I was at a wedding this past weekend and found myself in an interesting discussion. My tablemate, a woman a bit older than me, married to her high school sweetheart, said she thought it was a mistake to tell young people they could have it all in a partner. She felt that made picking and settling down with someone seem impossible–there’s no such thing as a perfect match, she said. She said she told her kids, if there are five categories–intellect, ethics, physical attraction, compatibility, and shared interests perhaps–if you find someone that checks three or four of those boxes, that’s enough for a life of happiness with another.

I said I disagreed. I think, when starting out, you should have all five of those but that, over time, some of these aspects will become more significant than others and so perhaps not all five categories should be weighted equally. I am idea obsessed AND easily bored–it’s been a gift to be married to someone who is smarter than I am whose perspective always interests me. After the years, that has mattered more than almost anything to my happiness in my long-term monogamy.

And yet, when I thought harder about these traits, I couldn’t see my way into giving up any of them. The giant fights most committed relationships encounter need the power of lust to ameliorate their wounds. Being able to spend eons of time together with another person would feel limiting if we both didn’t enjoy most of what we do when together. Creating and sustaining a family is vastly more difficult if parents don’t have compatible values.

That said, I can see my tablemate’s point. If we believe that the only viable match has everything we’ve ever wanted, we rule out those with whom we might happily share our lives.

Perhaps it is smarter instead to say those looking to partner should check for and subsequently avoid traits that are flat out wrong for them. If you are a by the book type, someone who thinks rules are for losers probably isn’t a winner for you. If you care passionately about passion, choosing someone you’d just as soon cuddle as snog probably isn’t a smart move.

What do you think? What advice would you give those seeking to find a mate?

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Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.