It is one of the most common reasons for coming to see us in Cantabria. “I am without a partner. I want to find the man/woman of my life.” Finding a partner and having children is hardwired into most of us. It can feel like a hunger or emptiness that we have to fill. “I still haven’t met anyone suitable and time is running out!”
Our evolutionary mission is to survive and procreate. We are driven to make this happen. My experience is that this drive is usually stronger in women than men, although many men do experience something similar but usually later in life.
When we are in this “finding a partner” mode, we perceive everyone we meet through the filter “Is this the one?” “This might be the one.”
Your genes do not care if you are happy just so long as you procreate. This genetic imperative can become an obsession. When this happens your chances of ever finding a good match become close to zero. Obsession and grasping distort both our perception and behaviour. When we are desperate for something we also become vulnerable to abuse. This usually means a chain of unsuitable, unhappy or abusive relationships.
Obsession can also drive us into an addictive relationship, bouncing between euphoria when things go well, followed by the pain and anguish when inevitably the next relationship-threatening drama arises, followed by euphoria, followed by anguish etc. It is easy to fall into the trap “if only he/she would change” or “if only I could get him/her to stop doing that, we would be happy”. The question is not whether you will be able to love an imaginary “changed person” in the future but can you be happy your whole life with the real person that is right there in front of you, exactly as they are and without changes or modifications.
Personally, when I was younger, I myself suffered a sensation of emptiness and looked to romance, sex and love. I thought that another person would fill that emptiness. I can tell you from experience that this is a terrible basis for a relationship.
What can we do? Having lived and experienced all that I have written about above and having the great fortune to be very happily married for nearly thirty years. I suggest the following:
- Try taking a holiday from your search. I went from one turbulent relationship to another, culminating in a disastrous marriage, followed by separation and obsessively chasing sex. I decided I needed some peace, to take out of my life the distraction of romantic relationships, of sex, of forcing love. I decided to become celibate for at least a year. I needed to do this just to find some quiet. An unexpected upshot of all this was that for the first time in my life I discovered friendship with females. In the end I was celibate for 20 months at the end of which I met Rhea. Celibacy and all of the work I did in that time meant that I entered into my relationship with Rhea accompanied by a greater sense of awareness. I did not need to be with Rhea; I chose to be with her.
- Make it a project: “project you”. Learning how to care of yourself is the single most important thing you can do. Why not choose to make it a year of self-discovery, growth, and self-acceptance. Remember that the best gift that you can give to yourself, to those around you and any future relationship is to be centred, present in your life, self-accepting, kind to yourself and others.
- Get your needs met where they can be met. That might seem as if I am stating the obvious, but much suffering is caused because when we are in a relationship where the other cannot or does not want to meet our needs (eg. fidelity, trust, financial, intellectual, religious, affectionate, shared purpose, etc.) We all are different with different needs in a relationship. In my case my need is for absolute trust. Be with someone who can meet those needs.
- Don’t try to change your partner. It is one of the commonest mistakes. “I love these bits of him/her”, if only they would change “that one thing” everything would be right as rain. If you try to “fix” your partner, you will make both yourself and the other person crazy.
- Love is a verb. Falling in love is different from loving. Falling in love is a deliciously crazy sickness used by evolution/nature to ensure procreation. To love someone is very different. It has nothing to do with being the victim of your hormones, pheromones, and desires. It is an activity. It is to cherish your partner and their wellbeing. It is a conscious choice, not because you need to be with that person but because you choose to. You create your own experience of love in your relationship.
- Learn to listen. Many difficulties or problems in relationships are down to poor communications. Learn how to listen. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
What I have written here is based on my own hard-won experience and the experience of working with other people on the same issues. The key, as with so much in life, is to know and accept yourself.