THE BLOG

It Takes More Than "the Luck Of The Irish" to Find the Perfect Mate

03/19/2015 12:49 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2015

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Alex Dram / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The perfect mate: isn't that what we are all looking for? Internet companies are making millions and millions of dollars selling compatibility algorithms on the premise and promise that they will find ideal someones for you to choose from. Their ads don't tell you about the divorces: the disasters. How does that someone, who seems to be perfectly compatible with us, turn out to be all wrong?

We, here in the west, are overwhelmingly committed to love as the surest guide to finding our perfect mate. But statistically, love is not a sound criterion on which to base a relationship; after all, a 50/50 chance of success is no better than flipping a coin. In fact, in societies where marriages are arranged not by the couple, but by others; even in places where the bride and groom first meet at the wedding, the success rate is considerably higher. Not so long ago, right here, when divorce was rare and difficult to obtain, couples mostly had to make the best of their choices. And as attested to by the long term marriages of our grandparent's and great-grandparent's generation, they managed it, even if it wasn't always pretty.

Some have suggested that it isn't important who one marries as long as both parties have a commitment to the marriage. I think we would hope in this day and age that we could do better than even money when it comes to finding a long term mate.

In a prior post, I wrote about the meaning of 'marriage' as a long term process rather than the state of affairs after the, "I do's" are exchanged. I believe the same is true for identifying the perfect mate: it is a conclusion you come to after many years of being together. That doesn't sound like much help in the choosing, though, does it? I mean you can't really judge how someone is going to stand up and perform in the circumstances life presents, you just do your best and hope you get what you need in return.

I suggest, we would do better, if not best, in choosing our mates, if we thought about those prospective mates as teammates and partners. Having and raising children, as important as it is as a reason for choosing a mate, is not the only reason. We form couples to give us improved chances of success in life: whatever that may mean to you. If success (by your definition) is the object, then what qualities should you look for in a mate? Do you want someone who agrees with you all the time? Do you want someone who will go along with you, even if they don't agree? Do you want someone with the same skills and talents as you? I don't think the best answer to any of these questions is 'Yes'.

You want a teammate who excels at the things you are not so hot at. You want someone who will help you discover the best strategies. Teammates strive to work smoothly together, to back each other up when there are challenges. Teammates are loyal, but that doesn't mean they don't sometimes they fight: fight hard, for what they believe is best, not for themselves, not to satisfy their ego, but for the team. Mistakes get made, sure, but the emphasis is on growing, understanding what went wrong, and getting better, not reliving past hurts.

As a partner, you want someone you can trust and rely on to do their part of the partnership's work, and to do it at a consistently high level. You want a partner, and to be a partner, who gives as well as takes, who listens and explores, and who takes shared risks, all for the good of the partnership. You want a partner who will face good and bad times at your side, always lending a hand when needed.

When you find someone you want to have as your teammate; when you find someone who wants you to play on their team, and to be on your team; when you find someone who you are comfortable investing your resources and energies in as a partner in the business of life; someone who shows themselves to be dedicated to the purposes of the partnership, someone who is willing to do what needs to be done to achieve the success you both seek, then you have found a person with a strong chance of proving to be your perfect mate. If you like them as a person, respect them, and love them as a mate, and all that is reciprocal, well, so much the better. I know this, because, after 35 years of marriage; often difficult, work-filled years of being partners and teammates, and despite periods of frustration and doubt along the way, Mary and I have each found (and built) our perfect mate.