Incompatibility is one of the most common causes of divorce. A couple with irreconcilable personalities or lifestyles is doomed from the beginning. Though we have grown more aware of the importance of taking red flags seriously, many of us find ourselves repeating the classic mistake: thinking we can change the other person.
The ghost of change
Verónica Alcanda, the owner of Alcanda Matchmaking, emphasizes that it’s not possible to change someone. Attempts can lead to emotional manipulation, blackmail and psychological abuse, leading us to fool ourselves and preventing us from accepting our partner just as they are. “People don’t change radically. We evolve and we adapt to overcome obstacles or be happier. But that evolution is a personal decision. One has to want to change, because we tend to behave in the same way, so changing a habit created over many years is not an easy task. It requires a lot of willpower. If that change is imposed, it will never work, or if it does, it will be to please a third party and it will not be maintained over time,” she explains.
Author and psychologist Lara Ferreiro agrees that trying to change someone else is a serious mistake. She argues that it comes from a lack of awareness about who the other person is, and unrealistic expectations emerge with the so-called “ghost of change.” “If that weren’t enough, it can create resentment, and the other person will feel pressured, judged and unvalued. Manipulative behaviors will become stronger, while in reality, there are things that can’t be changed,” she says.
Ode to flexibility
Alcanda argues that we should evaluate whether our expectations are realistic or whether they are impeding the possibility of a satisfying relationship. “In my opinion, being too demanding can be counterproductive and limit the opportunities to find a compatible partner. I receive these kind of requests often when I profile my clients’ partners. For example, it is common for men to want younger women and for women to want men of a certain height. I always tell them that, even after analyzing their reasons and understanding that it’s an anthropological issue rooted in our DNA, the fact that someone is a few years younger or a few centimeters taller will not make them happier. Partners and happiness are much deeper than that. Being inflexible in such superficial issues limits us a lot when it comes to finding happiness with someone,” she says.
Auditions for love
Lara Ferreiro recommends that her patients hold auditions when they are looking for a partner. She says that we are companies of emotional human resources, so just as companies carry out a hiring process, we should do the same. “It’s important to know ourselves well enough to know what we want and what we don’t. We should make a list with green, orange and red flags. The green ones indicate how the partner and relationship should be, while orange ones are toxic things that, if they keep happening, will make you end the relationship. The red ones are those that, if they happen once, will end the relationship. For some, it could be cheating or finding out that their partner is flirting on apps. The list is vital to avoid hurting ourselves down the road, as well as to save time and energy. When you detect something that falls under the category of red flags, you need to break up,” the psychologist says.
“I always say that love is like a political campaign. During the first three months, the other person is marvelous: they give gifts and false promises of love and they say what we want to hear. But the important part is their actions and whether they fulfill what they say. The most important thing isn’t what you feel for the other person when you’re with them, but when you’re not with them. If they write to you,” she says. “You have to be careful if someone says they’re getting to know someone who they love and they add a ‘but.’ That ‘but’ is a problem, because when you’re falling in love, there is an idealization and an intoxication of oxytocin. If we start with the ‘buts,’ it may be a case of perfectionism, or we may not really like that other person that much. That ‘but’ may be a sign that we aren’t sure or that we are anxious to find a relationship and we want to settle for someone. The important thing is to know that the ‘buts’ are negotiable. They depend on each person’s red flags,” Ferreiro says.
Some may be horrified by the idea of making a shopping list to find a partner. Others may see it as a form of manifestation, a way of “asking the universe for what you want.” That’s what Viola Davis did to find her husband, as she confessed to Oprah. “I said I want a big Black man from the South who’s probably been married before. Has kids, because I don’t want any pressure in that department. Someone who’s maybe been an actor who understands the artistic community. Someone who goes to church and loves God,” said the actress, who met her husband, who had all of those qualities, three weeks later.
How to effectively look for a partner
For the audition process to be foolproof, it’s important not only to know what we want, but also to ask the right questions to get the information we need. “You have to know what phase you’re in, and whether you and the other person have both gotten over your previous breakup, because if either of you haven’t, it’s not a good time to look for a partner. That’s why you have to ask the other person how long it has been since they’ve had a partner, as well as about their work, their relationship with their family, where they see themselves in four or five years, if they want to have kids, what hobbies they have, what they think about infidelity and if they have cheated. At the beginning, you have to be strict, but not compulsively so,” Ferreiro says.
Verónica Alcanda recommends taking into account several important aspects:
- Self-evaluation. “Before looking for a partner, it is important to reflect on yourself. Ask yourself if you’re giving yourself what you want in life and if you feel satisfied with yourself. Invest in your well-being and work on your emotional maturity and confidence, and if necessary, work on your self-esteem.”
- Avoid desperation. “Don’t desperately look for a partner. Avoid throwing yourself at the first person you find. Take your time to get to know someone and detect the errors you have made in previous relationships in order to correct them.”
- Define your expectations. “Before starting the search, reflect on what you want in a partner. Think about what kind of relationship you want, what you need them to give you and what aspects are important to you.”
- Don’t force it. “Wait until you’re emotionally ready and have gotten over past relationships. The ideal moment to look for a partner will vary for each person.”
- Honesty and open communication are fundamental in a relationship. Look for someone with whom you can be authentic and share thoughts and feelings.
- Use different methods. Consider different ways to look for a partner and get outside your comfort zone. “Join activities, go to social events or hire a matchmaker who can help you find a partner compatible with your lifestyle, your values, and your dreams.”
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