Why it's so hard to find a satisfactory long-term partner
Almost all of us have a deep yearning to find a significant other to share our lives with. For those of us without one, it can become an all-consuming problem. A single person can meet someone who they could form a relationship with almost every day, yet years can go by without such a relationship being formed. Why is it so difficult?
If you take a step back, you can get a good overview of what's going on.
It seems pretty obvious, both from scientific research and from everyday observation, that the main reason we pair up is for reproduction. Of course, we get a whole bunch of other benefits beside the biological ones, but reproduction and forming a family seem to be the core reason.
Our bodies are all in a race to pass on our genes to the next generation. It's the closest we can come to immortality. Even though we'll eventually die, a little bit of ourselves is passed on. This is a powerful urge that our body is unlikely to let us ignore.
Having successful children who are also likely to reproduce, is the only way our bodies can reach their immortal goal.
How successful our children are is not just determined by our own genetic makeup, but also by that of our partner. We need to seek out the best mix of our own genes and somebody else's. Of course, our first choice isn't always available to us. For whatever reasons, the person we'd most like to mix genes with for the purposes of reproduction may not share our affections. So we have to compromise.
What we find attractive in a partner is difficult to determine, and even science has had limited success in finding out. A fascinating study I read about recently found that subtle bodily smells play an important role. The scents we give off, let potential partners know which diseases we are most resistant against. If their genetic makeup is not resistant to those diseases, they'll probably be attracted to our scent in order to have a stronger child. Because the scent I'm likely to be attracted to is different to what someone else is, this partly explains why we are often feel strongly towards different people.
This is just one of the many subtle processes that are going on. No wonder it can all be so confusing.
Of course, the simple act of reproduction is just one step in the long process of successfully passing on our genes. Human children are remarkably feeble compared to most animals. They need at least ten years of constant care from loving parents - more in modern societies. In order to successfully ensure that our children survive to pass on our genes, we have to make a big commitment to one another and form a family. This is how we increase our chances of having grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
There is the option for a father to abandon his children at an early age, and leave the mother to bring them up, but this is a poor long-term solution. A child in a single-parent home historically had a much smaller chance of surviving and succeeding to pass on the genes. Even if a father has a number of children by different mothers, he may be actually decreasing his chances by giving his children a poor start in life.
These are all powerful reasons why it's so hard to find a satisfactory long-term partner. Nature, and our own genetic yearnings, are letting us know that reproduction and pairing-up are a task to be taken very seriously. Our own genetic future is at stake. We're struggling for nothing less than our chance at immortality, both in the next generation and generations far down the line.
We therefore have to walk a fine line between desperately wanting a long-term partner, and choosing one who best suits our reproductive needs. A partner doesn't just need the right genetic makeup, but has to be relied upon to stick around to bring up a child successfully. Only then can we be confident that our genes will been passed on for another thousand years or more.
This is a dangerous game. If something happens to us while we search for a partner, we may lose our chance at immortality altogether. Yet we don't want to waste our valuable resources on anything less than the best reproductive outcomes we can generate. It's this balancing act that can be so cruel.
Of course some people, for whatever reason, just aren't interested in reproducing. Perhaps they're homosexual, or feel that child-rearing isn't for them. Why do they still have so much trouble when they don't need to worry about these things?
The best guess is that they are still susceptible to deep biological urges to reproduce. They still feel a strong-desire for a long-term partner because this has been hard-wired into them by their successfully reproductive ancestors. They can rid themselves of the desire to have children, but the associated demands of their bodies are not so hard to dump.
So there you have it. While the pain of not finding a partner easily is unlikely to be extinguished by this knowledge, at least you'll have a better understanding of what's going on.
You can also comfort yourself with knowing that pretty much everyone has these problems. Just look at the rocky-relationships of movies stars. These people have physical attractiveness, money and fame to help them in their search for a perfect partner. Yet they still struggle.
Nature and genetics don't let anyone off lightly in the chase for reproductive success.
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