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The 27 levels of compatibility I’m not looking for
The perfect man is out there. He’s dating your best friend. Or maybe they hooked up at Thirds last March and now he’s off-limits. He’s your boyfriend’s much older brother. Or he’s engaged to your knockout of a sister. He’s the professor in your philosophy class. Or he’s a fictional character from a John Hughes movie. He’s not your boyfriend. Perfect guys are out there, but for whatever reason, you’ve never actually met one who’s perfect for you.
If I’ve learned anything from 10 years of reading Cosmopolitan articles, it’s that there is a perfect man for me and that it’s my responsibility to seek him out. Seemingly everyone is talking about how we need that connection—from my mom to Jersey Shore’s Sammi to Carrie Bradshaw (who’s it going to be, Aiden or Big!?). Twelve months a year, the checkout aisle in the grocery store overflows with magazines whose cover articles tell stories about celebrities and civilians alike snaring that elusive “soul mate.” There must be some truth to the whole phenomenon. So where are you, Prince Charming-Forster?
Since I haven’t found him yet, I thought it might be time to reevaluate my approach to the issue. For me, the perfect man reads the right kind of books and listens to the right kind of music. He tames the dance floor but sometimes prefers staying in and massaging my feet. He takes care of things like buying coffee or health insurance. He’s teaching himself Japanese but loves Dumb and Dumber. He cooks like Bobby Flay and looks like Jake Gyllenhaal, but is humble and cool and totally in love with me. It’s no wonder I’ve never met this guy.
Undaunted, I’ve liked and dated and been infatuated and had crushes. But as soon as the homme du jour so much as threatens to fail to live up to my ideal, I can’t help but abandon ship.
A major problem is how much emphasis we place on the quest for our soul mate, our perfect match. The latest Jennifer Aniston ends-with-a-kiss romcom, the innumerable commercials for online dating sites, and society in general are all guilty of promising me and every other eligible bachelor and bachelorette out that we can and will find true, formulaic love.
Mark Thompson, a psychologist and the mastermind behind Match.com, recently quit his job at the site and wrote the self-help book entitled Who Should You Have Sex With?: The Secrets to Great Sexual Chemistry. While his approach focuses on sex and chemistry, he spends a hefty portion of the book explaining why you’ll never find real love online.
In his August 2010 interview with Marie Claire magazine, Thompson said that he “hated the way we [at Match.com] overpromised and underdelivered. Our studies showed that the odds of meeting someone online and dating him more than a month are roughly one in 10. So it’s great that all those people on the TV commercials met their spouses, but they are the exceptions, not the rule. No computer can accurately predict whom you should be with. The function of the math will make vastly more false predictions than accurate ones.”
These online dating websites have boiled romance down to a science. Personally, I can’t think of a single love story that I would want to be part of that includes the word “algorithm.” When even the man behind a major dating web site admits that his site promotes unrealistic expectations, it’s not hard to see why we set the bar at an impossible level.
What makes that mindset truly strange is that it doesn’t apply to the other important relationships in my life. I’m not on a quest to find the perfect friend. I don’t judge my friendships on how my friend’s every interest fits with my own. I share many interests with my closest friends, but my best friends are often my complete opposites, and that’s what I like about them. But for whatever reason—perhaps for fear of never finding “the one” that we have been promised since exiting the womb—our society’s focus on soul mates has rendered it extremely difficult to feel that way about romantic connections.
Settling is not the answer. If you do, you’ll be unhappy and chances are, your partner will be, too. But in the same way we don’t only befriend totally compatible people, we shouldn’t be on the lookout for a guy or girl who is perfect. The best friend’s boyfriend, the dreamy professor—all of those “perfect” guys have their flaws, too. The grass on the other side always looks like George Clooney. It’s an adage we’ve all heard before, but we need to apply our knowledge that no one is perfect to our search for a mate, too.
On the subject of making friends, I’ve always been told that if I’m involved and doing what I’m interested in, friends will come to me. There might be a perfect man out there for me, but odds are I’m not going to find him by setting up an eHarmony account or vainly searching through Craigslist Missed Connections. With an open mind, when I meet the perfect man, I think I’ll know. So get off my back, Mom!