There was an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" that discussed the theory that every “good relationship” has both a “reacher” and a “settler.”
One person "reaches" for someone who's out of their league and the other person "settles" for someone below theirs. But is this theory really valid? I know that for my personal love life, it doesn't really ring true, so I had to explore it.
Evolutionary psychology suggests that people end up matched with mates of equal "value."
For instance, if you and your significant other were to be rated on your attractiveness and you were rated as a “7,” then your significant other would be rated around a 6 or 7 also, as the theory suggests that pairs have similar “mate value” in their communities.
Across different cultures, evolutionary theory research has found that people want to be with the best they can get.
It is suggested that people aren't only settling for "the best they can get" because people are also very much attracted to their mates (of similar attractiveness).
Evolutionary theories can be helpful in understanding mating preferences and dating behaviors, but when it comes to the emotion of love, you have to recognize its limitations.
Physical attraction is only part of it.
How are we to judge the connection between two people? And how are we to judge who is settling for whom?
Yes, we see some couples and we may think, “He's too good for her” or “What does she see in him?” And, yes, we all know those people who confess they aren't in love or they may be cheating, etc.
In those cases, it's more evident someone was “settling” for a relationship (for whatever the reason may be).
In most cases, however, I would argue the reason most long-term relationships work is that no one was settling or reaching. Instead, two people who were attracted to each other, for more than just physical reasons, had a strong connection.
If we are going to judge other couples and determine who is the reacher and the settler, it is important to consider the whole package.
For example, a model (let's pretend she's bitchy and mean) who's married to a short bald guy musician (let's pretend he's funny and charismatic) may not be settling for him, but instead they could be of equal value.
...Because there are other favorable attributes beyond just attractiveness.
This perspective takes getting used to, but keep an open mind and examine the whole package, which includes intellect, humor, creativity and so much more.
Self-awareness and experience help us know our “mate value."
I have observed in some people who have a difficult time finding a long-term partner lack that self-awareness.
These people believe they should get that tall, dark and handsome (and rich) guy, or that beautiful, smart, cover girl lookalike. Yet they don't offer the same value in return.
Our mating preferences get shaped by our experiences, positive or negative.
It's OK to have deal breakers, I'll admit that I've overlooked several guys because they weren't tall enough or smart enough for me to be attracted to them, but the truth is, we do discriminate when we choose our mates.
I'm not telling you that you shouldn't be discerning, but that you should be open-minded.
If you're single for a long time and you're wondering why, it could be that you have unrealistic expectations of who your long-term significant other should be.
So get out there and start dating.
Stop thinking that you are too good for him or her and be open to the idea that love sometimes happens with people you wouldn't (initially) expect.
A relationship doesn't need a “reacher” and a “settler” to make it work; it does need equal partners who are in love (regardless if others “understand” it or not).