Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Right One: Where to Begin

Three people enjoy the summer sky over the Del...Image via Wikipedia
A few years ago, someone came up with the statistics indicating for each one of us there are approximately 168 persons who could be the ideal mate. I don't know how they came up with those figures nor if they are any where near accurate. It's comforting to know, however, there's at least more than one. I mean, it's hard enough finding Ms. or Mr. Right as it is, knowing the odds are increased by the numbers is encouraging.

The question is, where do you start looking? A psychologist once told me, "You need to decide what kind of life you want and then devise the steps necessary to obtain it. Don't expect it to unfold on the basis of luck." If he was right, and I think he was, finding the right person involves first determining what they look like before trying to figure out where they're most likely to be found. If we don't know what we're looking for, how will we know it when we find it?

When introducing someone to amateur astronomy, the best approach is to teach them how to use star charts and visualize with the naked eye, before turning them loose with a telescope. Telescopes present a highly targeted view of a very specific area of the night sky. Stargazing helps us get to know our way around the stellar neighborhood so that, once we begin using that new Celestron beauty, we're less likely to get lost, become frustrated, and donate it to the Salvation Army.

Herein lies the problem with current dating practices, as I see it. People hook up on the premise that you never really know someone until you live with them. A few dates, therefore, leads to moving in and we make the rest up as we go. This is very much like starting out with a telescope before you can tell the difference between a star and a planet (stars twinkle, planets don't). Furthermore, it's a practice based on the false and unconscious assumption that we will find ourselves by looking at our reflection in a partner. Narcissists are extraordinarily adept at making us think we're beautiful, talented, intelligent -- their every dream come true -- but what they reflect is a fantasy intended to mystify and ensnare. What we see is not us, but them as they wish to be seen and what you see is never what you get.

All relationships involve some degree of projection. But once the image of ourselves we have imagined the other person embodying, begins to fade and we realize they are themselves, it's easy to lose interest. We say, "S/he's not who I thought they were," and we're right. It's because we began the relationship not knowing who we are, what are our preferences, our values, and depended on Sue or Bill to help us define them.


Single living is neither a curse nor evidence of undesirability. It's a chance to become comfortable taking care of ourselves, meeting our own needs for self-esteem, and developing as persons who can engage others meaningfully. In other words, it's an opportunity for self-discovery. Lately, however, the statement, "I'm single" is often accompanied by embarrassment, as if it's equivalent to saying, "I screwed up." And that is simply not true. In an environment where coupling is common, it's difficult but necessary to alter one's thinking.

Accordingly, the first thing we have to discover is Planet Self, and that brings us to your homework assignment. You've probably done this before, so it won't seem alien. Take some paper and begin listing your personal traits, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Be honest and very specific. And also include a section devoted to what you know about yourself deep down inside, what lies at the core of your being, those things you must have in your life to feel complete. I realize this sounds ABC but there's a reason for doing it. Short of signing up with eHarmony, it helps to have a clearly defined image of you as a person to provide us with a context for including someone else. Until we know what you look like, we have no way of knowing if we've found the right one or just "another" one.
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