Have you ever desperately searched for the answer to something, and a question comes as the answer? Of course, there is no answer, but a question comes to you that provides more clarity, knowledge, or understanding of things.
In therapy, I am finding that I am content not finding the answer and solutions to all things, but I am the type that needs to think about things. In my last session, I asked a series of questions that were more like a rant. Why can’t life just tell us what’s right and what we need to do? Like, why does God leave us guessing or in an eternal longing to make sense of things? Why should we continue making hypotheses of our lives and the best of what life has to offer? Why can’t we figure all things out and possible outcomes before we experience them?
Those questions stemmed from a current dilemma I feel about romantic love. Some people believe that you enjoy romantic relationships with people who have more differences than similarities. Some people believe otherwise. Life doesn’t tell you one way or answer to many things, like how to know the kind of love that’s perfect for you. Today, while braiding my hair, a question came to me: am I driven by similarities or differences? This harmless question seemed unrelated to my dilemma on the surface, but it was like an aha!
Examining my past relationships, the ones where I experienced the least doubt were the ones driven by similarities in the most dominating narratives of my life. Again, let me highlight the important part: They were relationships driven by similarities in the most dominating narratives of my life. Keep in mind that the dominating narratives of our life change as we transform. Right now, my most dominating narratives include my education, social impact, career explorations, personal growth, womanhood, and a constant desire to learn.
You know the thing they say about the 70/30 rule of finding a partner – how you can’t find someone who is 100% everything you love. While I sarcastically call that nonsense because I found Jesus, and he loves me too, I have always thought that rule was flawed but never figured why. When I have heard people explain that rule, they often say that great relationships are with partners who just love about 70% of each other, and the remaining 30% is what they learn to live with.
On first thought, this rule makes some sense because we are always craving for answers and theories to explore life most accurately. However, I often wondered why I couldn’t see myself in relationships with people despite loving more than 70% of who they are. At some point, I started to think that I was a picky and insatiable person who is just refusing to settle. If, like me, you have thought of yourself as insatiable when trying to use this type of theory about love, let me just say that you are normal. However, there are several flaws to this 70/30 rule that can help you see life through a better lens.
First, this rule about romantic love doesn’t tell you the specific and universal content of what the 70% should be; it just says love up to 70%. Even when people give different perspectives of what the 70% should be, it is based on their moral compass, personal priorities, and cultural experiences. The rule is flawed because some go into relationships thinking, if I love 70% of who this person is and what society tells me to value in a relationship, that’s good.
Second, while we can’t sufficiently quantify people, their life experiences, and values in these percentages we make up, which is another flaw, I saw the issue with this rule when l loved someone about 95% and still didn’t want to be in a relationship with them. All the things of the 95% that’s lovable about them aren’t what I prioritize, care about, or value most in life. That 5% that someone else would have warded off or asked me to accommodate, which this person is missing, is actually what I value the most. While I won’t go into a relationship with someone who is only 5% of what I care for, you can think of how all the content of the atmosphere isn’t valuable to someone who needs to be put on oxygen to survive.
I am trying to say that it isn’t enough to have similarities with someone or have a high percentage of likability to love them. If what you have alike is not what brings you certainty, curiosity, or joy about life, the relationship will require more suffering from you than the kind of effort that love demands. This is why you’ll see people who have many things alike or a similar lifestyle and love each other but still end up having a divorce.
Let me give you an example. While I don’t keep up with the Kardashians, recently, the news of Kim and Kanye’s divorce broke. A video of Kim crying about it to her sisters circulated where she said something that made sense of the breakup. I can’t remember her exact words, and I’ll paraphrase. Kim said Kanye needs someone who can travel with him, do tours, etc., but she can’t do that. At that moment, you would have thought, what does she mean she can’t do that? Kim has all the wealth of this world and can travel from moon and back… Here is the perspective at which I saw it: she can’t do that because right now, those are not the things that bring her the most certainty, curiosity, or joy about life. This doesn’t mean that they don’t love each other, they do, and they tried. This may not be 100% the reason for their divorce, but that’s the way I understood Kim’s perspective and what she shared.
So, here are answers to that dilemma in the form of questions:
When your effort to love someone feels like suffering or compromising your sense of self, it never hurts to ask reflective questions to understand what’s going on. I do not have all the answers to the above questions or to the initial question about what makes two people a perfect love match. However, I know that tolerance for love becomes torture when the tolerance is in things that we value the most about life. It is more challenging to love someone whole-heartedly when they do not share the experience or, at the very least, the perspective of the things that bring you the most certainty, curiosity, or joy about life.
70/30 – I often wonder who makes these theories up about greatly profound but abstract and immeasurable aspects of life such as love. There is also the mistake people often make by oversimplifying this issue to the most basic questions like, do I love someone with more similarities than differences or vice versa? I sarcastically tell myself that God is too creative about life to make the answer that simple. However, I respect that some lucky ones have life very simple that such theories can apply, and some of God’s favorites, like us, will have to play puzzles to figure things out.