Conflicting and confused priorities.

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Marriage is easily the biggest decision most people make in life. It is understandable that you want to get it right. It is entirely proper that you should know what you are looking for and focus on getting what you want. No one wants to later feel they should have stuck to their principles and married someone more like what they were searching for. It is not for anyone to tell you not to insist on finding someone truly suited to you. After all, your lifelong happiness depends on it. Never should you listen to someone whose main message is ‘compromise’. They preach, “do not be picky and you will see it will not be difficult to find a husband.” This is true for some people – see the articles where this is addressed – but it is not the case for most people.

Are your expectations achievable?

Having said all this (sorry for the rant), there are occasions when people have aspirations or expectations that do not hold up to rational analysis. It is not that they expect too much, it is that what they are looking for does not exist. The issue is not that they are being too demanding; more that they are trying to achieve the impossible. Here is an example: Malky cited four features she was looking for in a man: intellectual, higher earner than her (she was a banker), ambitious, and kind. She was flexible about most other things and considered that having just four expectations was not unreasonable.

However, when we analyzed it together it began to look increasingly incongruous. Is a high-earning intellectual an easy thing to find? Most intellectuals are not high earners. She insists her partner earns more than her, but she is a banker! She is looking for someone who is both ambitious and kind (by which she means kind to her), but most ambitious people (especially if they are a high earner) are ambitious about themselves. These combinations are not physically impossible. But, they are a comparative rarity and radically reduce the person’s likelihood of success. I am not saying that Malky’s criteria are impossible to achieve, but she needs to be aware that these are not particularly common combinations. As a 27-year-old who has been dating for the best part of a decade, she should at least be aware that the features she is looking for are not a natural fit, and may prove challenging. She may want, at a minimum, to tweak her goals if things continue to prove difficult.

Noone can be everything.

Malky’s goals are difficult but not entirely impossible, but some people are searching for a single-horned unicorn. They are going around in circles in dating and hurting quite a few people in the process because they are oblivious to basic facts of life. So here are those facts: if we stick with the idea of marrying just one person, then that person cannot be the combination of two opposites. In the rare event that you do find such a person, the overwhelming chances are, that he or she has a mental health problem (and I am not joking).

Let us meet Mendy. He is a truly nice guy, who thinks he is approaching dating with the right mindset. What he does not realize is that he is caught up in an impossible pursuit. Mendy comes from a serious-minded family and he was raised with strong values. Even though, in his words, he has “chilled out quite a bit,” he still holds onto the spiritual values with which he was raised. He therefore would look down upon a young lady who was, again in his words, “empty-headed and entirely superficial.” He also respects his family and would be embarrassed to bring home a girl that, in his mind at least, would be uncomfortable for them. The thing is that Mendy is quite a “cool guy” these days and is far more drawn to a similarly more modern-minded young woman. He finds them easier to relate to and he much prefers their company.

Before I say anything further, I want to make clear that I am not expressing any opinion about what Mendy should be looking for. This is entirely his choice. I would encourage him to go for whatever he feels is truer to himself. This is a very long-term decision, and it has to based on reality. Having said this, let us examine the situation. Mendy has been dating for several years and if his eyes were open to the situation, he would see that what has been going on is ridiculous. He dates the more serious type of girl and backs away after a few dates because they are not “clicking.” He then dates the more fun type and it goes for quite a while, but then thinks about marriage and he feels that she is not what he has in mind for a “wife.”

And so it goes around in circles. What he really wants is someone who is both. And that is not going to happen. Surely, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. But Mendy evidently has not. Even now, after he has been appraised on the situation, he is having difficulty snapping out of the cycle.

Are you looking for contradictory traits all in one person?

Some people are looking for someone both similar to themselves and also someone who offers something different. In theory, it is possible to find a way of reconciling these desires, but this adds significant complexity to an already complicated dating game. Some singles are insistent of many qualities in another, and they find it extremely difficult to prioritize their most valued qualities and relinquish others. The most common advice given to singles is to distinguish between needs and wants, but this advice is often pointless as many people confuse wants with needs. They earnestly believe that what they want is what they need.

People are made up of what Tatiana Bachkirova called “mini selves,” the distinct part of our character. So, we get pulled in different directions. Some people get pulled in opposing directions. This makes dating tough, but the biggest problem is the lack of self-awareness. If we are completely oblivious to the tensions described in this article, we can end up trying to pursue contradictory aims. Whilst trying to find a marriage partner – a difficult enough task on its own – we are busy fighting ourselves. Pay attention to what you are doing, reflect on your criteria for a spouse, evaluate the way your dating has gone thus far – and ask yourself whether you need to have it all?

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