Sometimes people ask me about dating, specifically about what they should look for in a potential partner. I always start with the acknowledgement that I struggled with dating for years and made lots of mistakes. It’s tough out there!
Connect on Several Things
But one thing I usually tell people is that it’s important to connect on several things. For example, my wife and I connect on work—we both have psychology backgrounds and do some writing projects together. We also connect on faith—we’re both Christians. We also like to do the same kinds of leisure activities—we’re both high energy, enjoy doing CrossFit, etc. And we have a great chemistry and sexual connection.
If we only had one major point of connection—for example, only work, only faith, only Crossfit, or only the sexual connection, I think we would struggle. The reason is that we all have ups and downs with the various areas of our lives. Sometimes I’m tired of work and don’t want to connect around it. Sometimes I’m struggling in my relationship with God, and need a break from church stuff. Last year I got injured and couldn’t do much physical activity. Etc.
On the other hand, if you connect on a lot of different areas, struggling in one area of connection isn’t that big of a deal. It’s as if there are a few different cords connecting you to your partner. If one cord gets knotted or tangled, you can always connect using the other cords until you get the knotted one figured out. But if you only have one cord, and something goes wrong, you’re in trouble. There’s too much riding on that one thing.
Shared Faith is Important, But…
I see this a lot in Christian couples, who think all they need for a relationship to be successful is a shared faith. Shared faith is important, yes, but it isn’t everything. Make sure there are other points of connection besides faith. Other couples have the sexual connection, but not much else. This is a problem too. Sex is an awesome way to connect, but it isn’t everything. Make sure there are other points of connection as well.
What the Research Says
In psychology, there is an interesting area of research that relates to this point. It involves the effect that having multiple important identities have on your happiness and well-being. In general, if you have more identities that are important to you, your well-being is more stable than if you have fewer. For example, when I was single, my primary identity was as a professor. This was a great identity and I loved my job, but if I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job at my work, I could get pretty down. There weren’t a lot of other important identities to balance me out. But now that I’m a husband as well, it’s a bit more balanced. If I’m stinking it up at the office, I can think about how well I’m doing as a husband. And if I have a bad day at home, I can remind myself that I’m doing an okay job at the workplace.
In a similar way, when you are dating and thinking about getting married, make sure you have several points of connection with your partner. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Have a variety of ways that you connect, which will lead to more stable levels of relationship satisfaction over time.