Why Mr. Right May Be Too Good To Be True

white knight

The Situation

Many years ago, an older relative grew concerned about my limited dating history. “You are waiting for a knight in shining armour,” he admonished. It’s not like I didn’t share his concerns. I also worried that perhaps I was being too picky, and that no one would ever be good enough.

Do you face this dilemma? Do you ask yourself: Is it better to wait for Mr. Right (and risk being single forever) or settle for Mr. Good Enough (to settle down, and get on with life)?

My Decision

I decided to take the risk and hold out for Mr. Right. I knew myself well enough to know that I would rather be single than enter into a relationship that required compromise. But now that I have been married for many years I realize that even when one does find “Mr. Right” relationships are all about compromise.

And, does Mr. Right even exist? So many people marry a Mr. Right who eventually turns into Mr. Not-So-Right. Like you, I know many people who fell madly in love, and believed they would live happily ever after, only to have their illusions of love shattered into a million shards of disappointment later.

Be Pessimistic

I recently read an opinion piece in the New York Times by Alain De Botton (author of the novel The Course of Love). The title was “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person” and it counseled couples to embrace a philosophy of pessimism.

De Botton says that it is unrealistic to think “that marriage will help us to bottle the joy we felt when the thought of proposing first came to us.” He says that we fail to realize that there is “no solid connection between these feelings and the institution of marriage.”

I agree with De Botton’s pessimism about being able to sustain the high voltage excitement of a new love. But accepting that relationships evolve and embracing it, rather than throwing in the towel to find the next Mr. Right who can provide that “high” is probably a better long-term strategy.

Leave the High Behind

My husband and I don’t expect to feel the intensity of that “new relationship energy” that we once felt when we first met. We don’t mourn the loss of that “high”. Rather we value the lower frequency hum of a domestic life that is comforting in its predictability. Perhaps there was more “passion” before kids, careers and other demands. But would we want to go back to those earlier years—or find the next Mr. (or Ms. Right)? Not a chance.

De Botton goes on to say that we have to abandon our romantic view of love. We need to realize that “every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them.” But this isn’t reason to throw in the towel either. Rather, he believes that we shouldn’t expect “perfect complementarity” but “the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity.” De Botton believes that compatibility is “an achievement of love” rather than a condition of marriage.

Spot on. It’s so much easier to live by ourselves than to share space, split chores, or negotiate finances with someone else. And like many couples, my husband and I have our differences of opinion about how these things should work. But it’s how we have worked out our differences—with compromise and generosity to the other person’s needs—that has kept our marriage strong. It didn’t happen on Day 1, and it’s always a work in progress.

There is a line from an old Crosby Stills Nash song from decades ago. It is, “Love the one you’re with.” And that’s what we are doing. Every single day.

Originally published in eHarmony Canada

Photo credit: Flickr/Hans Splinter (white night)

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