Abandoning The Notion of Perfection
As women, we are raised to have a lot of expectations about relationships. Images of a princess-perfect wedding day, complete with a gorgeous, flawless partner, have given us ideas that there is someone out there who will be everything we need, all the time. Of course, as we grow up and enter the dating world, we realize that things often don’t go smoothly the first time around (or the second, third, or fourth times). But is it because the people we choose are wrong for us, or because we expect too much from them?
We tend to have a fear of “settling”, of ending up accepting or even marrying someone who isn’t really the right person, simply because we don’t want to be alone. But what has happened is that in our quest not to settle, we often set impossibly high standards that no partner could ever reach. I have friends who dump fantastic partner after fantastic partner for infractions like “he snores too much,” or, “she makes weird facial expressions when she eats.” The truth is, if you’re going to leave everyone who isn’t exactly how you want them to be all the time, then in the end you’re going to end up leaving everyone. Remember, you also have annoying habits that your dream partner would cringe at, so if you want partners to cut you slack, start by giving them the same. If your partner makes you feel good and has all the basic things that you’re looking for, don’t start making up reasons to get out of the relationship just because they annoy you sometimes. No two people will ever match perfectly in every situation, so allow some room for personal quirks (which tend to become endearing after a while).
You also have to stop thinking of your partner as a one-stop shop for all your emotional needs. No doubt your life has many aspects (work, home, friends, social activities), so there’s no reason to pin all the responsibility on your partner when it comes to fulfillment in all those areas. Just because they don’t like the same music you do, don’t start thinking that it’s going to be awful and unfulfilling to spend the rest of your life with someone you can’t go to the same concerts with. You have friends who like your music — just go with them instead! Not only will you still hear the music you like, you’ll get to spend time with your friends, too, which is often an area we let suffer when we get involved in romance. All the different people in your life give you different emotional boosts (and you them), so let them help fill those roles when your partner doesn’t. This gives your partner time to nurture their friendships, also, which will make both of you more well-rounded people. There are plenty of other things you can do together, so don’t get hung up if one minor aspect of your lives doesn’t match up the way it might have in your dream of the perfect relationship.
So where should you draw the line between acceptance and refusal when determining what things you demand in a partner? You have to ask yourself what the deal breakers really are for you, and what things you might be able to get over. I have friends who say they’re envious of my ability to make a relationship last so long, but then they tell me they dumped the last person they were dating because of some annoying habit. If I had dumped every partner who ever did something that annoyed me, I would never have had a relationship longer than a week. Try raising your tolerance threshold a bit — there’s nothing wrong with being strong enough to handle a few ups and downs. My partner and I have small issues that pop up at various intervals, but the truth is he’s a great guy that I really connect with, and I would never dream of throwing that away just because I had imagined myself with someone a little more this or a little less that. Over time I’ve actually learned to love his more eccentric quirks (and he mine), and the result is a relationship that’s more dynamic and engaging than anything I could have conjured up in my vision of “perfection”. It’s really nice to be with someone who doesn’t do everything exactly how I would normally do it, even if I want to whine and complain about his methods sometimes. It keeps life interesting.
Obviously you should never put up with things like verbal or physical abuse, and of course if someone does not share any of the same goals and interests as you there’s no point in trying to turn a bad fit into a good fit. But healthy relationships are not perfectly strong from the outset; they take work and compromise. Compromising is not the same thing as settling, and remember that your partner should be giving you some leeway, too. Allow yourself to accept that even a seemingly perfect relationship has some flaws, and hopefully you can bring yourself to a point where you’re giving people a fair chance to dazzle you, instead of bailing out at the first hurdle.