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Life Partners

How do we choose the person we decide to spend the rest of our life with? Obviously there has to be some physical attraction and chemistry, but hopefully we look beyond appearances. We may focus on compatibility factors, similar interests, education, and morals/values. Choosing a life partner can be a difficult task and sometimes our gender influences which criteria we use. Men tend to focus more on physical attraction while women focus on ambition, character, and potential. Both genders look for someone who is competent and kind. Often people are drawn to people like themselves. However, it is equally true that opposites attract. We may be attracted to someone who has attributes that we admire and don't personally possess. For example, you may be an introvert but are attracted to an extrovert with the hopes that either they will carry the social burden or will stretch you as you strive to incorporate their ease in social situations. Or maybe you are drawn to a person who is more driven and ambitious than you are. You hope that these attributes will motivate you to strive to do more.

When we look for a partner who compliments our personality type, we make a better team. The hope is that we adopt some of their positive traits and they incorporate some of our positive traits. Based on evolutionary theory, we want a mate who will increase the chance of survival and be an asset to our lives. In some cases we are seeking a person who can fill a void or make up for something that was missing from our childhood. We may be seeking a patient and supportive person because we didn't have that from our parents. Or maybe we are looking for someone who can challenge us since we weren't challenged growing up. On the flip side, we may be drawn to a partner who possesses characteristics that we admired in our mother or father, such as humor or decisiveness.

In some instances, people unconsciously look for a mate who allows them to work through their own issues from the past. For example, sometimes people seek a dysfunctional, distant, or unloving mate because they're familiar with that type of person from their childhood and try to re-create the scenario with a different outcome. In other words, if they felt unlovable or unworthy from their parental relationship, they find a similar person to try to gain their love and approval. We are complicated beings and sometimes we're not even consciously aware of how our brain works and ways we may be working through past trauma in our current relationship. Sometimes, professional counseling is needed to help unravel all the motivations and issues in a relationship.

Since we are imperfect human beings, the reality is that there is no perfect soulmate or person out there for any of us and even good relationships require time and energy. At the same time, healthy and positive relationships can bring tremendous joy and fulfillment to life. Take some time to become aware of the qualities that attracted you to your life partner and focus on improving yourself while accepting your spouse's differences. Maybe those differences can actually make you a better person.

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