Mr. Perfect

So, while I have written quite a bit about many aspects of being Single in Seattle, I haven’t yet touched on a big aspect of being single again … yes, dating! 

Just over 2 years ago, when I became ready to date, I didn’t know quite where to start. I could have gone the obvious route and dated people I met through “common interests.” At the time, the two principal avenues for me were either the design profession or the Indian classical music circles. I was meeting many interesting people, but quickly became convinced that those were not suitable relationship avenues for me, because life could get easily and unnecessarily complicated. I wasn’t really the hang-out-in-a-bar-and-hope-to-meet-people type. I could look at desi matching sites, but having come out of a marriage only 2 years prior, I wanted to be around men who were interested in getting to know me over a considerable duration through sharing a variety of experiences, rather than wanting to jump into insta-relationships or marriage (and I might have created an entirely unfair stereotype about desi men – sorry!) But most important of all, I realized that I could either look at my unexpected singlehood million miles away from my own culture as a sad and unfortunate thing, or as an opportunity for growth. What would I lose by finding and meeting the most unlikely of people? Why shouldn’t I push my comfort zone? Could this be an opportunity to evolve myself – expose myself to new experiences and types of people, and question assumptions and expectations about relationships that I had come to learn thus far? Who all could be out there in this world of 4 billion people?

With this big picture in mind, I did what I thought I could never do – decided to try online dating. (I used to see ads for various matching sites through the years and wrinkle my nose. “How is this different from the “arrangements” of our homeland, anyway?” I used to think.) I put up a profile on match.com. At first it was like a little game. See who liked you, see who you like, make contact, etc. I met a few men and the meetings felt like mini-interviews. Although it wasn’t easy to tell rightaway if someone would turn out to be a good partner, you pretty much knew in as little as a few seconds if you’d never like to see the person again! (I remember once showing up at the Space Needle to meet up with one guy, and even at 15 paces away, as he approached me, I felt like turning around and running away. I had seen pictures of him before I went to meet him, but there was some vibe in his energy that immediately told me NO. I stayed, of course, since I was raised to be polite … and my instincts were quickly confirmed through our dinner together.)

Eventually I went on to date a boy I met through match.com for about 3 months, until it ended abruptly after my return from an incredible 10-day road-trip I took along the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle to Los Angeles with my childhood best friend from India, who visited me for the first time in the U.S. (Thelma and Louise, anyone?) I could have been discouraged, but actually I was now ready to try online dating more seriously. Quickly I had begun to feel that match.com was really an online version of a bar. So I now upgraded myself to two sites – chemistry.com and eharmony.com. Both sites are founded on personality-based and/or values-based matching, and after filling out what feels like a major test, one is offered 5 matches at a time. One must mandatorily go through a monitored and written “getting to know one another” process through the website’s format before making contact by phone or in-person with any of the matches. I tried both sites and it was interesting to observe the differences between the people I met through the two sites.

Among the guys I met through this process was JW. We were matched through chemistry.com, and appeared to be almost exactly aligned on the scales for 5 main attributes they were testing! Yet, his background, upbringing, religious beliefs etc were all the polar opposite of mine, if there could be such a thing! Being around him initially, I was challenged on every assumption I might make about men, relationships, culture, communication, expression of interest or affection … you name it. Thinking all the while that this was a most-unlikely match, I kept meeting other people. (He, in fact said openly that we didn’t seem like a long-term match!) But something about the easy, relaxed, undemanding feeling of being around JW kept our connection going, perhaps because neither of us had any expectations from the other. Over New Years in 2006, only after 8 weeks of meeting each other, we took a trip together on a whim. We found our destination – Tofino, B.C. – by spontaneously spotting the most northern part of nearby landmass abutting the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t believe I was going off with someone who was practically still a stranger, especially when neither of us expected our friendship to translate to anything longer term. But my curiosity about this quiet, reticent man with a goofy and sarcastic sense of humor, tune in his voice and easygoing manner kept growing. I didn’t feel a gushing romance or anything, but there was always a sense of adventure, a gentle warmth and trust when we were together. After our return from the trip, when one of my friends asked me, “So, do you like him?” I surprised myself by answering, “I don’t know. But I liked myself when I was with him!”

So it kept going. I told myself that as long as I liked myself around JW, he could be in my life. I continued to sporadically meet other “matches” if they sparked any interest, and my personal rule was that after meeting somebody once if I felt interested enough to see him a second time, I would let JW know. (It looked like JW’s online profile was also still active, and we’d never talked about dating exclusively.) But it never happened. Suitors came and went and I never felt interested enough in anybody to see him a second time. Before I knew it, it was a year since JW and I had met! We then talked for the first time about us as a “relationship” and agreed that we were having enough fun with each other to continue down the path.

Now, two plus years into our relationship, it is interesting to ponder what really makes people come together and stay together. If it is similarities in background and upbringing, then that isn’t remotely our strength. If it is complementarity in personalities, and an inexplicable similarity in the way we receive and process the world, then that is, perhaps, our strength. Recently, in helping a friend with online dating, I did some rigorous research of the algorithms used by the websites out there (way more rigorous than I had done for myself two years ago!) My research revealed that Chemistry’s matching algorithm has a bias towards attraction that brings couples together in the first place, focusing on complementarity. Eharmony’s algorithm, on the other hand, was arrived at by working backwards from characteristics in couples who are married a long time, insisting on similarities as the winning feature. (“Success” in relationship or marriage in eharmony’s approach seems to be defined by time – I will let others be judge of whether time in a relationship is the only measure of success.) Both these algorithms were created by respectable scientists holding doctorate degrees and working with renowned universities, and later, with companies. I also found that along with chemistry and eharmony, there is now a relatively new but unknown site called perfectmatch.com, that had tried to find the middle ground between chemistry and eharmony – a balance between complementarity and similarity – as grounds for successful matching. (As an experiment, JW and I created profiles on perfectmatch to see if we would come out as match-able, and for what it’s worth, we did.) 

One time I kidded JW that my true intention of creating a profile on perfectmatch was to continue my search for my real match, while in the interim, I simply enjoyed his company. Since then, “Mr. Perfect” was born into our lives. Often when we have minor disagreements, squabbles or differing expectations from situations, I tell JW that I’ll be “just fine” since I have found Mr. Perfect and am seeing him on the side, and he’s taking great care of my needs! We have frequent giggles and laughs over this, and sometimes JW will ask when I am leaving his place or taking off to do something on my own, “Off to see Mr. Perfect?”

All our lives, various influences teach us what kind of person will be “good” for us. It begins with family, extends to friends and cultural/environmental impacts, and through these influences combined with our inner imaginations and outer life experiences, we arrive at a characterization of the person with whom we can have an “ideal” relationship. Always, the entire focus is on HIS characteristics – whether physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. In our race to find this Mr. Perfect, we forget that really, the perfect place for one is with a person who enables, or simply allows the best in oneself to emerge and evolve. The focus should really return to oneself. Am I being the best person I can be? Does this relationship bring out the sweetest, kindest, strongest person in me? Can I continue to have my dreams and ambitions, and act on them freely? Am I able to live by my ideals and values? Am I able to express myself well? Do I find myself acting at most times with grace, respect and love?  In other words, do I like myself in this relationship?

Right now, my answer to all these questions is Yes. And by virtue of this definition, JW is … my Mr. Perfect.

Last 5 posts by Shahana Dattagupta



8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Very intresting. Have not tried online matchmaking ut have been curious

  2. Asha A

    Thank you for such a great article. I have some friends who have met through online dating and it worked out well for them. But I have somehow never discussed the process and approach with them – so its nice to see it written down.

  3. sands

    Tana, I think you you got to the crux, I feel a relationship can only succeed if both the people involved do not need to be behind a mask in each other’s company. This reminds me of the time when my mom asked me to explain my relationship with boyfriend(now husband) about 18 years back, and I said “Ma, I am just myself with him and so is he” and this guy has helped me know so much about myself that I didn’t even know I had in me.
    You are a great writer, thanks again for sharing!

  4. Anonymous

    This is a great reading! I don’t think I have ever thought of the idea ” I like myself in this relationship”.
    I guess that is important to any relationship not limited only to life partners except the biological relationship.
    Great ! Good luck to your life with “Mr. Perfect”!

  5. Anonymous

    Thank you all for all your great comments. I am delighted that many of you have responded to the idea that a healthy relationship with another must begin with a healthy relationship with oneself.

  6. Khushi

    Good and frank post. I like anonymous wanted to know the innards of online dating. And I do agree, when you are comfortable to be your own self in a relationship, thats the greatest sign of its strength.

  7. joysree

    ithink if u are relaxed in a relationship that is best.it will naturally help u to bring out your best and you will be able to enjoy your life.

  8. Tana

    I really appreciate all the comments, especially the good wishes!

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