Updated: Mar 3
Love is...sustainable. Part 11 in our “Love is...” series
Let me tell you about an issue that broke my heart so often I almost couldn't stand it.
Here just one example, out of millions and millions. A woman I’ll call Janet came to work with me. A journalist. Prominent in her career, miserable in her private life. Why? Janet felt trapped in a dead marriage to a man she’d cheated on many times, for which she hated herself. Why not divorce him? Well, it was the old story: they had kids, he was as good man, they had friends who’d be shocked to hear they were breaking up. In fact, they had a whole lifestyle based on the intersection of their careers, hers in journalism, his in public affairs.
But there was no love, no passion, no connection, no fun, no closeness.
How did Janet get into this place? Easy. Same as with so many of us. She was someone with political passions and she met a guy with the same passions and knowledge and caring as she had. They could talk for hours, and did. And they really respected each other. So they wanted to spend time with each other. Which was mostly good time. So they got married.
So what’s the problem? you might ask. Let’s start with his hands. He was ever so slightly shorter than she was. But Janet was a large-boned, athletic woman, and her hands were markedly larger than his. It bothered the HELL out of her to hold hands with a guy whose hands were smaller than hers.
Now I can see you jumping out of your chair shouting, “Silly woman!! Why are you making such a big deal out of something so trivial???”
Well, that’s what Janet said to herself!! She called herself a silly woman!! Except that his small hands—compared to hers—were just the tip of the iceberg. There were many other things about him physically that she found a turn-off. How sweaty he was. How often he licked his lips. How he walked with his feet pointing outward.
And he was boring. Janet hadn’t noticed in their political-conversation days. But guess what? That was the entire range of conversation for him. He never laughed; he never made her laugh. He was not a fun guy.
And this cost Janet seventeen years of her life. That’s a long time to figure this shit out.
Now if you can imagine my seeing stories like this over and over, you can see why I was getting sick of all this heartbreak.
So we did research on this which led to two revolutionary—and I’m not using the word loosely—discoveries, all of which appears in our book Is He Mr. Right?, which, despite the title, is for both women and men. .
1. People who find lasting love don’t waste their time in go-nowhere relationships.
Just think about this for a moment. Suppose it takes the average person 10 relationships to find the right relationship. Now suppose you have two women—Bella and Beula.
Bella doesn’t waste time. She figures out after 3 months whether a person is right for her, and if not she dumps them. So it’ll take Bella 30 months—2½ years—to find the right person. To find sustainable love.
Beula, on the other hand, takes 3 years to figure this out with each relationship. (It took Janet 17 years.) So it’ll take Beula 30 years to find the right person. Talk about chewing up the clock!
Guess who the odds favor for finding sustainable love in their lifetime?
2. There IS a way to figure out fast—within about 3 months—who’s right for you.
This is a way that goes beyond the proverbial red flags—the other person’s broke, abuses alcohol, is mean to waiters and store clerks, and so on. The way to figure out if someone is right for YOU is to understand the 5 dimensions of relationship chemistry. I’ll lay these out in the form of questions:
Do you feel comfortable with this person and is it easy to get close? I call this dimension Easy Intimate Connection.
Do you feel safe being in a relationship with this person? Now to be sure you could be with someone for forty years and then they decide to cheat on you. But in a world without absolute guarantees you can tell pretty quickly whether someone is open or closed, honest or dishonest, trustworthy or not. There are lots of little signs. And of course feeling safe also has to do with feeling free from attack, verbal, emotional, or physical.
Do you feel it’s fun to be together? Now, hey, it’s not for me to define fun for you. For some people it’s dancing, for some it’s dinner parties, for some it’s digging for dinosaur bones. Whatever. But you and the other person have to feel that you do regularly have fun together and that you’re always able to have fun.
Do you have real affection and passion for each other? This is about the entire physical realm of your relationship. The way you smell to each other. The way you look to each other. Everything from lovemaking to kissing.
Do you feel there’s real mutual respect? Not for what you might be, but as you are. Not my respecting you for the way I want you to be, but my respecting you for the way you want to be. Not inward respect, but respect that’s made clear to you.
So these are the dimensions of relationship chemistry: easy intimate connection, safety, fun, affection and sexual passion, and respect. And what we found in our research was that for a relationship to be sustainable you don’t need a score of 100% in each dimension. You just need a passing grade. If you got a 79%, 72%, 81%, 71%, and 74% for the five dimensions in your budding relationship, that would be just fine.
But you know what destroys people’s chances for happiness? A super high score in a couple of dimensions, and lousy scores in the other three dimensions. Let’s say you met someone who was saving the planet so you super respected them, AND they were mind-blowingly great in bed. Now for sure it would be easy to get caught up in a relationship with that person.
But suppose, as the weeks went by, you realized, dimly, reluctantly, that this person was deceitful, verbally abusive, boring, and very hard to get truly close to. The people who waste 17 years on a relationship like this and end up in my office overlook the low scores their partner gets in some dimensions of relationship chemistry.
It's sad, I know, but you can’t do that. Not if you want to find love that lasts.
For the whole story, and much help, please check out Is He Mr. Right?
The cover pic is, of course, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca. The other pix--sorry--are stock fotos.