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Lanie's Articles  |   Essays From M.H Borden

The Boom Factor

Once again I was on the treadmill, where many good things happen besides the obvious, when I had my brainstorm. Along with the body getting in shape, my brain often comes up with some very good ideas. This time, I confess, the TV was the catalyst for my epiphany, and not my subconscious, because when I suddenly heard an ad for E-Harmony, I leapt off the treadmill to write it down. (Fortunately for my chocolate addiction, I did get back on.) The E-Harmony ad explained so much about American culture and where we are going wrong in the dating world.

"When I saw Adam" the perky person intoned on the ad, " it was boom. Much more than browsing among photos, I put in my core values and got matched with the right one," the young actress said or something akin to that.

I met with a new client yesterday who told me, in fact, that yes, many of the women he was meeting in their 40's and 50's still believed in love at first sight and the instant "boom" AKA sparks factor and even I was shocked. I thought age brought a certain amount of wisdom. As did he.

But therein, perhaps, lies the reason that about half of the adult population is divorced and many of the married are not healthily so.

Clearly no matter what the dating experts or researchers say, people are not using their heads.

In his wonderful little book " How to Love," Dr Gordon Livingston states what would appear to be obvious and simple but really isn't obvious to most of us: who you pick for your partner will determine how the relationship goes. Oddly, the novel I am reading quoted Orwell who said: "The responsibility of every intelligent person is to pay attention to the obvious."

Focusing on compatibility and character, Livingston says, will be the key elements to a healthy relationship. In terms of compatibility, the more we have in common with someone re background and religion and politics etc., the more likely we will be to sustain a relationship. People who are canceling each other's votes out will have a much tougher time, he warns us. The columnist David Brooks even suggests in his new book that people often pick mates with the same breadth of nose and distance between the eyes.

In an intuitive way it makes sense. We all know that familiarity can bring comfort to the point that we often seek out people we know wherever we travel.

But beyond that, it is the character of the person that will get us through, Livingston tells us, and that is what we should be getting to know over time.
And it does take time. How can a boom or love at first sight have anything to do with understanding the character of the person? I would contend that those who do feel that instant chemistry and pull and have had wonderful marriages were just plain lucky.

Livington stresses that narcissists will make the worst partners. We should be surrounding ourselves with people who have the essential virtues, as he calls them, whether friends or beloveds. People who make us want to be the best person we can be because they are aspiring to these virtues, as we must be. People who inspire us.

His essential virtues include: kindness, optimism (harder to live with a pessimist), courage, loyalty, tolerance, honesty, beauty (inner), humor, flexibility and intelligence. (Intelligence similar to ours as well as someone who is not racist or homophobic etc., not exactly the mark of intelligence.)

In short, "Does this person make us want to be inclined to exhibit these traits in ourselves? If so, we know we have chosen wisely."

You don't have to be a doctor to understand these truths. If you don't choose wisely you will not succeed. Therapy will not change a person's character, will it? Or make you more compatible? Pills for depression can help but you can't make someone kinder, more generous, more flexible, more trustworthy with a pill. There are no pills to become a mensch or "menschess" that I know of on the market.

Even the Millionaire Matchmaker tells people not to sleep with someone for at least three months. Even Steve Harvey the self-proclaimed dating guru and comedian tells people to wait three months because you won't know the character of the person for at least that long.

My advice here: If you want a boom, celebrate the 4th of July. Or get on the treadmill.

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