Back in 2013 Susan Patton doled out advice to young Princeton women to find a husband before they graduate or be doomed. In case anyone is still thinking this way, I want to say a few things about compatibility and the criteria for finding a partner.
As I’ve emphasized before, to figure out what makes you compatible with someone you have to know what you are looking for. But first, you must know yourself.
No matter what form this famous aphorism takes – to thine own self be true, know thyself etc. — it’s as true now as it was the first thousand times it has been said by people far wiser than I.
- To know yourself you must identify your core values and life goals.
Your core values serve as markers to let you know your life is on track. When you live a life aligned with your core values you will fulfill one of your highest needs: for your life to have meaning. A few examples of core values are: honesty, stability, openness, self-respect, and compassion. I nod to Ms. Patton here for indeed, intelligence may fall under this heading. If you value your intelligence and want to align with a man who is your intellectual match, recognize that. There is nothing wrong in valuing brains, though Ms. Patton and I disagree about whether intelligence is, in fact, the only criteria worth considering.
- In forging and maintaining a relationship, you don’t want to do things or adjust yourself in ways that go against your grain. If you do, that’s a red flag—you may be acting in opposition to your core values, which ultimately leads to resentment and uneasiness, which can spell disaster in a relationship.
- Associated with your values are your life goals. A life goal is a powerful force that drives you as you live your life, make choices, feel emotions and identify wants and needs. Again, in response to Ms. Patton’s interesting claim that failure to marry before college is over spells doom for women whose goals include finding a smart husband, I must demur. Clearly intellectual rigor can be part of your list of life goals. If you desire to find your intellectual equal to partner with in life, you can do that without checking his Ivy League pedigree. And remember, we all have an intricate and layered collection of life goals that can include everything from wanting a vegetable garden to wanting children, from desiring adventure, or craving security, passion, safety, stimulation or calm. Knowing your life goals means understanding the meaning of your life and your unique role in the world. Finding a compatible partner is more than a one ingredient recipe, despite Ms. Patton’s blunt claims.
- Knowing yourself includes having a handle on your needs in a relationship. We all have needs, and our needs are legitimate. A need is essential to your doing your best, having your best and being your best. Many needs can be met from within you, but we are talking about the needs that must be met within your relationship –from outside of you. When a need is met by a partner, you may feel soothed, glad, loved, understood and valued. When a need is not met, you may feel hurt, angry, frustrated or rejected. Compatibility is a need common to most humans. It includes (yes, Ms. Patton) intellectual compatibility but also emotional, sexual, and spiritual compatibility as well.
- Finally, every relationship has requirements that, if they are missing, qualify as deal-breakers. Maybe you want children. That can be a deal breaker even if you follow Ms. Patton’s roadmap if you find your intellectual equal but he hates kids. Maybe you want respect and equality within the relationship, or shared religious beliefs. Choosing a partner based on education and intellectual pedigree is no guarantee that he or she will want what you want in terms of starting a family, treating each other with loving kindness or going to the same church. Again, this is not a cookie cutter process that can be solved with a single criteria, as Ms. Patton suggests. Be clear about what you require and don’t apologize for it. If you require smart, demand smart. If you require kind, be sure you have that. If you require stamina, flexibility, gentleness or empathy – don’t settle for anything less.
- Make a plan. A plan is good. Ms. Patton suggests a plan: get married before you get out of college or else. If you are reading this blog, you are probably out of college and have been for awhile. Don’t let her scare you. You will create your own plan, based on your values, goals, needs and requirements. Your plan will act as your roadmap to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Think about where you want to end up. Doing so will help you define your dating boundaries and strategies. When you get to know someone who aligns with your core values and goals and is able to meet your needs and requirements, you’ll know it.
To wrap up: find out who you are and then make choices accordingly. In doing so, you will draw people to you who align with your values and goals and you will find compatibility and, yes, love.