You grow up with a childhood fantasy about what love is supposed to be.
You imagine the perfect girl.
She is your soul mate who adores you and complements you in every way.
She is attractive, confident and smart.
The only challenge is to find her. But once you have found her everything will be complete.
This is the message sold by movies. One of my girlfriend's favorite films is "Crazy, Stupid, Love". It's about divorced parents who get back together. And a 13 year old kid who thinks his 17 year old babysitter is his soul mate.
The problem is that once you start dating you realize that women have flaws. This isn't a problem at first, as these flaws just suggest that this is not the perfect girl for you. So you find another.
But when it happens over and over again and you start to get a bit older you wonder if time is running out. Will you ever find the perfect girl? Or will you have to settle for something less?
Shattering The Myth Of The Perfect Girl
The problem arises from framing relationships like this. On one hand it makes some sense that with an infinite number of women in the world there might always be a "better one" out there somewhere.
Men are conditioned to always be looking for a better and better woman, slowly getting closer and closer to the ideal specimen. There's an excellent article at Single Black Male that makes an analogy with a video game. We want to choose our girl the same way we create a custom video game character. We want to pick the stats ourselves and we always want full stats.
But how are you ever supposed to objectively measure the perfect girl? The truth is that you can't. The reality is that there is no perfect girl who is 100% right for you.
It was a tragedy when I first figured this out. I had naively thought that when I found the perfect girl it would fit, I would know and it would be easy. It took a bit of time to mourn the loss of my innocence when this happened.
A female reader on Mind Body Green submitted this excellent piece on how she felt when the myth about the perfect relationship was shattered:
It is a slightly sad but also empowering adult realization that there is no perfect girl out there. Nobody has it all. The upside to it all is that once you get over it a whole new world of possibilities opens up.
Instead of always moving on to the next girl, you can actually begin the hard work that is love. You can figure out how to make the trade offs to be with someone despite all their flaws and imperfections.
The Realization That You Wouldn't Want It Any Other Way
In the myth about the perfect girl all you had to do was find her, marry her, and then just be together. Since you were already perfect for each other there was no work that needed to be done.
What you then have to do, and this is the hard part, is work on the areas where you feel incompatible.
It's easy to get frustrated but you need to think about this in terms of a glass half (or 85%) full. You can't get upset at the little bit that is difficult. You have to be happy about 85% of compatibility that you do have and then work damn hard on the rest of it.
It is a challenge but that's life. That's what makes it interesting and exciting. It's the growing, learning, changing and the experiencing of life together that creates the richness. When you understand this you never want to go back to that boyish idea of perfection.
Whether she has some flaws or imperfections is not important. Instead it is how you both deal with these things that makes the difference.
If you do the hard work then over time you will grow closer to being that 100% perfect match for each other.
This is the message I hear when I talk to the elderly about love and marriage. You understand that no one is born perfect for each other, but with decades of love you can grow and become closer to perfect.
Growing up we are sold a big lie about having to find the perfect girl. Men are on the hunt and they discard quality women as they seek the one woman who is perfect for them in every way.
At some point this bubble is pricked and the myth is shattered. It can be a tragic time as you lose your innocence and are confronted with the true nature of love.
But once you recover from the shock, you understand that actually this is the way it's supposed to be.
This is better.
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