Vanessa Torre thank you for sharing such an incredible piece.
Ironically, I feel or have felt similar in some respects.
To play the Devil’s Advocate (because we all love that guy in the chat room, right? — says no one, not one f#ucking person loves that guy), I wonder if “if the next man (or woman in my case) coming” can be a little like rocket science…
John Gottman’s books (highly recommended if you haven’t read them) — the 7 highly effective marriage-blah blah blah — taught me some insights to the science of compatibility — signs and things to look for in relationships after my breakup (and subsequent mind-numbingly heartbreaking attempts at finding authentic interactions and attraction afterwards)…
But to be honest, before I go into a love diatribe, I’m 40 and single — so maybe, I’m not the best thought leader to speak on love and stable relationships. In that case, I oblige you the honor of giving an * with all the words I type.
But through failure and fire and brimstone, I feel optimistic that love is simpler than ever to understand — and harder than ever to find (the word “ghosted” comes to mind after my multitude of online attempts).
For the record, I don’t always believe scientists, or their empirical data, or their research labs with their white coats and heart rate monitors and theories. In the end, I just want to feel (or get closer to understanding the feeling) of what their theories are stating —in this case — Gottman says that the amount of positive interactions between partners matter the most to thriving relationships. He says a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative is key:
John Gottman, who has studied relationships and marriage for 42 years, found in a six-year study of newlyweds that those who were still married responded to each other 86% of the time, while those that got divorced only turned towards each other’s bids 33% of the time.
These micro-moments Gottman says, like the cuddling of toes or touching pinkies during a “Friends” episode, or sipping wine and giggling about the old neighbor whom you call ‘Gray Head’ that doesn’t smile when you say hello, or f#ck who knows, all those little things that seem to come so easily to people in thriving relationships. I used to think this was the end-all be-all for what I needed… the proof in the pudding was how often and how well couples interacted.
In the end though, I think what matters just as much, is understanding the root of where these interactions spawn from — the basic truth of what and who and why we are who we are — and who we want to become tomorrow.
Stay with me here. I won’t get all existential on you. But since you can’t measure the depth of a person’s value system or character or drive to want to change, it’s impossible to know if these current interactions with people we date or want to fall in love with are just superficially easy because of the time/place/infatuation/likes/interests a person has, or if the interactions spawn from a deeper place.
I believe this is where the science can’t go.
Authenticity in partnership is two humans interacting inside the walls of each other’s soul.
F#ck, you can asterisk that if you want, but I truly find that factual to my experience and how it feels inside me. And since you can’t measure a person’s soul, or depth of values, or character, or self-belief to fight through adversity — you are really playing a zero-sum game if you only look at the surface of the amount of positive bids as Gottman measures.
Yes, these bids are signposts to thriving in the moment, and over time, probably a signpost of authentic partnership.
Let’s just throw a funny hypothetical “the next man coming” situation out there, what values would you pick from this list that you’d want him to have?
Okay, now let’s say you didn’t think about matching values with a future partner and what if you met a man that is so like-able, so hot, so funny, so smart, so full of zeal and wonder and he likes to sip wine and hang out, and you two have amazing interactions.
You are knocking Gottman’s interaction theory out of the park for like, maybe three years.
And then bam. Something changes. It’s like ice staying frozen from 12 degrees to 15, to 29, and then 31, yep still frozen. Everything is good. And then it happens, 32 hits and the ice is gone.
What happened wasn’t one degree, it was the internal change of the cube as it neared it’s melting point of 32 degrees.
So just because we humans think everything is good — our ice cube is sitting there, solid and whole — doesn’t mean, deep inside, the internal compass isn’t moving the needle of its authentic interactional needs.
What if the next man coming, what if his true values aren’t really zeal, or humor, or justice, or kindness — they’re daring, imagination, the want of autonomy, travel, of experiencing a life with you abroad or changing towards some value he didn’t realize he knew he had?
What if he wants to move to a goddamn nudist colony in West Virginia five years from now?
The ice can melt, even for thriving couples.
Do we have latent values inside us waiting to be lived out?
Do we know what values we typically live by since the beginning of our consciousness?
Look for and share your most authentic values first:
What I like to watch or read, or talk about, or touch, or eat, or drink — well it changes over time. Yet, there are typically some values that haven’t changed and have stood the test of time: my growth mindset, my love of laughter, adventure, family, community, healthy living, and my desire for deep, philosophical discussions into the wee hours of European (or American) mornings.
The things and values (are these values, because if they are, they are shitty values) that have changed for me: wanting status or success, money, a nice car, a trophy wife that cooks for me, pride of a parent or community, and early retirement.
Love cannot (only) be about likes or dislikes or interests or good interactions, or shitty values, or even the fact that a person likes to dip wasabi on the top of their sushi rather than in the soy sauce (I know right, who would do such a thing?)
“The point of marriage is not happiness. The point of marriage is growth.”-Gottman
Humans are always adapting and changing to their external stimuli.
We turn right when a road is blocked.
We feel pain and grief when someone we love dies.
But what about our internal stimuli?
Do we listen to it? Are we aware of it?
How and when and why and where someone starts to adapt or change can’t be predicted by science. We just do it. And in this understanding, if we choose partners based on external things that change easily — attraction, jobs, status, fame, money, interests, interactions —we may find ourselves in a broken heart loop.
People change faster than values do.
Anyways, before I got off track, I was speaking about science.
Your emotional bank account would be credited with bid after bid after bid, and the guy, if he truly enjoyed your quirks and your flaws and your scratched heart, he wouldn’t run because it would bring him internal meaning (if he had many of those same values you do) to be there sharing those moments with you.
This is super important — a true difference in authentic versus superficial compatibility — your bids and time and life together would mean something to his value system — your friendship, your mind, your soul — blah blah blah — all of it.
Maybe, at the end of the day, authenticity is deeper than science, even if science is trying to show us why interactions matter in relationships. The true desire to want to be around someone, or kiss someone repeatedly, or build a lifetime of memories is about the authenticity of aligned values and this respect, * authentic love hammers the science of compatibility on the nailhead.
I did not edit this so sorry for the grammar mistakes.