Finding Mr./Ms. Right

Emotional stability is a powerful factor. The more unstable a partner is, the lower he or she falls on the relationship success scale.

by James McClernan — 

As I silently listened to Cindi’s heartfelt pain, I remembered how frequently I had heard such a cry. After a recent breakup at 27, she was single, with no children, living alone, and she felt life was passing her by. She would never find Mr. Right.

No matter what kind of comforting words were offered, she would still experience a recovery process that would seem overwhelming, and it would take three to 12 months before she might feel open to a new relationship. During that time, she would be vulnerable to falling into an unhealthy rebound relationship.

What Cindi had not yet discovered is that loving, enduring relationships are not about finding or keeping the right guy, but rather about knowing and nurturing ourselves.

We may spend frustrating years pursuing that special elusive partner who will make our dreams come true, fill that empty void, nurture us, comfort us, stimulate us, believe in us, find us sexy, attractive, generous and wise, make us secure and love us unconditionally the rest of our lives. All this in a stress-filled world full of people struggling and drowning in change, with little time left over for quality living or loving relationships.

Counselors have advised a continuous procession of individuals who, regardless of their age, achievements, income, social status, education or profession, find it difficult not to believe they are responsible for the non-growth relationships they are attracted to. In fact, their unhappiness is assured not only by their expectations, but also by how they view themselves.

The following factors contribute to how we match up with prospective partners and how likely we are to stay together. Most of the partners with whom we find ourselves are about equal in attractiveness (including sexual) to ourselves. People we consider much better looking make us feel insecure, and those we see as less attractive do not stimulate us. Intelligence and abilities may be different but are usually fairly balanced between most partners.

Our value priorities may be compromised to some degree when it comes to politics, religion, financial matters, friendships, in-laws or living arrangements. Lifestyle, career and status also are values, but they are much harder for most couples to compromise on, depending on other mitigating factors. In the case of prominent personality traits and behavior, opposites often do attract. For example, outgoing persons often initially feel more comfortable with reserved partners. Later, the traits that were initially appealing become the same traits that push them apart.

Emotional stability is a powerful factor. The more unstable a partner is, the lower he or she falls on the relationship success scale. Emotional stability greatly influences how couples get together, or stay together. This factor is closely tied to personality and behavior differences. At the upper end of the relationship success scale, self-awareness, self-ownership and commitment to personal growth are ultimate determinants. With these last three factors comes a love of the never-ending process which assures each person of the ability to love and not just the need to be loved. Each partner is responsible to, rather than responsible for, the other partner.

Partners with high self-awareness, self-ownership and commitment to personal growth most often strive for excellence rather than self-defeating and relationship-defeating perfectionism. Awareness, ownership and growth are essential to achieve self-esteem, self-worth and self-trust, which are all integral to lasting, healthy love relationships.

When we feel safe, know who we are and live in the moment, we relax, which brings out our best qualities. We do not expect others or circumstances to make us happy, safe, stimulated, etc., and as our expectations (needs) for our partners decrease, our relationship improves, our ability to love increases, we become more comfortable, handle stresses better and achieve our goals and commitments more consistently.

Think about it — when you are truly relaxed, you are safe yet unguarded (not defensive), your natural humor comes out, your creativity increases, your intellect is sharper, deeper and broader. No pretenses are necessary; you are physically stronger, healthier, open to new ideas, and understand with objectivity, empathy, caring and concern. Your energy increases while you remain calm and focused, rather than scattered and energy-drained. This is the only time you can truly get beyond your own needs to love another. This is the real you.

If Cindi would let go of this idea of “finding the right one” and concentrate on developing the personal factors that can lead to a healthy relationship by becoming the healthiest partner she can be, no additional pursuit would be necessary. We all attract and are attracted to people who are at about the same place as we are emotionally. When we model healthy behavior, thinking and feelings, we attract the same. Wellness, disease or something in between — if we are active in the world, we automatically attract and unite with those who are in a similar place without any special searching.

On a cautionary note, if one partner grows and enhances him/herself and the other partner does not, they will both become uncomfortable with each other and eventually be attracted to partners closer to their own energetic space. This applies to platonic friends as well as romantic relationships. If you learn to love the process of self-enhancement (not narcissism), your relationships will improve as you evolve into the better you.


Dr. James McClernan, Ed.D., is a licensed psychologist at Palm Valley Behavioral Health in Goodyear, Ariz., and the author of Hugs From the Refrigerator: The Psychology of Emotional Eating. 623-925-2677 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 6, December 2006/January 2007.

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