One of my favorite lines from a movie, and I can’t for the life of me remember which movie it was in, occurs when the main character was asked what his definition of love is. He responds by saying he looks for someone he’d want “standing beside him in the bunker in the middle of a battle.” The one thing in my life I’m so grateful for each and every day, is my relationship with my wife that at various times during the past 26 years has been a pleasure cruise, a heart-throttling adventure, a romantic tryst, and a life preserver in turbulent seas. It’s so difficult to identify the “secret” to our happy relationship, but I know a huge part of it is our understanding that our partner needs space to grow, change, and evolve into what (s)he needs to be at that moment in time.
So what do you look for in a partner? I recently read an interesting article in Psychology Today that explores women’s preferences in selecting a life partner. Apparently the criteria change depending on a woman’s menstrual cycle. When fertility levels are at their peak, women gravitate towards masculine and dominant men. This is your strong-jawed Machiavellian type. The researchers do point out that this type of attraction often only offers short-term prospects. An interesting side-bar to this was that these characteristics, which women are drawn to during this phase of their cycle, are the same characteristics seen in sociopaths and narcissists. At less fertile points throughout a woman’s cycle, she is more receptive to compassionate men, what many people refer to as “dad material.” The researchers also looked at the qualities women were seeking in potential sperm donors for artificial insemination. It appears that superficial characteristics related to physical beauty take precedence over character and educational background.
Now, what do men look for in a partner? I decided to turn to well-known professional match-maker Samantha Daniels to glean some insights into this hot-button topic. As a man, I have to admit that I’m a little uncomfortable with the media’s portrayal of men as single-minded Neanderthals obsessed with a woman’s physical appearance. In one of Brene Brown’s Ted Talks, she describes the startling truth she uncovered during her research into shame and vulnerability. People rarely acknowledge the incredible anxiety and shame that the majority of men experience having to live up to the image of “valiant warrior”, and the pressure they feel not to disappoint the women in their lives. What I find most interesting about Samantha Daniels’ take on this issue is her approach to what men don’t want in a relationship. Among some of the personality traits that men are most averse to are: “Miss I Want To Change You”, “Miss I Speak To My Mother 5 Times A Day About Everything”, “Miss Keeping Up With The Jones”, and my personal favorite, “Miss I Don’t Eat.”
Who knows how much of that is white noise or pop psychology, but I think we can defer to that universal truth that applies to most things in life: You are only as strong as your greatest weakness. I wholeheartedly believe that what we project into the world is what we attract. If I want someone who allows me to be vulnerable, encourages me to evolve, and is courageous enough to be there in the struggles and in the uncertainties, I’d better be willing to offer all that to my partner too. Aristotle described love as being composed of “a single soul inhabiting two bodies” and happiness as “the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.”
When I look into my wife’s eyes, I’m reminded of a line from the movie Jerry Maquire, and it’s not the line you’re thinking of. It’s when Dorthy (played by Renee Zellweger) says: “I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.”