Q. Meredith et al.,
I have had a career-long string of rejections and bad relationships, where, as a common theme, it turns out my counterparts feel we are not compatible. This almost always comes as a painful surprise; the kinds of asymmetry I would expect to be fruitful in a relationship have been things they have found to be indicative of a bad connection.
I am hoping you can clarify what type of differences are boons in a relationship (chocolate and peanut butter) as opposed to those that aren’t (chocolate and tuna).
It has been suggested to me that a partner’s differences should do what you can’t, but I get all my spiritual vitamins and minerals on my own, and would much rather close my own shortcomings than depend on someone else to do so. I think that (sexual issues aside) I’d be happily-ever-after with a carbon copy of myself, but it seems like they don’t make those.
It seems I have little acuity for this — your perspective is very welcome!
— Putting the Sad in Understanding
A. There’s no formula for this. I think people feel chemistry with random people, and then they make a case for why the other person’s strengths and weaknesses complement their own. Some science proves opposites attract, but other research shows that’s not true at all. Pick a partner — then pick your study of choice. I think we work backward.
For the record, I used to think I wanted someone who would have the traits I don’t — an opposite — but now I’m like ... if someone’s coming over, I hope they like vampire shows too, and want the same snacks. Sharing a life philosophy is nice.
When someone tells you it’s not working, what they’re really saying is they’re not feeling that click, that moment where they say to themselves, Despite differences and concerns, I’d like to see this person again. And again . . . and again. What makes someone feel one way or the other? I have no idea. It could be about where they are in life. Not everyone is looking for a long-term match.
My advice is to bring it down to the simplest level and ask yourself, after any date, “Was that fun? Do I want to do that again? Do I want to know more?” Once the answer is “yes, yes, yes,” over and over, after many outings, you can tell me why you think it works and whether there’s any rhyme or reason to it. I’d be curious.
You may be reading too much into this. If someone says “We’re not compatible” as a reason for a breakup, it’s like saying, “It’s not you, it’s me”; it’s just a generic way of breaking up without providing real reasons. BOSTONSWEETS21
Dating isn’t a platform to reveal someone’s shortcomings. If all you’re getting from dating is criticism, maybe you’re dating the wrong people. PINKDRINK
The idea isn’t [for someone] to “do what you can’t” or to be your doppelganger, but for them to extend your abilities and for you to extend theirs. JIM-IN-LITTLETON
Perhaps the letter writer should sit down with some friends or family members and have a blunt-truth session. See if they can, or want to, fix what is shared. GDCATCH
Meredith Goldstein is in her 13th year writing Love Letters for The Boston Globe. Her new novel is “Things That Grow.”