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Neil Clark Warren
Is There One Perfect Person for You?

Do you think your "soul mate" is out there somewhere, that individual who can complement you and fulfill you like no one else? Is there one man or woman who is ideally suited to you? Is it your task to find this mystery person?

Surprisingly, many singles hold to the notion-either consciously or subconsciously-that there is one perfect, preordained partner for them. They were made for each other, the thinking goes, and they mustsimply locate this person or forever feel incomplete.

This thinking is fueled by many Hollywood love stories in which a man and woman are united after a series of near misses and obstacles. At long last, they gaze deeply into each other's eyes and embrace, usually amidst the swell of violins playing in the background or fireworks exploding overhead. And they know without a doubt that they-the two of them and only the two of them-were meant to be together.

For many of us, religious faith fosters the one-perfect-person idea. We often hear the saying, "It was a match made in heaven," implying that God handpicked a particular man and woman to be joined together. If these two somehow goof and marry someone else, they have missed God's perfect will.

I admit that the soul mate supposition is appealing. We love the notion that out of the millions of people in the world, my sweetheart and I were drawn together in a way that was totally outside of our control.

But, frankly, I think this idea is more fantasy than reality, more storybook whimsy than real-world wisdom. I don't believe that you could only be completely and blissfully happy with one person to the exclusion of all others.

Before you call me unromantic and cold-hearted, let me hasten to say this should come as great news to singles looking for a partner. After all, I hear dozens of singles every week complain about how hard it is to find a suitable partner. And if there is just one individual waiting for you out there in the wide world, the search for each other could take a very long time. If, however, there is not a "one and only" partner, a whole range of possibilities opens up.

How did I come to conclude that the soul mate scenario is a fallacy? During my thirty-five years as a psychologist, I have counseled dozens of men and women who were convinced they'd married "the wrong person," but who then went on to create top-notch relationships. Of course, I've counseled far more engaged or newlywed couples who were absolutely positive they had found their soul mate-only to file for divorce a few months or years later. But more to the point, I've worked with hundreds of people whom I knew could have been happily married to any number of people.

Perhaps most importantly, an extensive research study completed by the company I oversee,, revealed why some relationships succeed and others don't. This study examined five thousand married persons and especially two hundred couples who had "highly successful" marriages. We found that there are twenty-nine characteristics-including religious values, ambition, and energy level-that determine a couple's "compatibility quotient." That is, the more two partners match on these critical qualities, the better their chances of staying happily married. If a man and woman match on a preponderance of the characteristics, it's highly likely that they will have a terrific marriage.

Neil Clark Warren

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