I have a friend that became exclusive with her boyfriend, who she met on a dating app, after their first date. The date in question lasted 12 hours and by the end of it, both of them were absolutely certain they wanted to be together. When I initially heard this, I laughed and thought that my friend was jumping the gun a little too soon. There’s no way you could know someone was right for you after only 12 hours… right? Six months later they are still together and are very much in love. They fit together perfectly- almost like a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t help but look at them with envy and ask the universe: where’s my perfect fitting jigsaw piece? Then, I think of an actual jigsaw puzzle. There can be hundreds or thousands of pieces in those things. You can spend hours searching for just the right piece to fit. Each one is different. Each edge unique. However, when you find it, there’s no question that it fits. The edges were made to fit together. What are the chances among all those thousands of pieces, the first one you pick up will be the matching piece? It’s a lottery. Dating is a lottery.
There are several key elements to a healthy relationship. I believe these are the most important:
Attraction is possibly one of the most important elements on this list, because without it we wouldn’t be interested enough to even want a relationship with the person to begin with, making the rest of the list redundant. Attraction is mostly sexual, because it’s our bodies way of telling us that we want to fuck that person in order to have babies and continue our gene pool. (We are still animals after all.) In my experience, attraction doesn’t have to be instantaneous, because people can become more attractive the more you get to know them. This is where chemistry comes in. Chemistry is what books and movies call that spark you have with someone. There’s an ease when conversing with them that you can’t explain. You guys just click. If you’re attracted to someone you have amazing chemistry with.. Well then, enjoy that pretty hot sex you’re probably going to have…. Unless, unfortunately, one of you isn’t a legal consenting adult. Timing is also a key element, remember?
Compatibility informs how your values lineup. In my late teens and early 20s I found myself involved- sort of- with a Mormon. I’m an atheist. We had excellent chemistry and there was definitely a ton of attraction, however, our contrasting beliefs (or in my case, disbelief) forbade any hope of a future together. Values also include whether you want kids, whether you want to get married, or whether you want an open relationship with multiple sexual partners because you know you can’t do monogamy. Ultimately, if your partner doesn’t want the same things as you do, it's impossible to get anywhere without one of you sacrificing your core values, which will inevitably make the person who sacrificed resent the other. For more information about chemistry versus compatibility, Mark Manson has an incredible article comparing the two. You can read it here: markmanson.net/compatibility-and-chemistry
Location is pretty obvious. It’s impossible to have a healthy, long term relationship with someone who lives miles away from you. Don’t get me wrong, long-distance relationships can work- as a temporary solution. That being said, one crucial element of a long-distance relationship is the certainty that you’ll eventually be living in the same location.
I’m lumping the last two in the same paragraph because a person’s willingness to commit is the result of their emotional maturity. Emotional maturity is the ability to handle confrontation without becoming a trainwreck. Relationships aren’t going to be all roses and chocolates all the time. They have their challenging moments, and how you deal with those challenging moments depends on your emotional maturity. Emotional maturity also informs your ability to acknowledge your feelings and deal with them in a responsible manner. Relationships require a certain amount of vulnerability, and not wanting to face that vulnerability enforces our inability to commit. Emotional availability stems from emotional maturity, except the difference is that it's not always our choice. For example, it’s very unlikely that anyone would be emotionally available after a breakup. Basically, in order for a healthy relationship to work, we need to have emotional balance within ourselves.
Timing is at the top because it influences everything else on the list. Someone may not be right for you the first time you meet them, however, in a few years’ time, they could be your perfect match. My mum met my stepdad right after she divorced my dad. She wasn’t emotionally available to begin a new relationship, so she bypassed any opportunity with my stepdad. A few years later when she was emotionally available, she met him again. They married six months later and are still very much in love today after 18 years. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, we’re constantly growing and evolving. Our edges change. Just because someone isn’t right for you now, doesn’t mean they won’t be in five years or even six months. On the flip side, for the people who are already in relationships, sometimes people don’t always grow together. Just because someone is right for you now, doesn’t mean they’ll be right for you in five years. The trick is finding someone who you’re willing to grow and evolve with. Someone who checks off everything on that list. This is why dating is a lottery. The odds aren’t in our favour. Because of this, too many people spend too much time trying to force the wrong puzzle piece into their own because they don’t want to be single. Another reason they do this is because of the mentality that the amount of time they spent with their partner would be for nothing if they broke up, not realizing they're in turn sacrificing the rest of their lives for unhappiness. Personally, I would rather keep gambling in the hope of winning the grand £100,000,000 prize than settle for just £10.. or nothing at all.
Lastly, I don’t believe there's just one jigsaw piece for everyone. With almost 8 billion people on the planet, there has to be at least two.
*The jigsaw puzzle analogy was originally taken from Daniel Sloss' comedy special 'Jigsaw' on Netflix. I highly recommend you watch it. He's broken up hundreds of couples as the result of his show.