“Listening to Your Heart” Has a Terrible Track Record
To find “real love,” we are told to “simply listen to your heart.” Regardless of how carefully we “listen,” divorce occurs in 42% of first marriages, 66% of second marriages, and 75% of third marriages.
We would expect divorce rates to decrease rather than increase with each subsequent marriage. However, the percentages rise rather than fall. Why is this the case? The most likely cause is that we do not learn from our previous divorce experiences and instead choose a new relationship based on the same criteria we used in previous failed partnerships.
Requirements: What People Need Logically to Have a Successful Relationship
If a relationship is to endure and develop over time, it must suit the individual needs of both partners. The primary purpose of the Pre-Commitment1 stage of relationship development is to achieve this.
If listening to our hearts is insufficient, what else are we expected to listen to? Our brain! You must find a companion who will not only warm your heart but also provide you with everything you require. As a result, it is your obligation to (1) figure out what you need in a relationship logically, and (2) have the confidence and discipline to stick to your needs when looking for a new partner.
A Requirement2, as defined by David Steele, is a “non-negotiable event or object essential for a relationship to work for you.” It is a relational feature that is absolutely important for the partnership to survive. Without it, the relationship will perish by definition.
Steele describes relationship requirements using the metaphor of air and water. Humans need both air and water to survive. Having one but not the other guarantees death. Relationship criteria are similar in that they require all of your requirements to be met if the relationship is to last. That is, if a relationship has five conditions and only four are met, the relationship will perish sooner or later, one way or another.
whether it actually is a must.
Problems develop when we mix up what we “need” and what we “desire.”
Wants: Nice to Have but Not Required for Relationship Survival
Wants3 are “things and activities that bring excitement, entertainment, and enjoyment.” They are relationship characteristics that are desirable but not required for the partnership to continue and succeed.
A desire is similar to having dessert after a meal. It tastes wonderful and adds to the enjoyment of the meal, but you won’t die if you don’t eat one. Wants, like needs, contribute fun and pleasure to our relationship but do not endanger it if they are not supplied.
What Is the Difference Between Requirement and Want?
Many relationship issues can be traced back to getting wants and needs mixed up.
So, why is the distinction significant? The solution involves avoiding two sorts of errors:
1. Ending an excellent relationship that you should preserve by mistaking an unsatisfied want for an unsatisfied requirement, or
2. Maintaining a disastrous relationship that should be dissolved by treating an unfulfilled need as an unmet want.
A Woman’s Near-Death Experience
My client had been dating the same man for nine years. He desired to marry, but she was hesitant. She desired an emotionally intimate relationship with her boyfriend in which they could openly share their deepest feelings, but he refused. She periodically asked him to express his emotions. He refused. Throughout their nine-year relationship, she begged him to confess his feelings to her. He stated his father did not discuss his emotions, and he would not either.
Everything about him and their relationship was fantastic. He eventually worn her down to the point where she said, Even while it would be good to have a partner who would open up about his feelings, she could live without it because the rest of the relationship was so wonderful. She put it down to “that’s simply way men are” and began arranging their wedding.
Six weeks before the ceremony, she met a guy playing pool on an innocent night out with her buddies. They started up a conversation, and it struck her like a bolt of lightning from nowhere. He was truly expressing his emotions! He was not only willing to communicate his emotions with her, but he also seemed to enjoy doing so. They talked for hours until it was time to leave.
Her justification that “that’s just way men are” went out the window, and into her life came the quandary of what the heck do I do now with a wedding on the horizon?
Two weeks before her wedding, she recognized that wanting to marry someone who shared his feelings was not simply a nice-to-have desire, but a full-fledged, non-negotiable condition. Fortunately, she had the strength to end the relationship before it became a legal and emotional disaster.
What was the key to her understanding that her wish for a spouse who would discuss his feelings was a requirement rather than a desire? “Now that I know that males can talk about their feelings, will the relationship finally perish if he continues to refuse?” she wondered. “Yes,” she said hesitantly. It was a necessity for her, not simply a desire.”