Unfortunately we mistake "lust mates" for "soul mates."
Time Magazine recently reported on a concept many of us have, "That good marriages and relationships are based on finding our soul mate or our perfect one." This expectation is shaped by society's focus on physical attraction and messages from our friends, family and our favorite television shows, none of which are actually true as far as having a long, committed and successful marriage full of long-last love.
For example, there is no reliable link between income level and attractiveness regarding relationship satisfaction, yet many people rely heavily on these qualities when looking for their soul mate.
According to the new book, The Science of Happily Ever After, 9 out of 10 Americans believe they have a soul mate, but only 3 out of 10 Americans actually find an enduring partnership that doesn't end in separation, unhappiness or divorce. What are we doing wrong? If we believe in a soul mate, then why aren't more of us happy finding one?
The reason is based on expectation; your expectations of what makes a great relationship are based on an expectation of your perfect man or woman...and since there is no perfect, you have to begin with looking inside of you rather than to the television or society to dictate who is and isn't good soul mate material.
What's important when you are searching for a soul mate?
- Agreeableness: According to the book, The Science of Happily Ever After, it's most important to find someone who is agreeable. Why? Because in marriage you lose the ability to like your partner 3% each year, and lust declines even quicker at 8% each year, so the better long-term investment is to find someone you really like. Plus long-term studies point out that agreeable partners were better in bed and less likely to cheat.
- Self-Awareness: Our focus is on the other person and whether they are the right person, but what's more important is who are you, what are your needs, how do you handle anger, disappointment, and family expectations? We all have blind spots, vulnerabilities and areas of weakness. Being aware of these is important before finding someone else and projecting on to them our unfinished business
- Marital conflict cannot be avoided, but you can learn to resolve it: Great relationships learn how to resolve conflict and communicate early on, and although this seems very unromantic, it is important in a long, loving relationship. Having self-understanding is important, and knowing how to fight with your partner in a way that brings you closer rather than drive you further apart is important when looking for your soul mate.
- Sharing a similar vision and world view: It's more romantic to think of your partner as being exotic and different from you, but this is one of the top reasons why relationships fail. You need a common vision and goal. When you know yourself better and understand what you want more from life, looking for a partner who shares your visions is going to be more successful in building empathy and commitment than someone who is on other ends of the spectrum.
There are many people you can have a great relationship with. However, finding one to share your life requires hard work, self-understanding and patience. A great relationship is based on great communication, sharing a vision and adapting to change along the way. It's a conscious choice on your part, as well as a commitment on both of your parts. Marriage is the single biggest decision you will ever make in your life, so prepare by doing your homework. Marriages fail often times because they are based on faulty assumptions of what's important. Looks, money, and lust are never soul mate material.
Mind, Body, Soul with Mary Jo happens every Monday and Thursday morning 9 A.M. CST on Fox 26 Morning News.
This article was originally published at My Fox Houston . Reprinted with permission from the author.