People believe many things about love: that it sometimes comes “at first sight”, that having a romantic partner solves all their problems, that the initial “honeymoon phase” is the best part of the relationship, and so on. There are many things we hold true about love, but not all of them are true.
Philosopher Alain de Botton shatters some of those myths as a guest on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast. In the podcast, de Botton brings a new definition of love: a process of two flawed beings coming together with the sole purpose of making each other the best possible versions of themselves.
This has some merit, as the search for perfection many use in finding a romantic partner often leave them jilted, frustrated, and disappointed.
This is not to say that having particular standards is a bad thing. On the contrary. It is important to look out for certain characteristics, otherwise you’ll be giving your heart to all the wrong people. But what Alain argues is that the “perfect partner” who fulfills your entire checklist probably doesn’t exist. Knowing and internalizing this would drastically improve the way we view romantic relationships.
For starters, it would stop us from deeming a person as inferior, merely because they don’t have “the right job”, or they’re not a certain weight.
All this does is close us off to great people, and it has us believing that your soulmate is a bunch of ticks on a meaningless list. So what if he doesn’t have a car? So what if she has freckles? Taking society’s messed-up attitudes towards love, and making them our own, is the surefire way to end up in a loveless relationship. All because a certain status attracted us more than the actual person.
Secondly, we would be open to dating outside of our “type”. This would make us realize, above all, that the idea of certain “types” of people are better for us than others is, quite frankly, wrong. Most of us date the same type of people, and go on to face the same disappointments over and over, all because we believe that “this type of person will bring me the happiness I’ve been seeking.” Happiness, in and of itself, is a bad reason to sustain love (more on that on another day), but regardless, keeping in line with who we ‘should be’ right for – and not who we’re actually right for- causes us much turmoil.
Lastly, it would stop us from exalting the ‘good’ characteristics of our beloved ones, and ignoring what we see as negatives. Creating perfection out of an inherently imperfect person is dangerous, as we end up shortchanging parts of ourselves to appease the other person. Not to mention that the other person now has to live up to parent status instead of being themselves! There needs to be a certain equality in romance: both partners need to have a deep respect and appreciation for one another. Not one bowing down before the other.
If we want any chance of having relationships that last, we should unlearn the beliefs that leave us heartbroken. It is time to let go of the myth of the perfect partner, and embrace the truth of humanity: we’re all flawed. Romantic relationships are just a question of which flaws we’re able to live with.