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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

Not Perfect: When Being “Made for Each other” Might Wreck Your Relationship

Love is complicated, but we all know what we want. We want that person who just gets us, who we feel is “the one”—our soul mate, or who just “completes” us. That’s the ideal and it is for many what we go looking for in the world of relationships. But what if the idea of being made for one another, that concept of soul mate and perfect match, might actually ruin or damage your relationship? What if perfection is, in fact, the problem?

That is exactly what a recent study suggests. Published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the study divides views on love and relationships into two “frames”. The first frame is centered on unity, the idea of a union between two people made for each other and explained by a famous Aristotle quote, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” The second frame is centered on the concept that love is a journey with ups and downs, most relatable to traditional wedding vows with their pledges for better or for worse.

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Image Source: Elephant Journal

To examine the impacts of these frames the research team surveyed 73 people who had been in committed, married, or engaged relationships for a least six months. The participants were not told about the two frames and were asked to take a short quiz where they were to identify five phrases and indicate if they had heard them before. Some of the phrases on the quiz had nothing to do with relationships or romance while others were designed to draw the participant to either the journey or unity frames. To lead to the unity frame participants would encounter phrases like “my better half” and “made for each other”, while those being led to the journey frame got phrases like, “look how far we’ve come.” Once the participants were unwittingly exposed to one of the two frames, they were then asked to describe either two times they had fought with their partner or two times that they had celebrated together. Following that exercise they were then asked to rate their satisfaction with their relationship.

The results were interesting. Those who were exposed to the unity frame reported much lower satisfaction rates with their relationships following a fight, potentially because they were comparing their relationship to the “idea” of perfection. Those who had been exposed to the journey frame, however, reported equal levels of satisfaction whether or not they were recalling fights or celebrations because they recognized that relationships were made of ups and downs. Participants in both frames reported equal satisfaction across the board when times were good, which meant that there was no harm from the unity frame in good times. But when things got rough, the idea of being made for one another contributed to a more negative view of the relationship.

Science says when we expect perfection and don’t get it, it can color our view of the relationship. That absolutely makes sense, but could it actually doom a relationship? Absolutely. Think of it this way: if you go into a relationship with the understanding that it is a process and that there are ups and downs, then when you are confronted with the downs, you see them as part of things. You aren’t as devastated and depending upon the issue, are able to work forward and grow from them. If you are expecting Hollywood romance and for your partner to be “made for you”, when you hit trouble you see it as a sign that something is wrong and that perhaps, this is not your one true pair after all. That line of thinking may cause you to invest a little less in recovering from the down of the relationship and thus lead to an ending.

So does seeing your partner as your soul mate have to doom your relationship? Even with the study indicating that that view can negatively impact your relationship, that doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence. The study didn’t test a third frame—the idea of a unified journey, one where you believe you have the potential to be right for each other as you grow together. This frame would suggest that even people who go together still have room to grow. It would be very interesting to see how participants would rate their satisfaction because two people who match up and grow together are exactly what a good relationship is. It’s not a perfect pairing. It’s not a random journey. It’s about two people willing to go down the road together with the idea that they can live happily ever after and as long as you see that as the goal and not the promise, you absolutely can. Just be willing to work for it.

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