Dating and Mate Selection — 23 October 2003
How to choose the right partner

Are you the one for me? How do I know that the love I feel is sufficient
for making a life commitment? How can I know if this partner is a the
best one for me? What if I am about to make a major mistake? How can I

Mate selection is one of the most daunting life tasks. Whether the
choice is made at an earlier age or later in life, most people question
their ability to make this decision with certainty. The doubts are often viewed as possible evidence of insufficient love or commitment. Making a
choice that precludes all others, and obligates one for the rest of
one’s life, is truly frightening. ” I love her, but I’m not sure it’s
the real love”, or “what if I suddenly stop loving him one day?_ “How
can I be sure that this love is the one that will last?” Those are some
of the concerns I have heard in my psychology practice by individuals
who are involved in making a mate selection.

The decision making process we apply to other life choices fails us in
matters of the heart. In other areas we tend to identify a need, refine
the details, obtain information, test some options and then- select.
When the preference entails another person, the analytical method is

If standard decision making techniques don’t apply, what does? Dr.
Harville Hendrix maintains that we choose partners who represent to us
the very best and the very worst qualities of our original caregivers.
This information is transferred to us through intuitive “knowing”. We
feel very drawn to the new person who seems familiar to us very early in
the courtship process. Since this is intuitive, very complex and
extremely personal, it may creates doubt and uncertainty. Dr, Fritz
Perls, the father of Gestalt Therapy, said that when we meet our mates,
our instinctual senses speak to each other the first ninety seconds, and
then we spend a lifetime justifying the choice. This is another way of
saying that mate selection is a poorly understood process. If these
speculations are correct, it is no wonder that we feel so shaky making
this major life decision. It eliminates logic, criteria, and a
systematic approach to undertaking this choice.

Therefore, we may put the burden of this decision on the strength of our
love. “If I were sure of my feelings for her, the choice would be
clear”. The uncertainty may not be about weak love, but about deep-
seated problems in the relationship that can actually doom it from the
start. We plead with the power of our love (sometimes only lust) to
protect us from the anticipated mismatch.
It is imperative that you honor your intuitive sense and knowledge about
intolerable differences and not allow hope to overrule experience. When
we deny our instinctual warnings, we toy with disaster.

We may also question our ability to determine whether this partner
possesses all the necessary ingredients for our personal fulfillment.
Though close scrutiny of your future mate’s, values, interests, habits
and personality traits are extremely important, the more crucial
question is whether you can see yourself as the long term loving
individual for this potential mate. It is not what she can do for me,
but what I can do for her, that matters.

If your intentions are to change him or believe that he will change in
response to your love, you are about to make a major mistake. Reforming
a partner is not a wholesome goal within marriage. Love is about giving-
not altering another person.
So the question is not- ” are you the right one for me?” But, “am I
ready to be the right one for you?” The answer requires self -analysis,
honesty, and self respect. This type of maturity combined with a choice
of a compatible, loved and accepted partner, offers a solid base for a
mate selection.

Many “how to” books have been published in an attempt to help us make
good mate choices. None to date have substantiated their claims with
research findings. These are all good willed attempts to empower us in
an area of great unknowns.

Here are some questions that may be helpful to you:

  • Do you feel deep caring, concern and affection for her?
  • Do you have a deeply felt respect for his character, values and life
  • Do you experience mutual, considerate passion in your relationship? ?
  • Have you spent at least two years together and observed your
    intended’s response to severe stress?
  • Do you feel that your beloved is your best friend?
  • Are you, and can you be the best partner for her and consider her
    needs ahead of your own- regularly?
  • If his less desirable traits were increased by ten folds, could you
    handle it graciously?
  • Can you accept and deal with the known problems in the relationship,
    for the long term? (60 percent of problems never change)?
  • Have you honored your intuitive, serious concerns about your future
  • Do you feel respected, trusted and loved by her?
  • When you look at the future, can you actually visualize growing old
    together? Describe that picture.?

If it seems logically, emotionally and intuitively the right choice, it
probably is. Only you” Know” the answer.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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