In our eight-part series on readiness for love, we've talked about having the capacity for love. We asked the challenging question:  Are you capable of opening your heart to someone, allowing them to see your flaws and risking being hurt?

Now we move to the second quality needed to be ready for love—having the ability to see your mate realistically.

In the movie The Gold Rush, Charlie Chaplin and another man have been trapped in an Arctic cabin by a huge snowstorm and have run out of food. As they approach starvation, Charlie’s companion suddenly perceives him as a giant chicken and pursues him with the intent of making a much-needed meal of him.

The scene is hilarious, yet offers a picture of what we often do in relationships. We cannibalize one another, trying futilely to get our mates to live up to our unrealistic expectations. Just as his companion’s hunger for food has distorted Charlie into a clucking source of protein, attachment hunger, or other childish needs, can distort your companion into a potential satisfier of such powerful needs that you fail to see them realistically.

For any relationship to survive, we must develop the ability to see the other person realistically. This is no small order, since it is natural to initially idealize another person—love is blind, or at least myopic. There is a joke that says at first we find an ideal, then experience an ordeal, and finally search for a new deal. I want to save you from some of that trouble.

The first step in breaking out of this vicious cycle of choosing the wrong person and being sorely disappointed, or picking a wonderful person and trying to change them, is to make sure you have healed from your own relationship wounds.

In my last article I shared about seeking a mate who would help me recover from rejection wounds. It didn’t work. No one could possibly fill my unrecognized attachment hunger. No one could heal my wounds but God and me, and of course the loving community of my family, friends and church.

We all know people who are either energy-takers, or energy-givers. The energy-takers are looking for someone to meet their needs. It is like they have this huge vacuum of need that sucks the life from their mate. These relationships, of course, are destined to fail. Are you an energy-taker, or an energy-giver?

When we approach relationships from a needy perspective, we inevitably idealize them, and they inevitably let us down. When they let us down we slip into being overly critical—thereby sabotaging the relationship. There are no perfect men or women who can take care of all your troubles. There are “help-mates,” fortunately, but that is a far cry from someone who rescues us from our troubles. Are you still healing from any rejection wounds?

Having unclouded your vision as much as possible, the second step in changing vicious patterns of idealization/disappointment, is to seek healthy support. The Apostle Paul reminds us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6: 2). We need one another to offer insights and another perspective. We will always be biased; our trusted and mature friends can offer us invaluable insights. Notice that I emphasized the words, trusted and mature. If you seek advice from another lonely and wounded person, you’re going to get some pretty slanted counsel. Make sure you are surrounded by people capable of shedding helpful light on your blind spots—and yes, we all have blind spots.

Next, we must be willing to listen to our trusted support network. It is one thing to establish trusted friends, but quite another to listen to them. Trusted friends, with an unbiased perspective, can offer invaluable information. You don’t have to take their advice, of course, but if several voices offer the same concern, it’s time to take notice. If you’re still reeling from unhealed wounds, or love addiction, you may gloss over another’s weaknesses. You’ll need good counsel to discover and heal from this pattern. Do you have an open and teachable spirit?

Having cultivated objectivity, studying and understanding old patterns, make deliberate efforts to see the totality of the other person. Look at this other person as objectively as possible. What are their strengths/weaknesses? What do they bring to the relationship? Do they bring skills and qualities that compliment you?

If you are struggling to decide whether a person is right for you, it can be helpful to make a list of their strengths and weaknesses. Prayerfully consider this list. Ask God to give you insight and conviction about the relationship. When we ask God for wisdom, thankfully He promises to give it to us generously (Proverbs 2).

If you are in a relationship that feels healthy and mature, but are overly critical, forever finding faults, consider seeking professional help for your perfectionism. It is quite likely that you are demanding of yourself and project those same demands on your mate. Acceptance, of yourself and your mate, may be your tasks. Granting grace to yourself and your mate may be worthy goals. 

Are you really ready for love? Don’t answer too quickly. To be ready for love you must be willing to accept your mate for who they are, warts and all. You must be able to see the other person for exactly who they are—no more, and no less. When you can honestly love their warts, and insist that they love yours, you may be ready for love. 
      
 
  

David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. 

He is the author of over 18 books, including
Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His book, When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit, released in February 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.