My “20 Things” Theory On Relationships

This is based in part on observation, in part on what friends tell me (because people often tell me things they wouldn’t even tell a therapist) and in part on my own experience. By relationship, I mostly mean romantic relationships, but much of this can apply to non-romantic friendships too.

Here’s how it goes: you have characteristics that make you “you.” Let’s say you have twenty of them … things like personality traits, beliefs, preferences, life goals, hobbies.

You meet someone and connect on 2 or 3 of these characteristics that you have in common. .

As the relationship grows, you emphasize those things to enhance the connection and you might carefully reveal 2 or 3 more similar things, but you mostly keep the rest of your twenty tucked away for later.

The person you met is doing the same thing.

Then your relationship becomes exclusive, maybe a live-in or a marriage. You assume that because your lover/spouse has the 5 or 6 things that connected you, then most of the others must also be compatible, and you’ll overlook the 1 or 2 that aren’t.

What an optimist you are!

Couples who really do connect on most of the ’20 things’ go on to have long-lasting relationships.

But many couples discover years into a relationship that they really only connect on the original 2 or 3 things.

Now what?!

I don’t have the answer to that. Honestly, I’m looking for the answer to that.

So there you have my ’20 things’ theory. Do you see yourself in there somewhere? Does that explain anything you’ve experienced in present or past relationships?


Linda V. said…
That is kind of my experience, too. Sometimes I think, one or the other of the couple actually takes on some traits of their partner just to ingratiate themselves and later, they revert back to the real personality. That's a big surprise to the other partner, and can be a make or break issue. But sometimes the shared life can overcome the new/old differences because of the foundation you built together. Relationships are full of surprises, aren't they?!
Bernie said…
That surprise factor comes up a lot. I've been surprised a few times and I'm sure I have done the surprising too.