Finding a partner: desire or need?

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Robert Maurer

Finding a partner: desire or need?

It is not the same as choosing a partner because you want to, freely and without haste, or because you are afraid of being alone. In this article the psychologist Marcelo Ceberio talks to us about this topic.

Last update: January 03, 2022

When you want to find a partner, you need to be predisposed to "research". While it seems obvious, many people do the exact opposite. Fear, immaturity, reluctance to commit, and many other reasons act as boycott factors in the partner selection process.

It is important to distinguish the desire to be a couple from an imperative need to have a partner. The latter arises from the difficulty of being alone with oneself and from the desperate search for someone who can fill that void.

Finding a partner and personal solitude

Personal loneliness seems to be the reason for finding a partner. But this is not a good start when you consider loneliness a bad condition.

Generally, being alone is associated with a devaluation of one's condition. We feel unwanted, set aside, rejected, marginalized, rejected, abandoned. This condition is associated with sadness, anguish and depression.

This way of thinking is observable throughout history, from the Bible precept that says "it is not good for man to be alone", to the verse of an iconic 60s song that reads "I am very lonely and sad in this abandoned world… ". Loneliness is frowned upon, not only for those who experience it, but also on a social level.

If loneliness has so many downsides, who could want to be alone? However, there is no condition of loneliness in an absolute sense, you can feel alone even if you are with someone.

Loneliness in the couple

One of the most difficult loneliness to face is the loneliness that is felt within the couple. This type of loneliness creates numerous emotional deficiencies. To this, we must add the context in which we live.

Over the years, the social context in which one lives reminds the person that he has remained single, that he has no partner, that he has not married, that he has not started a family, that he has no children, etc. A whole series of "not" that make people feel inadequate. This is especially true when most of the friends have married, are expecting children or already have a family. These situations are like a mirror showing what you want and don't have.

It is this context that increases the tragic image of loneliness and strongly affects people's self-esteem. We are confronted with our own faults, with what we do not have. It is as if you have a pending debt. This condition is experienced as unbearable and, in the end, we try to escape from loneliness as soon as possible.

What happens is that in this desperate escape from loneliness, we often tend to choose a person who can fill that gap, that feeling alone. This leads us to create "ghosts", ideal projections in which the other is not actually another person, but a sort of large screen on which our needs are projected.

This must show our shortcomings. However, not having a partner doesn't necessarily mean you have shortcomings. Generally, people who have deficiencies establish emotional relationships based on addiction, because they are unable to live with themselves and seek references in the couple. It also tries to fill a personal void by seeking recognition from others.

It is important to keep in mind that this need will generate anxiety that produces certain behaviors. This scrambling for mirrors - caused on many occasions by fear of being alone, lack of recognition and low self-esteem - leads to choosing a partner with whom one can hardly have a deep relationship.

Finding a partner out of necessity: what are the consequences?

When you are pushed to find a partner out of necessity, you make a choice that we could define as desperate. This is because the subject puts the other on a pedestal, seeking recognition from the latter. It is one of the consequences of "bad love" and forms the basis of the alienation between the members of the couple.

These desperate choices are comparable to self-fulfilling prophecies. You try so hard not to be alone that you end up being alone again. These couples are destined not to last long, bringing the subject back to the initial situation of loneliness.

Another version of loneliness

However, there is another version of loneliness, which has no negative meaning and which improves our self-esteem. It is what allows us to feel good about ourselves and enjoy the time we spend alone.

A person with good self-esteem is interdependent and not having a partner still allows them to share their precious time. Typically, these are people who are not stressed by anxiety or despair and who enjoy their time and value themselves.

Having this awareness and giving importance to your time means choosing carefully when to accept an invitation or consciously decide when to spend time with someone. When you feel good about yourself, you appreciate and value your time. The person therefore becomes selective, because he does not want to waste his time unnecessarily. It's not about getting defensive, it's just a form of caution.

After all, the first partner we have is loneliness, which is nothing but the sine qua non for having a relationship with another person.

If you want to choose a good partner, you must first establish a healthy relationship with your loneliness. This means having a healthy relationship with yourself.

Choose a partner because you want it

Choosing a person starting from a mature, adult desire and without being pushed by neurosis gives us the opportunity to find the partner by observing both the positive and negative aspects. We would like to underline that they are not positive or negative aspects per se, but are valid for the individual person. Therefore, they respond to personal and subjective needs.

Finding a partner because you want one implies accepting your own loneliness. If I am comfortable with myself alone, I will have to make a careful choice when I want to share my precious time with another person.

Accepting your loneliness and feeling good alone are the starting point for choosing a good partner. This also means being careful when we find ourselves choosing a partner at a certain point in our life.

However, extreme caution can lead us to be too selective in our research. In fact, it's not uncommon to go from a defensive position to a phobia of a relationship. In these cases, there is a risk of being alone (loneliness + being cautious + defensive position + phobia = loneliness).

It may seem like a categorical imperative, but if you choose your partner out of necessity, you run the risk of finding yourself in a toxic relationship and in the game of "bad love". It's not the same as wanting a partner or desperately needing one. There is a noticeable difference between a person who wants someone and a person who needs someone.

To explain it with a metaphor, necessity is like staying three days without eating and sitting in a restaurant. Despair leads us to eat the first thing in front of us, for example, the bread that the waiter has just brought us. We do not wait for the menu and, when they bring it to us, we choose the dish that can be prepared more quickly. On the contrary, if we had a snack, when we are in the restaurant, we will first order an appetizer and then we will calmly choose the course we like best.

Being comfortable with ourselves and with our loneliness, although they are not indicators for a correct choice, allows us to choose freely and without haste. This means that one chooses starting from a relational symmetry, from an equal condition. If we are desperate, however, we will be easily manipulated.

Idealization and realistic vision

Choosing a partner involves selecting only one subject (the person I choose), but with two personal implications. In the first, the chosen person is idealized and only the virtues we take into consideration or attribute to them are observed. In the second, the person is chosen for who he really is, with his strengths and her weaknesses.

However, it should be noted that in the process of forming a couple relationship, the idealization corresponds to the first period, while the realistic vision takes over at a later stage. This, however, does not always happen, because it would imply seeing the couple as a whole; in its positive and negative aspects.

To move from idealization to realistic vision, it is also necessary to accept and understand the aspects of the partner that are not considered positive (virtues + defects = real human being). People who have affective deficiencies project their shortcomings onto the other looking for a savior and ending up creating an idealized being whose virtues are observed only.

Those who choose out of necessity consider only the aspects of the other that satisfy their needs. You only see what you want to see and delete the rest. In this way, we deny the existence of aspects that we do not like and we attribute to the partner characteristics that he does not have and on which the ideal of the couple that we want to form is modeled.

Those who want to form a couple and know themselves well are more objective in their choice. If we know who we are and what we want, we will understand better who is and what the partner really represents for us. In this way, he will be a real person and not idealized.

The person who chooses from desire sees the other in its entirety, while the person who chooses out of necessity takes into account only the idealized aspects.

It is obvious that those who prefer the balance between positive and negative aspects will consider the former more to fall in love, which will allow for some degree of success in love affairs. However, it is not uncommon to find people who, despite the prevalence of negative aspects, insist on wanting to be with a person by taking the relationship to extreme levels.

In these cases we live in expectation of ideal responses and feel frustration when the partner's responses do not coincide with those expected. They are people who fall in love with a "ghost" built on the basis of personal needs. Typically, they pour their discomfort onto the partner.

These are subjects who suffer because they live in the utopia of adapting the other to their own desires, to model it according to personal needs, without understanding who he is. The partner, in turn, feels inadequate in the face of the other's demands: to be someone he is not.

A love affair can turn into a couple relationship. It is the transition from ideal love (or infatuation) to true love based on the creation of an emotionally mature bond. People who love each other tacitly agree on how they feel, on the reasons for this love and on what are the character aspects of the other that do not feed this feeling. This is how a couple is formed.

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