Finding Love and Keeping It: A Guide to Love Relationships
Part 2: Ideal Relationship Partner Guide: Your Vision of Love
By David Quigley
In their search for a loving family, most single people trust their instincts. They fall happily in love with whoever looks appealing, check for a few common interests, and then settle down for what they hope will be a lifetime of happily wedded bliss. The reality however is that most marriages in America today are dismal failures, with close to half ending in divorce. And according to the results of recent broadly demographic surveys, the majority that stay together are finding more disappointment than happiness. In this series of articles I describe many ways we can make our relationships healthier and happier. But in this article, I describe the importance of skillful partner selection in helping make your family a happy one. I have learned through painful personal experience and years of work as a therapist that no matter how many relationship skills one may have developed, they are useless when we are in a love relationship with an inappropriate partner.
There are some basic questions that I feel must be addressed, hopefully within the first two dates, in order to determine true compatibility and avoid wasting time, maybe years, and lots of tears, on the wrong relationship. You should find out what your partner’s vision of a love relationship is all about. This question would seem unnecessary or absurd in a traditional culture where the roles and duties of Husband and Wife are well defined by tradition. Such a society however is a long way from the world in which we live. I recall when I met my first wife how thrilled I was to hear that she wanted to have a child and be a mother. It was only after the birth of my son that she informed me that she wanted nothing to do with his care, because she intended to spend all her time in preparation for a successful career as a world renowned therapist. “Why don’t we hire an au pair?” she would ask whenever I tried to insist that she spend some time at home. While it is not my purpose to judge her lifestyle choices, or anyone else’s, I have to admit to my shock and dismay at discovering how totally different her vision of family life was from mine. And I blame no one but myself for not getting absolutely clear on what “motherhood” meant for her, before committing to a marriage that was wrong for both of us.
Many years ago a couple came to me because they heard I could work miracles as a counselor. They explained they had tried hard to make it work for two years, but needed help. The first thing I asked was for each to describe to me their separate visions of the ideal marriage. Both were absolutely clear. He said, and I paraphrase: “Love for me is about freedom, the freedom to travel anywhere I want, sleep with anyone I want, and know that my beloved is having her own separate adventures which we will share when we are joyously reunited.” She said: “Love for me is about security. I want to know that every night he will, if possible, spend with me. I believe in faithfulness. I want to live together and raise children in the secure nest of our love.”
My response to this couple was that I was not willing to waste their money and time on therapy. I recommended they see a divorce attorney and then get on with their search for a compatible partner. Although they spent another two years of pain and frustration before they gave up on each other, today I still stand by that conclusion.
I believe that in today’s liberated moral climate we have an enormous opportunity to reinvent love relationships and free ourselves from the traditional patriarchal model of breadwinner and housewife. Many of us are using this opportunity to explore open relationships, multiple partnering, and new domestic roles. I have found however that most people looking for a life partner are very clear about what kind of marriage or non-marriage they want. Most either assume that their partner already shares their vision, as I once did, or they assume that under the powerful spell of true love that their partner will change their vision to the “correct” one we want them to have. I have plenty of experience that all such fantasies and assumptions are erroneous. Over time the pain that these fantasies cause our families is incalculable. We cannot in this morally liberated society attempt to shame or brow beat our partner into submission to what we may regard as the “correct moral” choice. Nor can unfailing devotion and kindness be effective for very long at keeping our partner from pursuing his own dream, whatever it may be. The therapeutic and recovery communities figured out many years ago that the truest love from the most devoted partner will not stop an alcoholic from drinking or a libertine from pursuing his sexual addiction. I believe it is equally impossible to make a person change what he or she wants from a love relationship no matter how loving we are, are how worthy our own vision of marriage may be.
So it is easy to prevent these kinds of chronic heartbreaking situations. In the first or second date, simply ask a potential partner to describe “what is your vision of an ideal love relationship?” Then make sure you actually listen to the answer. Don’t fantasize how you will change her. Don’t attempt to convince him of the errors of his ways. Take my word on this from 30 years of experience; if you are sexy he will tell you anything you want to hear. He will agree to reexamine his priorities, he will agree to the righteousness of your vision, he will tell any lie at all if he has a chance of getting laid in the near future. Don’t believe any of it. Instead of judging him or providing him with hints about the right answer, ask him or her right up front and without any preparation. Then listen to and trust this initial response. It may not be pleasant, but it will probably be accurate. Then take some time to decide: is this vision similar enough to my own. Not can I fix her attitude, but can I prosper within this vision of relationship?
If you have doubts about the sincerity of your potential partner’s story, ask about her relationship history. Much can be learned in this way about their true relationship desires. Most experts on romance tell us to avoid discussion of our previous relationships with a new date because these stories can be sordid and a turnoff to romantic excitement. That’s certainly true if you are simply looking for a sympathetic ear to dump your pain into. But if you are looking for true love, discovering a partner’s relationship history will give you critical clues about that person’s hopes and dreams of relationship. And since most people need little prompting to talk about themselves, you are likely to get a lot of data. And you need that data to make a healthy decision.
What kind of questions need to be asked? Your inquiry should include such details as these: sexual lifestyle choices including attitudes about monogamy, swinging, homosexuality, and pornography? What are your needs for romance, sex, affection? Do you want children? How many? How and by whom do you see them being raised? What is your Religion, including how important is it that a partner shares your religious faith? Favorite recreational activities, especially those you would like to share with a romantic partner or mate? How much money do you need, and how in your vision does each of you intend to contribute to the family’s prosperity? I’m reminded of a tee shirt I saw on a beautiful young blonde which said “I hope you can make money faster than I can spend it.” I celebrate the honesty in her approach. I find many of these expectations are not voiced aloud at all, but held like a suicide bomber’s vest close to our chest until the moment they are used to destroy the trust and love in a marriage. Related to this is the question of how much distance or closeness you want in your relationship. One client was repeatedly enraged that her husband spent several weekends a month traveling for his work. She had assumed that once they were married he would stop, because obviously husbands and wives must spend every night together, right? Her husband was appalled that she would make such an assumption, and left the marriage soon after this session. Here’s another clear example of how the assumptions we make and do not share with our lovers can lead us down a wrong road. By sharing these assumptions on the first or second date we can save years of heartbreak.
It is important that we make a clear distinction between those dreams which we consider absolutely essential for relationship happiness and those desires that we can live without. For example, you want children. How critical is this? Can you meet your needs for children with an extended family or step children? Is having a loving partner more important than kids? In order to make a good choice both of you must be honest with each other without judging each other as “wrong.” Always keep reminding yourself that many acceptable lifestyle choices are available in the Twenty-first Century, and you are looking for someone who shares that particular vision that is yours. Honor your choices, honor your desires, and you have a better chance of getting your needs met. Good luck on your search! In the third article in this series I will describe strategies for making any relationship more harmonious.
Articles in this series:
Part 1: Love or Hypnosis? Relationship Partner Choice Error
Part 2: Ideal Relationship Partner Guide: Your Vision of Love
Part 3: Relationship Work: Problem of Partner Assumptions
Part 4: Save a Partner Relationship: Work on a Happy Family
Part 5: Hypnosis of Family Rituals: Sexual Expressions Training in Love Relationships
Part 6: Ritual Work: Need for Family Love, Important Ritual in Relationships
Part 7: First Base to Home Plate: Hypnosis in Sexual Intimacy Therapy, Bond of Pleasure & Ritual