She was looking for an imposing type of man: a full head of hair, preferably a French ambassador or at least a university professor. The man of her dreams, in other words. Then her friends introduced her to a ceramicist, very well read, with a great sense of humour and a shiny, bald head. It wasn’t a case of love at first sight, but something clicked the second or third time they might – and the presumed Mr Wrong turned out to be Mr Right.
It’s absolutely not a matter of ‘making do’ with someone (“It’s better than being alone”). In choosing a partner you can only make constructive compromises once you’ve found out what works for you.
Just a little flaw …
There are some things you just can’t live with (or without), and you need to be clear about these. For instance, if you know that you really couldn’t hit it off with someone who isn’t educated to your level, then you should stick with that, but remember too that there will always be something about a new love that we would like to change if we could: their bank balance, their weight, their cheeky teenage sons … It comes down to whether the divergence from your ideal is a tolerable flaw or a fundamental fault. Examine what you really feel about women with small children or men who’ve been divorced twice or potential partners who are 10 years younger than you. If you exclude people from your search who are a few years younger or older than you, you could be seriously compromising your options.
Many of our conceptions of the ideal man or woman have been influenced by other people and we could do well to jettison them. You also need to think about your own market value. If you don’t look like Brad Pitt, then maybe you can’t expect your very own Angelina Jolie … Once you’ve fallen in love, your attitudes to a person’s supposed shortcomings somehow changes.
Open-minded – not blind
Be clear to yourself about the educational and social attributes that you consider essential in a future partner. If you keep an open mind you stand to gain a great deal, not least from the other person’s frame of reference. If two people share values and respect each other, then almost any relationship becomes possible. When it comes to compromises, you should hold relatively firm on fundamental values and attitudes, but you should be prepared to be flexible when it comes to other aspects of life. If you like punk rock and your latest prospect likes Andrew Lloyd Webber, you can probably find your way round the problem. But a man with classic good looks and an interesting job is not a great deal of use to you if you can’t laugh with him and agree on what constitutes a relationship in general – and fidelity in particular.
Partners can learn a great deal from each other, but don’t count on being able to change another person according to your wishes – it nearly always becomes a matter of love’s labours lost.
Susan Page: If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?: Ten Strategies That Will Change Your Love Life Forever