There are many reasons why we marry the person we do but much of it actually comes down to timing. You were both probably ready to make an emotional commitment to someone at this time in your lives.
Unless a person is ready to become involved in a serious relationship, they may date many people only to find that each one has a number of deficiencies in terms of what you are looking for.
The endgame in mind
When this “pickiness” occurs time and time again with a person who claims to be seriously looking for a life partner, you begin to wonder if they just aren’t ready to make certain compromises with their ideals. Actually, the whole process of dating and looking for Mr. or Ms. Right is so exhausting that it naturally leads to a lowering of one’s standards.
Many people refer to this as process and its natural endgame as “settling” and it is considered a bad thing.
But is it a bad thing or is lowering one’s expectations a reasonable thing that allows us to dispense with our obsessive comparing, choose someone, and allow ourselves to make an attachment to this person. Whether we realize it or not we approach dating with a list of ideals in our mind that we are trying to match.
Ideals are genuinely important considerations
A young woman who had just been on a first date, excitedly told me, “He checked all the boxes!” She felt so positive and excited about him.
Some examples of ideals that really are important are physical attractiveness of the person and having some commonalities in backgrounds whether culturally, religiously or socially.
Common interests and general likeability are often seen as characteristics people look for.
Some people insist on a certain level of education, or financial success and some want to see a sense of humor in their future mate.
Rarely does one meet a person who fits all of their ideals perfectly
While it isn’t hard to find a person who satisfies some or even many of these categories, rarely does one meet a person who fits all of their ideals perfectly. And yet most people do move forward with the relationship and learn to adjust to, or work around the things that do not perfectly match up.
So, is this lessening of one’s standards an example of “settling” or is it being flexible and more realistic? And this is where timing comes into play. The people who have met someone who checks most of the boxes, often allow a few of their ideal boxes to go unchecked.
Does that mean they settled for something that wasn’t what they really wanted or did they find that they were quite satisfied with the person on many levels even though all the boxes weren’t checked. And maybe they have found some qualities that they are delighted with which they had not expected or even thought to include in their wish list of characteristics.
In my work with couples who are troubled one of the first emotions I encounter is a sense of disappointment each has regarding the other. Even when much of the relationship does work smoothly and is quite satisfying there is still this negative feeling like a gray cloud hanging over us in the room.
A lingering frustration over one of the original unchecked boxes
When I begin to tease apart what is not working in their relationship I invariably find a lingering frustration over one of the original unchecked boxes. This is a sustained sense of loss that the person has not fully grieved and let go of. They are still hoping to see their partner finally check this empty box so that they will feel truly fulfilled.
It is important to note that no one ever describes it this way. They don’t even realize that this is the problem. These are the couples who are squabbling with each other over seemingly small matters. But the common denominator in these squabbles and arguments is disappointment.
They often say they never expected marriage to make them feel this way. They feel discouraged, sometimes trapped, and even “broken” as a couple.
Although this is not the only problem in their relationship, or even the biggest problem it adds to a chronic feeling of frustration in each other.
Comparing a real person to an imagined ideal that has existed in their minds
When they seek Couples Therapy and this idea of disappointment over what one got compared to what one always wanted and believed they would get, there is a sense of relief that comes over them.
They begin to realize that they are comparing a real person to an imagined ideal that has existed in their minds for years. Understanding this provides a path forward. So, no they didn’t marry the wrong person after all. They just hadn’t let go of their idealistic expectations.