Why You Should Date Your Complement, Not Your Clone

two white sheep in a room

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Once upon a time, I received a phone call from an entrepreneur who told me that she was going to build the best online dating site ever: Fuego Connect. The problem with dating sites, she said, was that you have to sift through so many people who are nothing like you. Wouldn't it be great to have a website where everyone on the site shared your same passions?

So if you were a black diamond skier with a home in Aspen, you'd have access to other wannabe slalom champs. If you had three dogs, you'd find a man who was similarly mad about his pugs. If you were into spirituality, you'd have an all access pass to other men who were seeking nirvana. She wanted to know what I thought and if I'd like to be involved. I told her, point blank, that this was the worst idea of all time.

(Okay, maybe I was slightly more diplomatic, but, knowing me, I probably wasn't.)

The problem with a site that connects people over "passions" is that sharing such interests says nothing about one's ability to forge a 40-year romantic relationship. By extolling the merits of relationships based in gardening or hip-hop music, FuegoConnect would be exacerbating the problem, by bringing people together over superficial hobbies that weren't at all relevant to long-term compatibility. After hundreds of dates, thousands of hours of dating coaching, I've become irrevocably convinced that common interests are the LEAST important element in happy relationships. They are the icing, but they are certainly not the cake.

Teenagers might fall in love because both of them list Belle and Sebastian as their favorite band. Adults, at a certain point, should know better, right? But we don’t.

Jody is a long-distance biker who trains for two hours a day and she wants a man who shares her passion. Not only is that less than 5% of the population, but consider the other characteristics of the long-distance biker — he puts more time into training than he does into relationships. This is why the Wall Street Journal actually wrote an article about "marathon widows" — women who marry men who are more dedicated to their sport than to their families. But hey, at least they have "fitness" in common!

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Tina is a psychologist who has explored many different spiritual paths over the years. She's done movement and tantra and meditation and everything else under the sun and this work is a vital part of her life. Needless to say, she wanted a man who was curious about the same things. In the process of dating, Tina quickly discovered that:

A) the number of men who are similarly "spiritual" is miniscule, and B) all the spiritual men she met seemed to be annoying narcissists. Much to her surprise, instead of continuing to pursue men who were just like her, she opened herself up to the 98% of the population that wasn't. Which way do you think Tina has better odds of dating success?

The fact is, if you're extremely passionate about ANYTHING, it's going to make you a bit of an outlier. If you live your life around your passion, it's only going to serve to take you even further outside the mainstream.

It's hard to meet your husband if you're summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It's hard to meet your husband if you're doing healing work with other women.
It's hard to meet your husband if you're doing an Iron Man triathlon.
It's hard to meet your husband if you're volunteering with women at the shelter.

No one's judging you for choosing these meaningful pursuits, but I will say that it's unrealistic to find a man who not only shares your passion, but is also tall, dark, handsome, sophisticated, generous, sexy, thoughtful, emotionally available, etc.

Ultimately, it's not about finding someone who SHARES your passion. It's about finding a partner who ACCEPTS your passion without judging you.

That's what I did, and that's how I got married.

Instead of continuing to chase the elusive younger, East Coast, Jewish, atheist, intellectual beauty, who's got a Masters degree and shares novels with me, I let go of trying to date the female version of myself.

My wife is from the West Coast, Catholic, believes in God, is older than I am, is smart, but not an intellectual, and would rather watch "The Office" than read Philip Roth.

So what makes us work if we have none of those "important" things in common?

  • We both have integrity.
  • We make each other laugh.
  • We treat each other like gold.
  • We're close with our families.
  • We trust each other implicitly.
  • We accept each other as we are.
  • We want the same things out of life.
  • We want to be great parents and role models.
  • We put our relationship above our individual needs.

None of this can be seen in an online dating profile. None of this comes across on a first date. None of this means that my wife should give up her passion for wine or that I should give up reading when my wife wants to watch TV. It just means we accept each other's differences and love each other anyway.

And until you get over the idea that your partner has to be "just like you," you're not only leaving yourself with very few romantic prospects, but you're pretty much ensuring that your prospects have your flaws.

Too busy. Too stubborn. Too critical. Too self-centered.

Choose a man who's different than you and you may finally get a different and better result.