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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

How Your Degree of Emotional Maturity Influences Your Partner Choices


Have you ever stopped to think why you fell in love with that person when you were 16? And that other person when you were 21? And then, of course, the one you married when you were 26? Why did you fall in love with precisely that one? Let’s not forget the one you fell in love with after your divorce. And perhaps there was someone else after that as well. And perhaps even others. What was it that made you feel that way in each of those cases?

When I was quite young, but having already had a few relationship bumps – and not yet knowing what I know now - I remember thinking that relationships were a bit like rungs on a ladder. Each relationship brought you up a rung or two, provided you had bothered trying to learn something from what caused it to end, and ultimately, to fail.

While trying to understand the endings is important, I believe it is at the beginning, and in hindsight, looking back to those beginnings where you learn just as much, if not more. But you need first to understand how you are influenced when it comes to your partner choices. Here is where your emotional maturity comes into play, as well as your unresolved childhood issues.

Exactly what is emotional maturity? Here are some points to consider:
  • How well do you self-regulate when someone pushes your buttons, or when life erupts in chaos? In other words, how quickly are you able to bring yourself to a place of inner harmony and equilibrium when that happens, without erupting in some fashion?
  • How well – and how frequently do you need to do this - do you self-soothe when you are anxious, panicked, afraid, worried, annoyed, irritated, or stressed? Again, how quickly are you able to bring yourself to a place of inner harmony and equilibrium when that happens, without erupting in some fashion?
  •  How aware are you of yourself? Are you paying attention to the red flags that arise when you don’t self-regulate and self-soothe? In other words, do you notice when you ‘lose it’, or fall apart, or when you consistently blame, judge, and criticize others, and do you then try to proactively think about it, get help, or learn what it might mean in your life?
  • How much do you depend on external soothing mechanisms such as alcohol or substances, gambling, online addiction (gaming, porn, etc.), excessive shopping, indiscriminate sex, frantic socializing, and just as frantic a continual quest for youth, beauty, etc., as a substitute for healthy self-regulation and self-soothing?
  • How much do you depend on blaming circumstances or others in order to feel good about yourself and your life?
  • How healthy are your boundaries? How much are you willing to accept from others – deliberately closing your eyes and mind to their treatment of you - despite knowing that they are trespassing your boundaries?
  • How good are you at changing your self-dialogue in your own benefit, i.e., how good are you at taking care of your thoughts in such a way that they don’t torture you, and that you don’t endlessly ruminate about whatever it is that is currently upsetting you?
  • How much – and how well – do you love yourself? Not just right now, but all the time? In other words, how well do you care for yourself in such a way that all of the points in this section form part of your daily process?
Now imagine you could grade yourself on the above eight points, and that the highest possible grade for each point was ten, giving you – assuming you were high up on the emotional maturity scale, a grand possible total of 80 points. Now imagine you are being very honest, and perhaps grade yourself at four or five on each of those points.

So we come back to the question of how your degree of emotional maturity influences your partner choices. If your point total (and this is merely to illustrate what I’m saying) is between 40 and 50, you will attract someone of the same emotional maturity. If it’s at 20 or at 75, a similar thing will happen. Someone who has advanced beyond you on this imaginary scale of emotional maturity, may be initially attracted to you, but rarely longer than just initially, because the disparity on that scale, will push them away from you to someone else who has “reached” a place close to their own on that imaginary scale. Unless someone is deliberately looking for a trophy partner of some kind, in which case ‘falling in love’ doesn’t generally enter the equation anyway, emotional maturity tends to weigh more heavily than other factors such as looks, education, socio-economic factors, age, cultural background, etc.

The second element that influences your partner choices is what resonates in you when you meet that new person on a deep, subliminal level. In other words, something about that person quickens something in you emotionally and psychologically, which then typically and swiftly becomes chemistry as well, and that something in the other has to do with one or more of your own unresolved issues, typically from childhood. (Last month’s article, The Adrenaline Rush of Relationship Drama touches on this as well).

To illustrate an unresolved issue briefly that may create a resonance of sorts between you and a potential new partner, imagine you had a slightly cool and rejecting parent, or simply a parent who, in your estimation, did not give you the kind of love and approbation you yearned for. Yearning is the key word to understand this. What you yearn for, if you don’t receive it, may cause you to twist yourself into all manner of contorted psycho-emotional behaviours, the most typical being the case of developing unhealthy boundaries and most definitely not learning to care for and love yourself, and hence taking care of others in some way long before you consider taking care of yourself. And this pattern – assuming you are unaware of it – carries on into your adult relationships.

Once you feel the resonance of this something in the other, you become attracted to the other. You may tell yourself the attraction is due to this or that other factor, but in hindsight and awareness of the self, most concur that it was the resonance, and most importantly, that they were actually aware of this on some level. There might have been a similar tension in the gut to the one you used to feel as a child when the new person appeared to momentarily lose interest in you. If this is repeated several times over those early encounters, your awareness of it is in that tension level, but not necessarily on a conscious level (where you would say to yourself that this person is not treating you the way you want to be treated). Rather, what you might tell yourself, is that this person is, in all other respects, so wonderful, that they will shortly see themselves the way you see them, and therefore then, with the strength of your love behind them, they will no longer behave that way. This is how we become the Steven Spielberg’s of our own lives and produce magnificent movies about our potential partners that may have little to do with reality. So in the example offered above, what resonated, was a similar feeling of distance and perhaps a perception of lack of approval. If you think that would keep most people away from someone like that, remember – as stated - that the resonance is not conscious, nor are you conscious of the fact that the reason you feel the resonance is due to the similarity of this new person – at least in this way with respect to your unresolved issue - to one of your parents or another important person from your childhood.

Knowing all of this – becoming aware of it, especially by making use of the knowledge of your relationship patterns (for greater detail see my books The Power of Your Heart: Loving the Selfand The Tao of Spiritual Partnership) from the past – and constantly stretching your emotional maturity to reach greater heights will impact with great benefit on your present and future relationships. This, as so much else, is a choice you make every day of your life.


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