a couple

What do you look for in a boyfriend? Was the question posited to me recently? My knee jerk reaction was to say "I'm not looking." For isn't that the truth? We go through life bumping into who we bump into and decide in retrospect if that is what we want to settle for. For men, creatures created with more of a visual bent, how a woman looks can account for a lot of things. One of my friends dated an aerobics instructor for over eight months before he finally came to realize she wasn't "very nice to him."

"Gee Whiz!" I pointed out, "she didn't even respect your religious beliefs!" Clearly if they had gotten married it would have been an issue. My friend believed strongly in waiting until after marriage to have sex. His girlfriend mocked him not openly, but obliquely, for this belief. When he hesitated entering her apartment one night after a date because he was feeling temptation, far from feeling flattered, she belittled him.

"Nothing is going to happen!" she insisted dismissively. Her attitude, so clearly derisive pushed him. So they broke up.

For women sometimes the search for a mate appears a little more pragmatic. We think we are looking for someone capable of creating the life style we would enjoy. If this means being able to stay home and raising our own children, we are not above checking out what kind of car you drive. There is nothing sexy about not being able to take care of business. I have a male friend who asked me once why I was so keen on getting my will correct. "It's the only thing on earth that I won't be around to fix if it's done wrong." I explained. I have only one child, and I want to make things easy for him, in a way that was denied my family when my mother died without a will. When I meet a man who shrugs his shoulders at this, preferring to spend three hundred dollars on a vacation in Vegas, instead of an important legal document I can just imagine how ill suited we are for each other.

Not all women feel this way. Some are only too happy to be financially irresponsible. I see tension in marriages when one partner is more conservative financially than the other. I can imagine the attraction when they were dating. The conservative one is thinking only of how fun loving and free spirited the easy going partner is. The spendthrift is only thinking how wonderfully safe and providential the conservative one is, until they are married and trying to decide whether to fund that annual IRA or go on a three week vacation.

You would intuit that the relationships where both characters are spendthrift or both are conservative would be easier, no? Except it isn't always the case. My friend and her husband happily plowed through both their inheritance and their heirs' inheritance during their ten year stint together and now glower angrily at each other in divorce proceedings. Sometimes conservative people, read "stingy", need the spendthrift partner to teach them how to have a little fun.

It is my belief that we look for our partners NOT based on the good in them, no matter what we think. We subconsciously chose partners who will friction us into personal growth, because the body yearns to heal old wounds. Hence if we had parents who put us down, we find ourselves marrying partners with the same propensity. Why? Not because we ache to be put down the rest of our life, but because we are still trying to gain approval. Our parents, bless their hearts, are probably not capable of change. At any rate they rarely have incentive to. In the parent child relationship they are on top. The kid absorbs however they are treated as "normal", no matter if it is uncomfortable. It feels "safe" because it is familiar.

With our spouse however, we are both adults. The relationship on the face of it ought to be more equal. If we love each other we have more of a vested interest in personal growth. Therefore, if we have a spouse who subconsciously puts us down, and we bring it to their attention – if we can state our need and receive positive change, a huge healing has occurred. I am not saying this happens very often. Fifty per cent of first marriages end in divorce. Two thirds of second marriages do, and a startling three fourths of third marriages end in divorce. Yikes. Unless you and your partner have achieved a high enough level of self awareness, it's just too tempting to call it quits when the hurt outweighs the pleasure.

My first husband was quite the workshop junkie. I perceived him as self aware and committed to the path of personal growth. Unfortunately it seemed most of what he had learned he liked to throw on his partner. "You ought to love me unconditionally," he would state when I expressed a need. So I put a lot of psychic energy into doing just that. I thought if I loved him in his ugly, torn, emotionally selfish state he might one day feel safe enough to reveal himself. Thus when he pointed out his displeasure in my weight gain, or put me down in public, I only redoubled my efforts to accept him.

He found my coffee drinking and cigarette smoking unacceptable habits. When I asked him to accept me unconditionally he pointed out that he was not a perfect person and should not be expected to act like one. So you see all those workshops had a limited effect. Without both people on board with personal growth a relationship is bound to flounder. We hung on as long as we did for sheer stubbornness. Each of us sensed a breakthrough could be had, except we never saw it.

I catapulted into a second marriage and experienced, surprise, surprise, the same tension. Why not pick someone who totally accepts me from the get go? The subconscious mind has an agenda!