In my work as a relationship therapist in Denver, Colorado, clients often question whether their partner is the best possible match and try to determine whether to keep looking for a better fit. Often this consideration is coupled by a broader “fear of missing out” (FOMO) as clients wonder whether they are settling or if there might be an even better, more “perfect” or “ideal” relationship out there.
If you too contemplate this question related to dating and commitment, consider these dynamics as you evaluate whether to commit or continue looking for a more ideal partner.
Nothing is perfect
From our earliest childhood expectations comes the idea that love should be free of disagreements, conflict, and should in some way “complete us” and our life. This very ideal view of relationships isn’t productive or realistic as we are faced with the real dynamics of couplehood, including healthy friction and a certain level of imperfection. Embracing challenges in any partnership as learning opportunities and possibilities for personal expansion is key to a happy relationship.
When contemplating whether you should commit to a relationship or keep looking, it's easy to get wrapped up in a self-dialogue that your relationships should feel more perfect, especially if you tend to compare it to your friends’ relationships by way of social media. Don’t forget that Facebook is a highlight reel of life and comparing your relationship to others on facebook isn’t a good way to determine whether it meets the right criteria for yourself. No one posts a picture of the fight they had with their significant other before their fun night out or their recent disagreement about money.
This preoccupation with a perfect relationship is also closely tied to attachment theory, whereas anxiously attached individuals often cling to what they believe to be one ideal mate and avoidants disengage the moment the relationship feels imperfect. Tune into whether you are affected by these dynamics in light of your attachment tendencies.
The age-old saying of “nothing’s perfect” rings true more than ever when evaluating a relationship and it’s critical to ask yourself whether you can live with and embrace the specific dynamics that aren’t ideal as there will always be a list of those in any relationship.
Trust your intuition
Intuition is a powerful and often overlooked relationship consideration. Sometimes there is a core feeling that a relationship is right or wrong that we try to ignore or consciously rationalize otherwise. For example, you might have a feeling that a partner isn’t going to be healthy fit long-term. It might be unexplained by facts, and you ignore the feeling, telling yourself that because your partner fits so much of your ideal criteria on paper by having a good job, financial responsibility, and shared interests, that you should stay. Yet, this burning sense of feeling that things just aren’t right probably won’t go away and shouldn’t be ignored.
Learning to tap into your inner compass is essential in determining whether your romantic interest is worth a commitment or if you should keep looking. Let that feeling in your gut help guide your decision to stay in your relationship or seek the closure you need to fully move on and explore whether there truly is a better fit for you out there.
Evaluating a relationship is often about getting honest with yourself. It’s so easy to tell yourself that is everything is good enough because you don’t want to be alone or fear that you will not find someone else. This can be especially the case if you feel your life needs to follow a “typical” timeline that you see your peers adhering to, which can lead you to accept who stands before you, rather than waiting for a better fit. Or, you may convince yourself that the relationship is good when it is not, which may reflect your self-esteem or sense of worthiness of a great relationship. On the other hand, if you are accustomed to conflict or drama, you might find things wrong when a relationship is going well as an excuse to disengage, especially if you have an avoidant attachment system.
Sometimes, relationship anxiety takes over. If you have ever felt overly nervous, find yourself constantly analyzing your “next move”, or found reasons to leave a partnership that was going fairly well, you might struggle with relationship anxiety. This tendency can cloud your judgement and make it difficult to be truly honest about the potential of the relationship at hand. This dynamic can also lead to continuing to date because of fear of abandonment and/or fear of missing out. Online dating can be a true distraction in situations like this as there is an never-ending stream of potential mates in your inbox daily. Get clear and honest about what you want before letting relationship anxiety drive your next move.
At Center for Shared Insight, we work with clients who contemplate this and other relationship questions daily. As specialists in attachment theory, our team helps you understand the underlying reasons you might feel the tendency to keep looking outside your relationship, or your tendency to settle too quickly. If you want to learn more about our specific approach to relationship therapy, schedule a free consultation.