When it comes to dating, folks are often told to hold out for what they deserve; not to settle for something less than perfect for them. We make little lists of what we’re seeking in a partner and score potential lovers according to their ability to meet those standards.
But how good are we at judging important traits when building a romantic relationship with a partner? As it turns out, not so great. In her book How Not to Die Alone, Logan Ury covers this point, highlighting that science indicates people like to overestimate the importance of certain elements when considering future outcomes. And it can seriously mess with their happiness.
This tendency is referred to as focusing illusion, and it’s been brought up loads of times before, like in the Yale Science of Well-being course, for example. And time and time again, it is shown that the things we believe will make us happiest often do not.
In the dating world, Ury has highlighted a handful of things we notoriously overestimate when looking for a perfect partner. Here is what they are, so you can be mindful of your desire to overinflate the importance of these things going forward.
3 things we overvalue when it comes to choosing a partner
Finding a partner with *money*
To be clear, when Ury mentions money here, she does highlight that it matters, but only to a point.
“When couples below the poverty line struggle to meet their basic needs, their marriage suffers,” she wrote.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty, then it is quite likely your relationship will feel that strain. But in saying that, Ury pointed out that studies indicate your emotional satisfaction does not continually increase as wages go up.
A study from 2010 found that happiness levels tend to flatten once salaries hit US$75,000 (about $109,000). Some time has obviously passed since that report, and the numbers may well have changed, but the message remains: you don’t need to find a millionaire (or be a millionaire) to be happy.
Before you roll your eyes, no one is saying you need to shack up with someone you’re not attracted to, but you should lower the value you place on attractiveness and loosen the definition of ‘your type’.
Here, Ury writes about how science (and stories from pals in long-term relationships) tells us lust fades over the years. If you’ve chosen a partner primarily because of your attraction to them, chances are that element of your relationship will die off down the track – do you have much else to lean on?
“Even if you marry the most attractive person, eventually, you’ll get used to how they look. That initial pleasure will fade.”
Similar interests or traits
In the personality department, Ury explained that many people seek out partners like themselves. They assume that having a similar demeanour or background, or even interests will help them get along.
That is not the case.
“Research tells us that similar personalities are not a predictor of long-term relationship success,” she writes.
The same goes for hobbies. Doing things alone or with friends is not a bad thing; you do not need to be tied at the hip, people.
What you want is a partner who complements you. Dating another version of yourself is kind of overwhelming.
So what have we learnt here? Essentially, we self-sabotage our romantic happiness by directing our focus toward things that are kind of inconsequential. So next time you find yourself questioning a potential match because of one of these details, take a moment to consider if it’s actually something that will matter in the long run.