“How will I know when I meet the right person?”
I often hear this question in my counseling practice. The answer is fairly complex. There are two different reasons that people have for wanting to get married:
1. To get love, validation, security and safety.
2. To share love and to grow emotionally and spiritually.
People who feel insecure and alone are likely to look for someone who will fill the inner emptiness and give them the love they are seeking. They want to find someone who will complete them and make them feel adequate and worthy. The problem is that no one can do this for another person – it is something we each need to learn to do for ourselves. Since we are always attracted to people who are at our common level of woundedness or our common level of health, a person looking to get love will attract a person also looking to get love. Each person hopes to get filled from the other, not realizing that each feels empty and really has nothing to give. Therefore, no one is the right person when the intent of getting married is to get love and security rather than to share love and learning.
Instead of asking the question, “Is this the right person for me?” why not ask, “Am I being the right person?” Am I being a person who comes to a relationship filled with love to share, or am I being a needy person hoping to get love and validation?
The main reason that many relationships don’t work out is because each person is disappointed in not getting what they expected to get from the other person. But when a person does not know how to love and validate themselves and create an inner sense of safety and security, they certainly can’t do this for another person. Yet this is what each person expects of the other. It’s like trying to get water from a rock. What do you have to give when you feel empty within and want to get filled through another’s love?
It is actually fairly easy to know if this is the right person for you when your intent in being in a relationship is to learn together and share love. A person who comes from a full place within finds it easy to discern when someone is empty inside, and will not be attracted to the empty person. A person who is truly open to learning about themselves, to growing emotionally and spiritually, to taking responsibility for their own feelings of safety and security, worth and lovability, will not be attracted to a person who is closed, controlling, and just wants to get love.
Knowing if this is the right person for you does not happen instantly. It takes months to discover whether or not a person is who they say they are. You cannot really know who a person is until you have conflict and find out what this person does in conflict. Some people can appear very open and loving until a conflict comes up and then they get angry, withdraw, resist or comply, closing down rather than staying open to learning about themselves and the other person. An important question is, how does this person deal with conflict and how long does it take them to open up if they do close in the face of conflict?
Since none of us enter relationships fully healed, it is very important to know that your partner is willing to explore conflict rather than just protect against it with controlling behavior. Conflict occurs in all relationships, and if both people are not open to learning about themselves and each other within the conflict, the unresolved conflicts will eventually destroy the relationship.
If you are a person who is open to learning and wants a relationship in order to share love, there are three essential ingredients that need to be present for the person to be the right person for you:
1. There needs to be a basic spark of attraction. If you do not feel physically attracted to this person within the first six months of the relationship, the chances are this attraction will not develop. It does not need to be instant, but it does need to be there at some point.
2. Both of you need to be capable of caring, compassion, and empathy – to be a giver rather than just a taker. If this person just wants what they want and doesn’t care about what you want, they are not the right person for you. If you just want what you want and you don’t care about what the other person wants or feels, you are not ready for a relationship.
3. Both people need to be open to learning in conflict rather than just wanting to win and be right. If both people are open to learning in conflict, conflicts will be resolved in loving ways, but power struggles will result if one or both of you are intent on controlling and winning.
Other ingredients, such as common interests and values, are also important, but without the above three ingredients, they will not sustain the relationship.