In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes (a famous Ancient Greek writer) tells the story of how soul mates were created by the Greek god Zeus:
“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”
Even though you might not buy into this four arms and legs story it seems that the search for the best-fit partner perplexed even our greatest philosophers!
Call it societal pressure, call it being a romantic or finding your better half, there seems to be a deep rooted longing for our perfect match. The downside is that going in and out of bad breakups or toxic relationships is a psychological pain usually described by psychologists as the same as experiencing grief.
From my professional experience as a psychotherapist I see that many people unfortunately have the tendency to put more emphasis on what they view as negative aspects of themselves rather than the positive. For instance, someone might place more emphasis on a few extra kilos and almost completely disregard the fact that he/she is an intelligent, well-mannered and funny individual.
To that extend, research on what is considered to be attractive might surprise you!
What are the most attractive qualities in a partner?
It is commonly accepted that first impressions matter. It stands to reason that the very first thing you are going to notice is the appearance of the other person (that’s especially true if you don’t engage in a conversation with each other). A 2020 large scale study across 45 countries with a remarkable sample of 14000 participants found that women are more likely to prefer partners who are financially stable and a few years older than themselves. On the other hand, men are more likely to prefer more attractive and younger partners.
Physical attractiveness might play a role initially but it seems that in long-term relationships both men and women find partners who are kind, intelligent and healthy more attractive. It is interesting that these qualities seem to be universally regarded as attractive across many cultures.
It’s important to remember, however, that even though research shows us some statistically important findings in no way does it speak for everyone!
Why bother looking for your soul mate?
I do not believe there is something wrong in wanting to find the right match for you. Unfortunately, more often than not I see clients looking to find a partner in order to give meaning to their lives. As if getting married or making kids will somehow make them feel whole or complete. There is nothing wrong with marriage or with starting a family, they can be beautiful things. But, the only one that can make you feel complete is you. Once you learn how to be kind and affectionate to yourself then you will find someone that is going to be kind and affectionate to you as well, because you will love yourself enough not to accept anything less. If we don’t love ourselves how can we expect others to do so? Even though it might sound as a cliché it doesn’t make it any less true.
I am a hundred per cent saying go for it, look for your soul mate but do it right. First learn to accept and love yourself and then try to identify the things you want in a partner that fits you. Ask yourself “What do I want?” - Do I want someone kind, trustworthy, has humour or loves adventure?
Then aim to:
A. Look for those qualities in a partner.
B. Identify red flags that indicate toxic behaviours.
C. Try to steer away from self-defeating patterns.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and brain sciences, 12(1), 1-14.
Walter, K. V., Conroy-Beam, D., Buss, D. M., Asao, K., Sorokowska, A., Sorokowski, P., ... & Amjad, N. (2020). Sex differences in mate preferences across 45 countries: A large-scale replication. Psychological Science, 31(4), 408-423.
Marios Shialos, BSc, MSc
Licensed Counseling Psychologist [Reg. No. 598]