Here’s an excerpt from “101 Relationship Myths” about sexual attraction”. Enjoy!
“One of the relationship myths that has caused me the most pain during the course of my “relationship career” is the idea that strong sexual attraction and falling in love means you’re compatible and a good match. So a couple of years ago I decided to take a closer look at this idea and find out if it’s really true that when you’re on cloud nine and feel strong sexual attraction to someone, it means you’re going to be a good match as a couple.
It didn’t take me long to find the answer. When I looked back at some of my previous relationships, I could see that even though we were really attracted to each other, the reality was that we were not that good a match. Yes we might have felt blissful or even in love in the beginning, but when it came to relationships, lifestyle and interests, we often had very different views, preferences and values.
This realization was a revelation to me. Up until then, I’d been basing my choice of partner on whether or not there was a strong sexual attraction between us and not on whether or not we were a good match. And suddenly I could see the painful consequences of this misunderstanding – for me and my partners.
One of the consequences of believing that strong sexual attraction means you’re a good match was that in the beginning of a new relationship, I often found myself exaggerating or only focusing on the woman’s “positive” sides (oh she’s so beautiful, so spiritual, and so forth) while downplaying or even ignoring her more “negative” sides. For example, I would overlook the sudden unkind remark that made me feel uncomfortable and instead sweep it under the carpet because I was so much in love. Or I’d accept an action or actions on her part that I’d never accept in anyone else. But in her case, because the attraction was so strong, I’d let it slide. And I have to admit that if I had been totally honest with myself, the truth was I already knew on the very first date, in the very first five minutes or so of our conversation, why the relationship would sooner or later become unworkable. Yes it’s true, I actually knew from the very beginning the reasons why we would not be a good match…
But because I was so infatuated and innocently believed that strong sexual attraction means you’re a good match, I ignored reality. And the result was almost always the same. As soon as the intoxication of falling in love began to wear off and the reality began to set in, it would become more and more painful for me to stay in the relationship. And then, the long, difficult battle to extricate myself would begin.
Find your core values
So if strong sexual attraction and falling in love don’t necessarily mean you’re a good match – what does? What makes two people a good match?
One of the things that make two people a good match is that they have the same “core” values. By having the same core values, I don’t mean being the same personality type or having the same education or working in the same field. I mean you have the same basic attitudes when it comes to what’s important in life, not least what’s important when it comes to relationships.
One of the reasons why many relationships get into serious trouble is that the man and the woman don’t have the same core values. A “mismatch” like this usually spells trouble because most people live according to their core values – and usually unconsciously expect their partners to do so too. This can be problematic when these core values don’t match. Let’s take an example. Let’s say one of your core values is “freedom” while your partner’s core values are “security and feeling safe”. Obviously this can make your relationship problematic because you will both unconsciously be expecting the other to behave in a manner that is in conflict with his or her core value or values. So when you are faithful to your core value and give yourself and your partner lots of “freedom”, your partner may get upset and feel insecure because his/her core values of “security and feeling safe” are not being met or are threatened. The opposite is true too. When your partner tries to live in harmony with his/her core value and strives for “security” for example, by wanting clear agreements on how you do things, the “freedom-loving” partner feels stifled and inhibited. You feel your core value of “freedom” is being threatened. So this is why it is so important to be more aware of what you and your partner’s (or a potential partner’s) core values are.
My former girlfriend, sexologist and couples therapist Joan Ørting has developed a good exercise to help us become more aware of our core values when it comes to relationships. I suggest you give this exercise a try – it can be really interesting. Ask yourself the following questions and answer as honestly as you can.
Question: What is most important for you in a relationship?
Answer: That my partner accepts me and loves me unconditionally.
Question: How does it make you feel when your partner accepts you and loves you unconditionally?
Answer: It makes me feel SAFE.
Conclusion: So feeling SAFE is one of your core values.
Repeat the questions until you identify 3-5 of your main core values. Once you’ve done this, prioritize the values so that you end up with a list that looks like this:
My core values when it comes to relationships:
1) FEELING SAFE
2) BEING TOGETHER
Or perhaps you’ll come up with a list of core values that looks like this:
3) BEING TOGETHER
Becoming aware of your core values can be a really big help when it comes to determining if you and a potential partner are a good match. And if you’re already in a relationship and are having problems, it may be because your core values do not match. So it can also be helpful to do this exercise with your partner and then talk about what your respective core values are. Understanding how your core values differ can make it easier to communicate with each other in the future.”