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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Is This the Right Person for Me?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 14th 2007

One of the questions I often hear is "how do I know whether or not this is the right person for me?

It is an excellent question given the number of people who seek therapy as a result of being in the wrong relationship with the wrong person. In order to answer the first question it is necessary to look at a second question: "Why did I choose someone who has broken my heart?"The answers to the second question are varied and complex:

Why did I choose someone who broke my heart?

1. The last web log If Not Now, When?) I posted dealt with the concept of caring for others versus caring for ones self. Those who tend to be codependent tend to select partners who need rescuing from some type of trouble. The troubles from which the codependent is rescuing partners range from alcoholism and drug abuse to depression and anti social or criminal behaviors.

2. Infatuation is a powerful emotion that drives people towards one another. The Oxford American Dictionary defines infatuation as an intense but short lived passion for someone. Some people make serious decisions about commitment and marriage based on this intense but short lived emotion.

The problem with infatuation is that under its "spell" people ignore or fail to notice serious flaws in the other person. If the flaws are merely of the types that are minor there will be no problem. However, the tendency under the magic of infatuation is that people often ignore major flaws that should raise "red flags" about the nature and character of the individual with whom they believe they are in love. These flaws or problems "come home to roost" later in the relationship in that the object of all of the passion becomes hurtful, unreliable and abusing.

3. There are those people who may not rescue others but who are driven by a fear of being alone. For these people the feelings of depression and low self esteem are so great and the fear of abandonment are so huge that they will connect with and marry the first individual who appears to love and accept them. The problem with this is that no intimate relationship can satisfy a person's needs in every way and all of the time. The heavy expectations with which this person enters into intimacy leads to trouble because they become disillusioned with their partner the moment they begin to experience frustrations. Very often partners are driven away because they feel stifled or suffocated by the endless of demands made by this type of dependent individual.

4. There are those who are hurt and disappointed by their failed relationships because they entered into them for superficial reasons other than infatuation. For example, entering into a relationship based on physical appearance or based upon the amount of money they have is often a mistake. The reason it is a mistake is that when the come to know the other individual they discover all of the things they dislike about the other. These things were ignored or explained away when things began based on the notion that looks and money would solve all problems. Beauty and money cannot sustain a relationship for long if there is nothing deeper binding the two people together.

5. There are many ways in which people can delude themselves into believing that a relationship can work. If people do not communicate with one another what their beliefs, values and life preferences are they are sure to learn these things when it is too late. For example, if people with different religious affiliations choose to marry but without asking how they will live, what holidays (if any) they will celebrate and how they will raise children they will find themselves in endless conflict and turmoil later on when it is too late to find easy solutions. 6. Continuing from number

6, there are those people who are aware of the differences and ignore them based on the faulty thinking that they will persuade their partner to change after they have married. It is similar to the individual who wants to marry but chooses to stay with a partner who clearly and unambiguously states that they want neither marriage nor children. I have seen endless numbers of people entering into therapy exhausted and depressed because they have failed to convince their partner but will not leave this person. They actually want me, as the therapist, to meet with the individual and convince them. This is both unrealistic and hopeless since the problem is not why the other will not marry but why the patient has remained with someone who is lucidly clear about what they do not want.

The Answers to the Second Question:

How do I know this is the Right Person for Me?

The answers to this first question lie in the six factors listed above that partially explain why some people choose the wrong partners.

In other words:

The answers to this first question lie in the six factors listed above that partially explain why some people choose the wrong partners.

In other words:

1. Adults cannot be controlled and rescued. It is vital that each adult cares for his or her self and realize that "what you see is what you get." In other words, we have to accept people as they are not as what we hope they will become. Codependence is not healthy for anyone.

2. While it is true that infatuation is a wonderful emotion it is important to wait until it passes and to take time to learn about and get to know the other person.

3. In my opinion everyone needs to become more realistic about intimate relationships. These relationships or marriages cannot solve all problems. Intimate relationships do not compensate for low self esteem, fear of abandonment, depressed and anxious feelings or for feelings of loneliness.

4. Beauty and money are never the right reasons for marriage. Successful relationships are built on mutual trust and respect for one another and not on material things.

5 and 6. When a potential partner makes clear and unambiguous statements about what they want and do not want out of a relationship they need to be taken seriously. To remain in a relationship in the hope of persuading someone to change their thinking about marriage, children, religion and other matters is tantamount to setting oneself up for utter disappointment. These things cannot and should not be overlooked or minimized.

How do I know that this person is right for me? I know it because we have discussed everything and I know we share the same values, attitudes, beliefs and hopes for the future. I know because we share the fact that we love one another and that we want to be with one another.

Please submit your opinions and experiences.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Dating a depressed person..... - Lee - Sep 2nd 2011

I don't think the writer was wrong for leaving. People forget it takes two people to make a relationship work and anytime one person is depressed the entire relationship is thrown off balance; now the focus is on the depressed persons needs. I was diagnosed with depression twice and both times I sought help. If the depressed person refuses to do anything then what choice do you have.

I've been seeing a guy for 5 months and although I really care for him, I am at the end of my rope. I've provided support, offered a number for free counseling and prayed; last week he asked me not give up. I have to worry about my emotional, mental and physical needs as well. This situation is making me depressed. I care for him but if he can't muster the strength to seek help, how can I?

Life is HARD....there are ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Sometimes we're in the valley for a long, long time but at the end of the day we must on our own seek help. No one can do it for you. I would suggest to anyone dating a depressed person especially, if you don't live together; be prepared, you will likely spend weekends, holidays, plays, events, etc. alone or without the company of your beloved. One of the reasons we seek a relationship is for companionship.

I think it takes an extremely strong person to handle it. Your needs are placed on the back burner. Don't expect calls to always be answered or even returned, don't expect txt msgs. to be answered right away, expect broken plans, worried nights etc. sorry but this is just my view.






Letting go a depressed partner - Pat - Dec 14th 2009

I commend you for letting go the relationship with the depressed partner and I encourage you to realize that so that your guilt does not cause to to repeat the error in the future with this or another depressed partner. Only honest people can maintain a healthy relationship that lasts many years and any honest person will seek out ways to relieve depression. Anyone who hangs on to their depression (especially hearing their partner describe how it negatively affects them) cares too little about themselves or their problem to be able to handle a longterm relationship. Just as it takes a lot of physical health to handle life's stresses, it takes a lot of emotional health to handle a long term relationship. If someone is unwilling to seek out and recieve help from their depression, they are in no condition to share an intimate relationship over a long period of time. Save your guilt for when you do something wrong, not for when you do something right. You are right to let go a relationship with a depressed person who does not seek help.

i experienced it and still experience it - - Sep 12th 2009

I have depression ,low self esteem .My boyfriend almost left me because of how i am but he decided to stick around as he thinks it worth it . A challenge that is worth it. thanks

is there ever "too late?" - Ashley - Jul 20th 2009

How are we suppose to feel and react to this message when I STARTED out being with the person for fear of abandonment?

I decided to stick things out with my BF because I didn't want to be alone, but now 8 years later, our love has grown into so much more than dependence, should i believe that I am just afraid to be alone, or can a trust that I trylu do love him? Based on the message, it sounds like the answer can not be both...

I waited and hoped he'd change his mind - - Jun 16th 2009

I was with my ex-bf for about a year and a half and he changed careers and told me he wasn't going to marry me now since he's not ready for a serious relationship  now and school is most important. I tried to change his mind in any way I could, and I waited and hoped he'd change his mind and recently I met someone new and told my ex today that I'm dating someone new now.

He wasn't even upset, it's like he doesn't even care that our relationship is over. What can I say? I hope this new guy isn't like him.

Put yourself in somebody else's shoes - Sam Hackham - Mar 29th 2009

You was wrong to leave. If you really loved her you would have stayed with her and worked through the issues together. At the end of the day you have made that decision to leave. By leaving you are now feeling guilty. Ask yourself if something similar were to happen in your next future relationship would you leave again? You must try to put yourself in the other person's shoes.

Leaving someone honestly - - Feb 8th 2008
If the person you were in a relationship with was showing signs of Depression, then this is a test of your committment and love as well as a trial that could very well determine the duration of the relationship.  First of all, if you avoided the person because of their condition, you are rejecting them and they knew it.  No explanation from you was necessary.  And, because you never "came clean" as to *why you stayed away, that probably intensified the other persons symptoms; depressed people feel alone already.  Had you approached this person to "support" them, maybe they would seek help, improve, and that would have helped you feel better about the relationship too.  Instead, you probably contributed to them feeling worse which continued the situation and supported your reasoning for not sticking by them.  Since you chose the path of avoidance, you communicated something very important; you don't love that person and it is best that the relationship ended so that they can find someone that does love and support them.  Your worry about how the depression would affect you, the relationship, and possible future children confirms that you need to be with someone else too.  However, all people have issues or problems of some sort so the real question is if you are able to support and stand by someone for an extended period of time.  Do you love that person, or not? 

Committing to a person with a tendancy for depression.. - Jaz - Dec 15th 2007

I have been in a long-term relationship with a depressed person. The person was lovely, generous and giving. One could hardly discern any signs of depression. I loved that person deeply because she brought so much to my life but started noticing signs of depression that include: low self esteem, self blame, refusal to accept flattery and a sort of fatalistic attitude towards past and future relationships. I started having doubts about commitment and marriage. thought obssesively about how her condition might affect our children and our relationship in the future. I never told her of course about my thoughts. It was not fair on my part. in addition we came from different cultural and religious backgrounds which in my mind compounded the problems. My way of dealing with the issue was to have long periods of seperation as part of my work commitments. Those seperations increased her frustration and thus reinforced her views that relationships always end up like this. when we reunited for a long period of time, she obssesively asked me about the reasons for this seperation. I gave many answers, most of which didn t convince her.

We broke up recently. Actually, it was me who left beacause I was afraid of this commitment. I come from a broken family and felt that I was getting myself into another complicated situation. I feel great guilt now because thar person filled a very important part of my life. was I justified to end this relationship bc I judged this person based on their condition?

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