Finding Mr. or Ms. Perfect

Children's limited experience of life makes them believe that their parents are always good and that adults can always be trusted. Carried over into adult life and love, this way of thinking forms the psychology of the first summit--the first period of our involvement with another when love is experienced as rapturous. Our new partner seems faultless, good in every way. Terri had felt unloved all her life. When she began a relationship with a man who doted on her and always wanted to be by her side, she thought she had found the "perfect man." But, it didn't last. Gradually, she realized that Andrew was an alcoholic who had no life of his own apart from the excitement he found in starting a new relationship. Terri's experience was the product of her childhood tendency to think in "all or nothing" terms. The pattern of Terri's romance is one I have seen repeated many times. Excited clients come in at the beginning of a relationship and tell me that they have found the "perfect person." Unfortunately, disappointment awaits them. When it comes, they fall off the rapturous summit of first love and tumble down into the valley. The partner who was "all-perfect" becomes "all-bad" and worth "nothing." Neither view is very realistic. If you want to build a relationship that will last, you'll have to come to grips with the humanity and failings of your intimate partner. Surrendering the "all or nothing" ideal is a necessary loss, but what you can gain is so much more. I know. I did not give up easily on the idea that relationships are like fairy tales we heard as children. But, I have learned that relating to the complexity of another human being is ultimately more satisfying than squashing them into an "all good" or "all bad" mold. At the same time, it is the sign of a healthy relationship if a couple has managed to retain some of the excitement and interest in each other that was there at the beginning. We keep contact both with the idealism of rapturous love and with reality by referring to each other as "imperfectly perfect"! Copyright 2005 Linda Miles Ph.D