Opinion: Love's Due Diligence, the Intentional Interview Series #1

Steven Ing, MFT

You know how every time you fall in love with someone everything just sort of works out? No, of course you don't. You don't because, despite all the songs we heard growing up, love is not all that we need.

You'd never know we live in a society with more worn-out platitudes about family than any of us want to hear. What's funny is that we do live in a society that says that the family is the foundation of our society, but this same society teaches pretty much nothing when it comes to the process of mate selection, the spark that keeps the family fire going.

Mate selection? Kind of analytical, right? But, once you experience following the tug of the heart leading you into a few horrible situations, most of us want to find some answers that make sense.

Admit it, we all have spent more time and thoughtful attention sorting out our most recent major purchase than we did in, well, mate selection. We read all the reviews of the last car we bought, talked to people who had one, maybe even took a test drive. In the case of real estate, we looked at all the other available properties when we bought our last home. Shoot, we even hired a title company to search the records for any problems with the land's history of ownership and, on top of that, we paid for title insurance just in case, you know, things didn't work out.

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Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Compared to all those online searches, innumerable reviews, consultants, title searches, and insurance, our idea of mate selection utterly misses out on the concept lawyers call "due diligence." Typically, two folks who are attracted to one another, date, maybe have sex, maybe a lot of sex, develop feelings for one another, and voilá, they're a couple. Our commitment may be to simply date exclusively, to cohabitate, or to tie the knot, doesn't matter, 'cause we're in, baby, all in.

But, if you really loved someone, would this be the process you'd thoughtfully recommend? We all have three major resources we're going to either thoughtfully invest in a mate or, sadly, squander with some big loser: time, treasure, and talent. Our time is limited to our lifespan and 10 years with the wrong person can seem, in hindsight, like the wasted years of a long stint in state prison. Treasure refers to our hard-earned income, which itself is a symbol of our toil, our sweat, and the very work of our lives. Talent is made up of all those fantastic traits and abilities that the right person in your future is really going to value.

Our resources of time, treasure, and talent are not infinite. We have only so much of these to play around with. When we fail to perform our due diligence and we end up spending way too much time with someone who is so very wrong for us, we impoverish ourselves emotionally and spiritually. In my office, I've counseled many who have lost faith in love because, for them, love has been so very hurtful.

But it wasn't love. Our failures in mate selection aren't really our fault any more than a three-car pile-up is the fault of a kid who learned how to drive when his dad threw him the keys and said, "Good luck!"

We can do better and here's how to start. We must begin and then continue an intentional interview of every candidate who's auditioning for a leading role in the epic motion picture called your life. Yes, you can still entertain a few of the thousands of available extras who, though nice enough, are decidedly not star material. Have fun! But for the leading role? We have a lot riding on this production, so let's talk about what you'll need for the intentional interview.

First, if you're a loving person, love is the easy part. What this means is that loving people have an easy time identifying what's lovable about someone. Some of us even feel sheepish about this as if our ability to easily see what's lovable and our frequent falling in love somehow mean that we're shallow. "Oh, she's always falling in love with someone. So needy." This is a thinking error. The simple truth is that people who are loving are simply talented at seeing what's lovable about others. Not shallow at all, in fact.

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Source: Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels

Now for the hard part: Because our loving someone is as easy as falling off a log, we're going to have to discount love as a reason for getting in a commitment. Love, in philosophical terms, is a "necessary but insufficient condition" for a successful adult romance. But so is breathing. Necessary? Yes. Sufficient, as in it's "all we need?" No, decidedly not sufficient.

Dethroning love from its spot at the head of the table of romance is the first step to conducting an intentional interview. If we don't put love in its place in this way then we might as well tell each other, "You just wait for an oogly googly feeling and, then, go for it!" Our finding a mate who truly suits us is usually treated as a matter of chance, as in "You're so lucky you found someone like them." While maybe there is some chance involved, we can do a lot to dramatically raise the odds of it all working out.

We're social animals with mad social skills that are inherent to us—we just need to learn how to use them and the intentional interview is one of the skills we need. So, please, hold back from any major commitments in the near future until you learn how to find the answers you need about a future prospect. After you read this series, you will be well on your way to commitments that make sense and romances that more closely approach your deepest needs.

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I had a seriously messed up childhood. Like, mobster-father-shot-to-death-by-police messed up. Out of this beginning came a lifelong fascination with two questions: “Why do people do what they do?” and “How can all of us figure out how to move to what healthier families enjoy and how they get their needs for love met?” As a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 30 years, I work to help people figure out how they too can have healthy sexuality and intimacy by Managing Sexuality Intelligently™. I have literally written the book on human sexual needs, "We’re All Like This” (Second Edition 2020, Giant Publishing), with portions appearing in the 2nd edition of the McGraw-Hill textbook "Human Sexuality: Self, Society, and Culture," used in university-level human sexuality classes. My books, articles, and public presentations create conversations about human sexuality that are safe...but not too safe. My insights have led to a humane take on our beautiful human sexuality and how all the rest of us can have ridiculously happy lives (yes, and sex lives too!).

Reno, NV
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