Your Perfect Match May Not Exist (And That’s Fine)

Couple kissing on beach at sunset

We see it promised all the time: that perfect match is out there for you. Maybe they’re just a click away on a dating app. And you’ll know when you meet them because they will check every single box you’ve decided for love compatibility.

But this perfect match has one little catch: they probably don’t exist.

A healthy relationship takes work, but also, dating requires a lot of compromise. And that compromise starts when we consider who we are going to date as our close enough to perfect partner.

Romantic bride and groom kissing

In an advice column that has since gone viral for its succinct wisdom, dating advice columnist and podcaster Dan Savage famously said, “There is no settling down without some settling for. There is no long-term relationship without not just putting up with your partner’s flaws, but accepting them and then pretending they aren’t there. And we like to call it, in my house, ‘paying the price of admission.” 

So what can you do?

Don’t compromise on the big stuff

Make sure you’ve got your priorities in order. All too often, we are willing to excuse the real problems, while we refuse to overlook the details. The way a date treats you, views their overall life, treats other people, and walks through the world will tell you a lot about who they are. How you react and respond to these is what real love compatibility and a healthy relationship is based on.

Diversify your support system

Group of friends jumping in the sea
One of the biggest stressors among couples is the pressure to be all things to one person. But this neglects a super important part of your life: your friendships.

In fact, researchers are saying that having friendships is absolutely vital to having a healthy relationship. It puts a lot of pressure on someone if they need to be your perfect match, your co-parent, your friend, but then also your surfing buddy, your tennis partner, your cooking class partner… you get the idea. Enjoy common interests with your partner. For the rest, call up your best bud instead.

Take stock of what you’re really looking for

Couple on a date in a cafe talking
If you’re actively dating right now, pay attention to what makes you swipe right or left. Are you being shallow? Are you disregarding people because they may not fit your exact idea? Of course you need to have a few things in common, but see if you’re dismissing a possibly good date because they don’t fit into an unrealistic checklist of your perfect match on a list of must-haves.
Sometimes, a pickiness about qualities we want in a perfect partner are qualities we actually want in ourselves, but are too afraid to go after. It’s easier to decide that you are only going to date a guy who drives a luxury sports car than to make a budget and start putting away money every week to spring for that cherry red Corvette of your dreams. If the thought of dating a successful entrepreneur is the only thing that gets you going, maybe consider digging out those transcripts and applying to business school yourself. It’s one thing to support your love match’s ambitions, but it’s another thing to insist on living vicariously through them.

Take an honest assessment about what you bring to the table

Happy couple chilling on sofa with pizza
This is a really difficult one for a lot of people to hear, but take comfort in knowing that you are not alone— a study measuring the metrics of desirability in dating app messages showed that most people, both men and women, tended to contact a love interest who ranked higher than themselves. In other words, a 10-messages a week person will almost always hit up a 20-messages a week person. This doesn’t mean you should start dating people you are actively unattracted to. That’s a recipe for resentment. Instead, look at what qualities you see in yourself and look for a love match that mirrors or complements them.
In other words, if you’re looking for a perfect match who looks like they fell off a Sports Illustrated cover and you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in forever, you might want to assess what’s more important to you. Would you rather put the time in until you have a chiseled physique to match what you see as your perfect partner or would you rather tone down your standards and keep those pizza on the couch nights rolling with someone special?

Defeat your dating FOMO monster with gratitude

Couple on mobile phones not looking at each other
Any of us can whip a phone out of our pockets and, in mere minutes, be swiping and messaging a potential new date. With so much potential literally at our fingertips, it can be easy to lose sight of the date in front of you for the whirlwind thrill of what could be. (After all, you did just see a magazine cover that a hot celeb was getting a divorce, so it would only make sense that they’d be hitting the dating apps, right?)
Try redirecting some of that energy into the love interest you are actually connecting with. When you get home from a first date, instead of immediately re-opening the apps to see if there’s someone even better online, try writing down a few sentences about how the date went and what you liked about them. The way you feel writing your lines of gratitude will be a valuable compatibility test. It may be difficult to resist the temptation, but researchers have found that giving in to dating app FOMO left participants with self-esteem issues, anxiety, and poor moods. 

And lastly, remember that you are also asking the same

We have flaws. Maybe you snore. Or the smell of your gym sneakers could peel paint. Or you have a bad habit of interrupting.  We all have imperfections and, in a healthy relationship, we are asking our love interest, humbly, to overlook them enough to love us. Remember this kindness and you’ll start seeing that the imperfect but good-where-it-counts matches are out there. 
Stacey Garratt

Stacey Garratt

Stacey Garratt is a writer on sex and relationships with a special focus on online culture, bisexuality, and non-monogamy. Her award-winning work has been featured in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, and American Public Media. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

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