Could our obsession with finding the perfect match be totally wrong-headed?
I recently took a road trip with an older relative of mine, who’s been very happily married for a long time.
When you’re stuck in a car with someone for hours on end, you get to know a lot about them; there’s not a lot to do besides tell each other all your stories. By the end of the second day, we’d shared plenty of laughs, and shed some tears too.
After he told me the story of how he knew he wanted to marry his wife (which is very sweet, and which I’m not sharing) a question kept nagging at me, so I asked him the next day. Did he think he just ‘got lucky’ enough to meet the one perfect person for him, or did he think he’d have met someone else who could have been right for him, if he and his wife had never crossed paths?
He thought about it a while before answering, and eventually said he thought none of us is so unique, and there are plenty of people who could technically be ‘right’ for each other. I’m not so sure about that; I think he’s a pretty one-of-a-kind guy, and he got pretty lucky. I don’t know very many happy couples, so he seems like a unicorn to me. But maybe he’s right.
The writer and philosopher Alain de Botton, author of a viral essay for The New York Times called ‘Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person’, has another take: he says most of us marry the wrong person, and that’s okay. Could this be true? Could our obsession with finding the perfect match be totally wrong-headed?
Love is a skill, not an instinct
The first thing de Botton points out is that most of us have no idea how to love someone. We go around thinking we can just trust our feelings, and everything will be okay. We want to follow our hearts and believe we’ll know it when we meet the perfect person. But, says de Botton, “if you keep following your feelings, you will almost certainly make a big mistake.”