In my study of what makes a relationship work, I read an article in Psychology Today last December called The Right Stuff. The primary theory behind it is that the important things to look for when choosing a mate are certain traits and the absence of addictive or abusive behaviors. I have adapted this list of traits to the following:
- A good sense of humor
- An even temper and positive attitude
- A willingness to overlook my flaws
- A sensitivity to me and what I care about
- An ability to express caring in a way I understand
- Addiction free (this includes but is not limited to cigarettes, alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, work, sports, sex)
I have posted these before so to you regulars out there (thank you for reading), this is nothing new but I bring it up again because I think that there is a level of compatibility that must be present to facilitate pleasant daily co-habitation (if that is one’s goal in a relationship). Over the last year, I have been out with two men who, on paper, would be a mother’s ideal pick for their daughter. Both successful, wealthy, physically fit and good-looking with out any obvious signs of addiction. Both seemed fairly interested in pleasing me and learning ways to express caring that I understand and keen to discover what I care about. What’s not to like?
Problem: The basis of compatible core values was missing.
Though we shared some things in common and there was enough different to at first glance keep things interesting, there was a miss-match in terms of priority of those things and a basic incompatibility of core values.
An example of what I am talking about would be:
Say you and a potential mate both like performing arts and sports. Great! That is something in common. But you are passionate about opera and on a scale of one to ten opera is on a negative 5 for him. In terms of sports, he has season tickets to every sport imaginable (including away games) and your passion for sports manifests itself by way of active participation rather than being an observer. The difference is too great for compatibility in terms of these two areas of you lives. Although sports and performing arts are surface issues (for most people) you get the idea.
Take that disparity of what is valued deeper to things like how others should be treated, level of respect for the planet and people’s rights to choose the healthcare they personally see fit. Those deeper beliefs don’t all have to match up but there has to be enough in common on which to build a foundation of respect which is often the glue in a relationship when times get tough. And eventually times will get tough.
I had the opportunity, recently to examine my core values in relationship to someone else’s and decided not to date them. Although there were several issues that prevented me from pursuing a relationship one that scared the hell out of me was a difference of opinion concerning quality of life. I pictured a scenario in which I had been in some horrible accident and could not communicate what I wanted in terms of medical treatment and having this person have the ability to decide that for me based on their belief system rather than mine. That right there was a deal breaker.
The good news is that in talking with that man, I came to realize some of my core values which are:
- Every person has the right to decide what is best for their own body
- The pursuit of material wealth is a piss poor way to spend one’s life
- Everyone has a right to express their opinion in a peaceful way
- Creative expression is a basic human need
- Drugs (legal or illegal) are bad and legal one’s should be used as a last resort
- Spending time staying healthy is a priority -this includes spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health
- You can only change yourself so it is foolish to waste time trying to change other people (or whining)
- Each human has a responsibility to treat the planet respectfully (supply and demand dictates this course of action)
As I said, a significant other may differ with me on a couple of these but there must be several in common in order to make things work for the long-term.