15 July, 2009

Why are at least half of us selecting the wrong partners?

By Paul Mauchline

I am not an anti-divorce advocate. Divorce is necessary in cases of physical or mental abuse, or in the case of two people who are so incompatible that they never should have been together in the first place. Certainly, if your partner is mentally or physically abusive to you or your children -- or if he or she exhibits any signs of violent behavior -- you cannot ignore these signs. You are putting yourself, and possibly others, in serious jeopardy. Divorce in such cases is merited.

However, considering the alarming divorce statistics worldwide and the growth and economic success of the divorce industry, I have to question whether we seriously consider the question -- "Are you the one for me?" -- before marriage. In my opinion, if relationships are failing at such an alarming rate, why did these people get together in the first place? I have heard many excuses for why relationships fail: "he/she has changed since we met"; "we just grew apart"; "the love just disappeared from the relationship; "we weren't compatible"; "financial troubles got in our way"; "we weren't communicating anymore"; "he/she was unfaithful and cheated on me." To me, the reasons are not important. The real issue is why two people meet, date, court one another, commit to a relationship, purchase a home, have children, get into debt together, and then decide, "You are not the one for me." Whether you have lived together for two years or twenty years, such a decision has repercussions not only for the two individuals who are splitting up, but also for children, friends, and family as well.

Why are we failing, today, in recognizing what we want as individuals, and what we want and need from our relationships? Now, the sixty-four dollar question: why are at least half of us selecting the wrong partners? I do not feel that we are honestly examining the question "are you the one for me?" as much as we may think we are. Relationships are a big part of life for most of us. It is part of our human existence that we choose a mate, share love and intimacy, provide comfort and security for one another, and, in many cases, have and nurture children together. Since intimate, loving relationships are so important to us, many of us are willing to make great sacrifices in order to have a relationship. When we finally meet that potential partner who pushes most of the right buttons, we feel a sense of relief that our search is now over. We are thrilled to have found a partner, a person with whom to have a relationship and share our life. Sometimes, though, we fool ourselves in the initial euphoria of love: we are not honest with ourselves about the things that bother us about our partner. We hope that these things simply will go away. We might ignore upsetting issues and allow them to pass without challenging them, or avoid topics of discussion that could lead to disagreements. We may tell ourselves that the things that bother us about our partner are not very important or that we are being too picky. We may be hesitant about asking questions of our partner that may reveal potential problems for the relationship. We need to make compromises in relationships, but we should not sacrifice our personal dreams and goals for them. By ignoring potential problems, we abandon ourselves for the sake of the relationship.

Many of the warning signs of incompatibility or potential conflict between two partners are present from the beginning of the relationship. The problem lies in recognizing these challenges and addressing them early on in the relationship, before they become irreconcilable differences. If important issues are irreconcilable from the start, it is a good indication that the relationship will not succeed. Each of us is a unique person, with individual qualities, needs, strengths, and imperfections. In relationships with others, two unique individuals come together, and try to live in harmony with one another. Each person's qualities interact with the other's to set the mood or tone of the relationship. It is the cumulative effect of many attributes in another that make us feel safe and comfortable in a relationship. Many of us fall in love with one aspect or very few aspects of our partners, and try to downplay the other aspects that make us unhappy. Often this gets us into trouble. If we spend our time and energy trying to reassure ourselves that the problems with our partner do not exist, we may be ignoring the issues that will slowly, cumulatively destroy the relationship.

Why do we choose to ignore these problems? Why do we insist on having a relationship when we know deep down inside that this person is not the one? Why do we choose to set ourselves up for emotional hurt? There are many answers to these questions, but fear is probably the greatest motivating factor for these choices. We fear being unable to find somebody with whom to share our life. We fear living alone. We fear being the last of our friends to be in a committed relationship. We fear the financial hardships of doing it alone in a society of two-income households. We fear growing old and dying alone.

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