It’s no one’s place to tell you who to be attracted to.
You’re attracted to who you’re attracted to. It may look crazy to outsiders, but it’s your right. No one else can see through your eyes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
So how do you know who’s the perfect match for you, if no one can help you?
It’s not an easy decision to make on your own. Perhaps you’re not sure if you should stick with the man you’re seeing, or you’re wondering whether Bachelor A would be a better long-term bet than Bachelor B.
- Ask your friends what they would do.
- Make a list of pros and cons.
- Imagine yourself ten years in the future and decide if you like what you see.
There’s no one right way to decide whether to stick with a relationship or choose one man over another.
But there is one piece of information that’s more important than all the others.
One piece of information that predicts better than any other whether you have what it takes to last the long haul.
Take a guess. Do you think it’s:
- Whether his values are compatible with yours?
- Whether he wants the same things in life?
- Whether he meets your criteria for what you want in a life partner?
- Whether it’s a good relationship?
The answer is D. Don’t look at him to decide. Look at your relationship instead.
Set aside what you think of him as a person. Instead, ask yourself how you FEEL when you’re together. Is this a great relationship? The best you’ve ever had? Then who cares if he’s not perfect?
This shift in focus is a radical change from how most of us make relationship decisions.
Popular culture encourages us to take the perspective of consumers. People are like products. We weigh desirable traits against undesirable ones. If he has a lot going for him, then he’s a catch. If he doesn’t have many desirable traits, then he’s not worth pursuing.
But this marketplace approach is rife with problems. Attraction isn’t quantifiable. You can’t put a value on people.
A better approach is to see attraction as something that happens in the space between two people.
This idea dates back to a 1923 book by philosopher Martin Buber. He argued that we can choose to relate to others in one of two ways.
An I-It relationship treats the other as an object. He is separate from you. You can describe his qualities objectively. Choosing to be with him is like buying a car; you want to get the best value possible.
In an I-Thou relationship, you are not separate from him. When you come together, you create something living and dynamic, something more than the sum of its parts. Your relationship comes alive in the space between you. You stay or go based on what you create together.
It’s impossible to predict what happens when two people come together. He brings out certain qualities in you, and you bring out different qualities in him. You aren’t the same person with him as you were when you were alone.
If those changes make you feel amazing, then you’ll want to stay. If those changes make you feel small or restricted, you’ll want to leave.
For example, have you ever been mystified when you met a friend’s new boyfriend? Did you ask yourself, “What does she see in him?”
It’s not what she sees in him that matters. It’s how she feels when she’s with him. It’s what they create in the space between them. It has nothing to do with her merits or his merits, or who they are as people. It has to do with the quality of their relationship.
So, if you ever find yourself wondering what to do, judge the relationship, not the man.
Put aside what you think about him and ask yourself how the relationship feels.
Does it feel safe? Supportive? Secure? Nourishing? Fun? Alive? Important?
Do you feel like a better person when you’re with him? Do hidden qualities come alive? Do you feel more in touch with your confidence, your creativity, and your strength?
Then stick with it. A relationship that makes you feel strong and supported is one worth keeping.
Even if he isn’t perfect. Because no man is.
First time to chime in…just broke it off with a guy after four months of feeling none of these things James mentioned “Does it feel safe? Supportive? Secure? Nourishing? Fun? Alive? Important?” There were times but not enough to hang in there.
So I broke it off (yeah me!) and along comes the bestest guy! He is physically attractive to me because of who he is and how I feel when I am with him and without him. It has been a pleasant surprise to enjoy the company of someone that I may not have given a second chance to before. It definitely is about the space created between two people when they are together. Thank you James for all of your wonderful insight, it is much appreciated.
This is so true. I knew this inside my head, however, when I would try to explain what I thought it never came out so simply put. Thank you.
Great article! I went on a first date recently with a man whom I have known for 8 years. It was nerve wracking going from friend/business acquaintance to date, but I have sort of had a crush on him for a while. It was not a great date and (as most women do) I have been dissecting it ever since. On paper, he ticks off all the boxes, but there was something off and I haven’t been able to figure it out. At the same time, I am nuts over a man who is going through a divorce. My friends think I am crazy and I should move on. I couldn’t figure out why I can’t let him go, but you made it clear. That man makes me feel awesome. The “first date guy” not so much…. Thank you for reminding me to have faith in myself and my feelings. It’s not that I wouldn’t give the “first date” guy another chance, but I will be paying attention to how I feel when I am with him.
What happens when you meet someone you feel is the perfect match- common interests, a similar background, makes me feel secure, all the things mentioned in the above article- and all of a sudden he seems to pull back. Not messaging as often, not overly interested in going out in public, and starting to act more withdrawn. Im caught between thinking he’s stressed and needs time and that he’s just not that in to me. I felt as though we were exclusive and don’t want to hurt the potential relationship if we are, but if he’s not that into me, Im not waiting for him to txt back.
In this situation, your best bet is probably to allow some time to pass before making any kind of decision. I say that because it’s clear from your description that things could still go either way. He might be dealing with other things in his life right now, or he might be second guessing the intensity of his relationship with you. Either way, time will reveal the truth. You have a lot to gain by waiting, but not much to lose if you give this positive relationship the benefit of the doubt.
That’s really sound advice. I’ve have a few people interested in taking me out on dates. One more recently that I feel bad about now. It wasn’t so much of a date as a casual hangout- I’ve gotten more action hanging out with female friends lol. He also seems very interested but I’m a one man lady and would rather wait out this positive relationship and see where things go. I hope he can handle the intensity of our relationship. Patience isn’t my strong suit, but I’m working on it. I’ll just have to find a way to nicely walk away from this other guy without hurting his feelings- I’m sure he has more girls on the go anyway.
please take the time to read this baby and just know I will always love you
What a great perspective! Loved this article, James! Thank you!
Glad to hear it!
If my boyfriend is the quiet, controlling type that tends to see things one sided(he’s very much immature because he’s a hypocrite when it comes to rules) all stemming back from a really bad childhood with no guidance of good parents or anyone to look up to on how to treat a woman or what real genuine love can be… I find it hard to leave, but then who could love him if he just simply didn’t know how to properly treat a woman and learn to compromise? I know he treated his ex wife way better than me, but it’s because she expected it. He said he wasn’t happy pleasing her all the time, always doing everything she wanted without letting him have a bone or two. Now, I feel like I’m reaping the shit end of the stick, dealing with his alternate ego just being totally himself without a care or thought being put into it. How he’s damaging our relationship by the lack of common courtesy or simple mannerisms. He says he hasn’t been happy in a long time, and that it died somewhere along the way. I honestly think it died when his ex wife refused to put him first, after all, he always put her as a first priority… their marriage ended up falling apart because of this, and now I feel as if he resents her for being the way she is. Just that one thing about her makes him look at life differently. He could be happy, with his son and a beautiful wife and huge home. But all because she didn’t meet him halfway when it came to creating their own family and life, separate from her intense overwhelming family that seems to take the funk, now life’s tough. Having to be with me(I’m nothin compared to her, yet I’m genuine and real, and non judgemental but content with what little I have) struggling to find a decent paying job and finally get into a place to live together, just seems so …. worthless. He said “im worthless…” After I told him to quit being so pessimistic and cynical in life. All I could think about was how angry I was at his ex-wife, for making him feel worthless. I KNOW he has a good heart and characteristics he’s buried since he left her, but how the hell do you dig that kind of crap up? I’ve been everything and more to him, but I’m tired of feeling drained with nothing being returned. He’s fucked up in the head from emotional abuse all his life. I know this story is complicated, but what should I do James? I don’t want to give up, but then again I’ve been treated way better than this.
For a moment when I read your msg, I thought you might be my ex’s girl friend because my ex claimed I verbally and emotionally abused him and would never meet him half way ( to be clear: most my friends and relatives, including my current boyfriend think I am caring, generous and fun loving). I believe the key word you used describing your relationship is “drain”. There is no way to be at your best when you are emotionally drained by being closely associated with a giganic ball of negative energy. The fact you couldn’t leave a man who is “down” (even though it is by his own choice) suggests you are a woman with a heart of gold that a more deseving man will treasure. But that appreciative and deserving man may not notice you in your current beaten down image because of your proximity to the negative man. I hope you will consider taking some time out away from the source of your depression (like, staying with a mature girl friend or relative– when my divorce was underway, I made friends with several older and wiser women who gave me good advices and emotional support because of their life experiences) you may be able to evaluate your relationship more clearly without the constant negtive influence of your current boyfriend.
That’s good advice, Sabrina. Thank you for caring for others.
This is really good! Stating the obvious here but a man should always be a man. Meaning he should be leading his life in a positive way and cut ties with all things that interrupt your relationship flow (mature and emotionally healthy overall) . He should also be able to stand on his own and provide for himself without being selfish and self centered when it comes to you and putting you first. It’s been my experience that single men which haven’t held long term relationships or who don’t have children and are over the age of 35 can be extremely self centered…. Probably by way of ignorance but nonetheless it should click at some point. Walk away quickly when it doesn’t. Simply my experienced opinion.
God your right Erikka, that is exactly my problem with my boyfriend, so self centred…….especially at that age you mention…