a responsibility that falls on both partners.
Mark Manson calls it,
“People who manage their insecurities well”
“The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.”
Karen Salmansohn called it
“good character values”
i.e., “not a psychopath.”
Anna Faris describes meeting husband Chris Pratt similarly, saying,
“The most striking thing about him was that he knew how to be happy.”
She had previously accepted “cynicism, discontent, and anger” in others, but with Chris she realized that the opposite made her happier.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits uses the term “emotionally self-reliant,” saying,
“We look for happiness from others, but this is an unreliable source of happiness… And here’s the thing: it’s not their job to fill our emotional needs.”
Zaid Dahhaj describes emotional self-sufficiency as “your relationship with yourself,” saying,
“If you do not love yourself entirely and actively ensure your own needs are met, you will find it difficult to do the same for others.”
And when we talk about “actively ensuring your own needs are met,” we do not mean “actively asking others to meet them” —we cannot ask others to manage our feelings of insecurity, jealousy, anxiety, fear, anger, toxicity, defensiveness; these are first ours to handle.
Being able to perceive situations with clarity, understand what we need, take responsibility for our own mistakes, and communicate fairly is what makes us a mature adult.
Emotional health means both partners work to meet their needs themselves.
The other 2 things I want and need…
I like the simplicity of “trifectas” — with “tall, dark and handsome” being the classic (albeit bad) example — and when it comes to my own, it’s this:
“emotional stability, friendship and critical thought.”
#2: Friendship and Understanding
I yearn for these in love.
I wanted someone who was pickin up what I’m puttin down and makes me laugh just as often — an inside joke or two, total bonus. I wanted comfort and ease and play; someone who“gets me” in my mentally “pajama’d” state, my thoughts sprawled out and talking nonsense at the ceiling. I wanted laughter and warmth, the tie loosened at the end of the day and the little adorable marbled bits of being a human rolling loosely on our hardwood floors.
#3: Critical Thinking
Too often people bastardize the idea of “smart” as “knowing a lot of facts,” “being good at trivia,” “having an advanced degree,” or “working a big job.”
But real intelligence isn’t about what you know. It’s how you think. It’s problem solving —figuring out the answer, not remembering it. It’s being handed a spaghetti problem and massaging a reasonable solution out of it.
My current partner has all three in spades — and makes me very happy.
Nothing else matters
We lose focus so easily.
We find someone and then want them to be “everyone,” a perfect package smattering of all the best qualities, many of which contradict each other at their core. Or we find someone and then tack on a bunch of extra qualities that just cloud things up, dumping ketchup on our steak or adding every. single. topping. to our ice cream. It doesn’t work — it just ruins things, not least of which is our perspective of our partner, who is, at the end of the day, just another human being.
Keep it simple, and focused.
Again, I won’t suggest that these second two should be yours, too — you pick what matters to you. Maybe it’s adventure. Maybe it’s commitment and consistency; the feeling of being safe. Maybe it’s art and poetry and color; I don’t know.
But there is a lot to be said for focus when it comes to things like this — eliminating the noise and narrowing in on only a few things: the one thing that matters most, and two others that matter to you.