I have heard it wisely said that most of what makes for a healthy, happy, lasting relationship comes with the pick of partner. Maybe, 80%. The rest of the 20% comes from relationship nurturing and efforts from there. So, pick well, nurture well…
Healthy vs Natural Matches:
If we are strongly attracted to and drawn towards a potential dating and relationship partner, isn’t that a good sign? Maybe, maybe not. Attraction alone is a good start—we need to be attracted to our partner to have the best chance at a long-term relationship or even marriage. This attraction is both physical, as well as psychological/emotional. However, is attraction enough? Absolutely not. Beyond attraction, many other traits are essential for a healthy match and partnership that will ideally last a lifetime and an eternity.
So, why would we be attracted to someone that could ultimately be bad for us? Simple. Beyond straight looks, we tend to be emotionally, psychologically, and interpersonally attracted to people that are our “natural” match. Often, we are similar to one of our parents and we often feel naturally attracted to someone similar to the other second parent. Such relationships usually feel strong, powerful, and emotional, leading to feelings of a natural connection. Why? Because that kind of relationship is the result of the role modeling, exposure, and example we have grown up with/other past experiences. Such people and relationships feel “familiar”, “comfortable”, and of course, “natural”. Like an old glove. However, a person that feels like a natural match for us often is not also a “healthy match”. In fact, most natural matches are unhealthy because health can be hard to find. Possible exception: if one happened to come from a family with both parents strongly healthy, which usually is not the case.
A “healthy” match is an ideal matchup of two people where they treat each other well. Such relationships have the greatest ability for committed success and happiness. Basically, they tend to have both partners, more or less, committed, kind, and civil with each other. They treat each other respectfully and with consideration as well. They are sensitive to the other’s wants, needs, and feelings and are primarily devoted to each other’s well-being. They are giving towards each other, whatever is needed. Overall, they treat each other well. However, again, if it’s a healthy match, ironically, it is often not also much of a “natural” (comfortable) match. So, what can be done? How can you “have it all”?
Finding and Nurturing a Healthy Relationship:
Step 1: Learn About Healthy Relationships: This is the most important step. Simply put, if you don’t know what a healthy is and looks like, you won’t be able to identify and pick one in the near future. There are many classes, videos, audios, and books defining what a healthy relationship actually looks like and consists of. Arguably the top expert on marital research is from the University of Washington named Dr. John Gottman. Even though he is a non-member of the church, he is often quoted at BYU and in various church talks, books, and articles. He is respected worldwide.
The teachings and findings of Dr. Gottman and too extensive for the scope of this brief article. However, his primary finding relates to behavioral interactions. Basically, after video taping couples at his lab in Washington and coding and tracking how they treat each other, he tallied how often spouses treated each other positively or negatively. After crunching the numbers, he was able to accurately predict which couples in the future would be divorced or not, as well as if they would be basically happy and satisfied with the marriage or not. He found statistically that couples who averaged a ratio of 5 or more positive interaction for every 1 negative interaction that occurred were successfully predicted to stay married and satisfied with their marriage. Conversely, those showing a lower ratio of positive to negative interactions were in trouble. If not divorced, they showed a significantly lower level of marital satisfaction.
For more information on research-based healthy relationships and marriages, here are some good resources from John Gottman. I suggest starting with these book in the order listed:
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail
The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work
Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage
The Man’s Guide to Women
Step 2: Search for and Pick a Healthy Relationship: Once you have researched and understand healthy relationships when you see them, it is important to look for and pick potential partners exhibiting healthy attributes (such as them being giving, acting respectful, showing consideration, and so on). For more information of ideas for where to find your future healthy partner—it’s own significant challenge--see:
Once you find a healthy prospect for a partner, it is important to develop a taste for this different, perhaps alien kind of partner. This “acquired taste” relationally often starts as a strategic choice and then grows into more with some time together, talking, connecting and bonding.
Step 3: Cultivate and Nurture the Relationship: There is a risk of sabotaging a relationship with a person with healthy relationship potential, simply because the healthy attributes are often different than more natural attributes you are used to. If you need to get some therapy and/or use self-help materials to avoid sabotaging what could be a good thing, do so.
For more information on not sabotaging your healthy relationship and getting healthy, see: https://www.ldsdimension.com/articles/snake-bitten-150/
For more information and ideas on ways to nurture your relationship according to gender, see: https://www.ldsdimension.com/articles/what-do-men-want-3/
A healthy match is far more important to the long-term success of a relationship and marriage than a “natural” (comfortable) match, which is more luxury than a necessity. Learn about, pick, and nurture the healthiest person you can find to make for the best relationship possible. At least a minimal level of natural attraction is important but alone is not enough to keep a relationship together. Health matters far more. Mutual healthy partners, over time, create the best chance for marital health, happiness, and longevity. Choose well, nurture well. And remember, “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.
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About the author
I am a founder of this site and as of May 2015 I am happily married to a wonderful LDS woman. I spent my years in the singles system as a singles rep working to optimize events and maximize the effectiveness of people interacting and finding someone to love. I studied psychology for years and my years as a software and business consultant have made me very adept at understanding people and their motivations. I hope to help others find that same happiness that I have.