A typical session with a client often begins with this dialogue:
"I'm with a great guy and we're so well-matched. He loves me and accepts me and I've never felt so safe with anyone. He's caring, giving, generous, warm, open, trustworthy and available. He's hard-working and responsible. He follows through on his word. But lately I've been wondering if, perhaps, there's someone better out there for me."
"And what qualities would this better guy possess?" I ask. The client smiles along with me because some part of her knows that better doesn't actually exist and that the guy is the catch of a lifetime.
"Well, he'd be all of the above, plus majorly successful, always confident, gorgeous, socially fluent, and he'd know how to do things like teach our future kids how to ski and play tennis, plus fix the kitchen sink and repair broken toilets."
"Um hm. So you're looking for perfection. And you do realize that that guy doesn't exist, right?"
"I guess so," she responds. And then we sit together in a silence punctuated by a sense of deflation as my client watches the bubble around her fantasy man burst and float to the ground.
Sadly, we live in a culture that conditions women to chase after "the perfect man" that they see portrayed in mainstream media. When we burst their bubble, they often respond with something like, "But my dad was all of those things. He's successful and strong; he's socially adept and can fix things around the house. He's the alpha-male. Why can't my partner be more like him?"
To which I always respond, "And was your dad emotionally open and available?"
To which my client will invariably answer, "No. My mom always complained that she felt lonely in the marriage and wished that he would show up more emotionally."
Here's the deal: You can't have it all. We live in a "you can have it all" culture but, as with so many areas in life, the cultural message is false and, at some point, we realize that we've been sold a bill of goods. If you're with the alpha-male, it's highly unlikely that he's also emotionally available. If you're with the softer, more sensitive kind of guy, it's likely that he doesn't have a huge social circle and isn't the life of the party.
You can sit around wishing your guy were more social or extroverted, but then you're focusing on who he isn't instead of who he is. I guarantee you that you'll always have to sacrifice something from your list of qualities that comprise your "Perfect Partner" list. It's a hard fact of life and real moment of growing up when you let yourself digest the uncomfortable but ultimately liberating fact that perfection doesn't exist.
If you want to find the perfect guy, and you're in a loving, well-matched relationship, follow these steps to help embrace the realistic magic that exists right in front of you:
1. Let go of perfection.
I know it's tough, especially when you believe that you haven't been harboring a vision of perfection. But if you were raised on a steady diet of Disney and Hollywood, I guarantee that the template has been seared into the deepest recesses of your unconscious, just waiting to emerge as you're thinking about committing to your lovely partner.
It's at that moment, when the long-held fantasy clashes with reality, that you may hear a voice that says, "Wait! You can do better! You're settling! What if you're making a mistake?" If you don't want to walk away and spend your life chasing an impossible ideal, you have to be willing to acknowledge the fantasy and then grieve it. It's through the grieving that you can let it go.
2. Separate from Daddy.
Many women are unconsciously holding onto an idealized view of their fathers, and when they compare their partners to this ideal image, he inevitably falls short. As wonderful as your dad may be, you need to see him as he really is and recognize that there are good reasons why you chose someone who's different: you want someone who's emotionally available, who's your friend and confidant, and who can happily watch chick flicks with you.
And if you're like most of my clients, you've probably dated the CEO, tennis-playing, life-of-the-party type before and it didn't work. Again, if you're stuck in the mindset that you can have it all, you're stuck in a fantasy that won't serve you if you want to commit to a life partner.
3. Proactively appreciate your partner's wonderful qualities.
If you're waiting for your kind, emotionally available man to suddenly become the jerk who took you for rides on his motorcycle and then threw your heart in a ditch and ran over it, you may as well leave and go find that jerk again. You're with your guy because he'd never treat you the way the exes did. And as long as you're wishing that he's someone else so that you can feel the longing which you've been culturally wired to equate with love, you're missing the beautiful man who's standing right in front of you.
Make it a practice to focus on gratitude by writing daily appreciation lists and you'll start to re-wire your mind so that you understand and embrace healthy, real love.
So how do you find the perfect guy? Chances are, he's standing right in front of you. All you need to do is change your definition of perfection and reorient your focus from what's missing to what's present and you'll have the relationship of your dreams.