Let’s say that you’re out there in the dating scene – meeting members of the opposite sex online and in person, making conscious decisions about who to date, and learning more about who you are and what you need and want in a life partner relationship. And then you get to the third or fourth date with someone. That’s when you start noticing how some aspects of your dating partner don’t fit with the vision you have of your ideal mate.

For many singles, confronting this “fork in the road” toward finding a life partner relationship is a major dating dilemma. That’s because taking an unanticipated turn onto an unknown road toward finding a life partner can be confusing and scary. This is the point when I’ve seen many singles quickly, and even carelessly, reject someone who could have made a suitable partner.

The challenge at this stage of dating is to look long and hard at the actual live person you’re dating and determine what aspects of your ideal relationship vision are mandatory, and which are negotiable. Truthfully, I don’t suggest that you do this on your own. It takes a coach or a mentor, an objective person whom you trust, to help you determine the pros and cons of the person you’re dating. Without help, you run the risk of listening to that little voice in your head saying, “Hey, break up with this person. S/he doesn’t match up! You’ll only be settling for less!

I believe that “settling for less” inaccurately describes the experience of singles having to compromise some of the characteristics they seek in their ideal mate. To best explain the choices one faces when confronting a “fork in the road,” here are a couple of examples:

George feels comfortable and happy when he is with Julia, and sees himself having a future with her, IF ONLY she would be more intellectually stimulating. George has a keen interest in current events and looks forward to reading the news every day. He has tried to interest Julia in discussing news and events with him, and while she is familiar with the world around her, it is not at the level that George would like. On the other hand, they share similar family backgrounds, outdoor interests and spiritual lifestyle goals. They have a good time together, can converse about a variety of subjects, and get along well. George also finds her attractive, but still wonders if he can marry a woman who does not stimulate him intellectually. On the other hand, he has yet to meet anyone else that he enjoys being with as much, overall.

I would suggest to George that he try and view Julia as the intelligent woman she truly is, despite not having as keen an interest in current events as he. I would encourage him to focus on their shared interests and goals, and to imagine Julia as a partner in life rather than solely as an intellectual cohort. I would, of course, remind him that not all people are perfect, yet they can and should be able to grow. I would strongly recommend that since he is attracted to her and enjoys her company, he may already have sufficient information with which to know that they can create a life together.

Anna has gone out with Michael for two months, having met him on an online dating website. She experienced him as nice and attentive, and came away from each date with the confirmation that he was a decent and honest man, with whom she shared similar spiritual and life goals. While she was able to visualize being married to him, she did not feel any excitement about him, or excitement about having a future with him. Anna wondered if it was reasonable to have a marriage that did not have much passion if Michael was, in fact, a nice and kind man. But she wasn’t sure if her doubts about him were reason enough to break up either.

I see Anna’s situation differently than George’s. George is pretty clear and confident about who he is and what he needs; Anna isn’t as in touch with her needs, which is the reason why she’s confused about Michael. Anna believes that she should marry a man solely because he’s kind, honest and decent. This reflects a lack of self-esteem on Anna’s part, because if she believed she deserved passion and excitement in a relationship, then she would break up with Michael, no matter how nice and decent he was, and continue searching.

Negotiating a “fork in the road” essentially requires that you have sufficient knowledge about yourself and your needs. Having this knowledge will help you decide what turns to take – should you disqualify someone because you know you need more than what s/he is capable of giving? Or, since you know that no one is perfect, should you be “flexible?”

George, in the example above, was challenged to see how his dating partner, Julia, met the majority of his needs for a life partner. This meant that he turn onto the road requiring him to be flexible. Once Anna (in the second example) realizes that she deserves to have passion and excitement in a relationship, she’ll turn onto the road disqualifying Michael, which will eventually lead her closer to finding her life partner.

The road to finding your life partner is filled with many opportunities to take turns onto other roads that can still get you to where you want to go. If you focus on what is missing in a relationship, then you may be setting yourself up to feel that you are “settling for less.” But if you choose instead to look at the bigger picture, to see your goal in the distance, and be flexible about turning onto some side roads along the way, you may get to your destination -- finding your life partner -- that much sooner.

© Copyright 2006-2008 Janice D. Bennett, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Practicing as a psychologist for over 22 years, Dr. Janice has treated many singles looking to get married, but who had become depressed and demoralized by the dating process. Living in New York City with her husband and three children, Dr. Janice now uses her skills and experience to help healthy singles overcome the obstacles preventing them from attaining the relationships and lives they really want. Janice has been quoted in Us Weekly and Cosmopolitan Magazines, writes the "Love Coach" advice column on http://www.JMatch.com, has a free e-newsletter and gives teleclasses, lectures and workshops. Check out her "Get Your Love Right!" blog, read other dating-related Q's&A's and articles, and sign up for a complimentary 40 minute telephone coaching session by visiting her website at http://www.DoctorLoveCoach.com