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Commitment, Inner Compatibility: 2 Keys to Finding a Mate

May 12, 1989|SUSAN CHRISTIAN | Susan Christian is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

Jeanne Mitchell, happily married now for 6 years, gets "infuriated" with single people who have a long list of qualifications that their future mate must meet--then can't understand why this fictional person doesn't just appear.

"It appalls me," the 29-year-old Santa Ana resident said. "No one is perfect. You have to look at the whole picture."

Her divorced uncle at first approached the dating scene saying: "I want a woman who's beautiful, makes lots of money, is smart, athletic, a good cook . . . ," Mitchell recalled.

"He went out with 50 women, and with each one became a little less rigid--'Well, she doesn't have to make that much money.' Finally, he ended up with: 'What's really important is that she loves and accepts me.' It took him 4 years to come around to that realization, but at least he did. And now he's getting married this fall."

Diana Erickson of Fountain Valley said she had a checklist "a mile long" before she met her husband, Mike.

"Without compromising my values, I became more accepting of others and threw my checklist out the window," she wrote in a letter to Single Life.

"I had the typical stuff on my list, a lot of it superficial," she said in an interview. "I wanted somebody who shared all my interests. I love to ballroom dance. . . ."

"And I hate to dance," interjected her husband. "She's bilingual; I can barely speak English. She sings; I can't carry a tune."

"I was looking for a clone of myself," Diana observed. "But what I found was a person with whom I shared something more important--compatible values."

Both Diana and Mike are schoolteachers, both want children of their own, and both had, in Diana's words, "marriageable hearts."

"My best advice to single people who want to get married: Pursue relationships with prospective partners who share the same desire for marriage," she said. "It's that basic."

Diana was 36 when she walked down the aisle 6 months ago with Mike, 33, whom she met on a vacation sponsored by their church.

"I was so picky that I had started to think I'd always be single, that this was just the way it was going to be," Diana said. "So if I can get married, anybody can."

Debra Oliver, 27, a free-lance writer in Placentia, said many of her single friends "have lost touch with what's really important. They're looking at all the superficial quirks that don't add up to a hill of beans. They follow the Hollywood image of what they think they're supposed to have, but that's TV."

"People get hung up on, 'How does she look?'--not, 'Is she nice?' " agreed Debra's 38-year-old husband, Gary, a sales representative. "Guys who base their initial attraction to a woman purely on looks are already getting the relationship off on the wrong foot."

Gary and Debra, who are expecting their first child, met 2 years ago through a video-dating service. "I have to admit that I almost passed Gary up because I thought he looked too skinny (in the video)," Debra said.

"I've been guilty of all these things--looking at superficial qualities, dating wishy-washy men who won't commit. But I learned from my mistakes. If you keep doing the same things over and over again, and you feel like you're not getting anywhere, it's time to wise up."

In a letter to Single Life, Tammy Grooms of Huntington Beach offered this bit of wisdom: "Marriage is not so much finding the right person as it is being the right person."

Tammy and her husband of 4 years, Scott, met at Orange Coast College. Scott is studying to become a licensed marriage and family counselor, so he had a lot to say on the subject of "being the right person."

"It all starts with self-esteem," said Scott, who is 26. "You have to have something to give to a relationship; you can't just take from it. You have to know your own value--otherwise, you'll constantly depend on the other person to validate your self-worth every minute of the day, and no one has that much energy.

"A lot of people get their confidence from the things around them--the car, the girlfriend with a killer body, the moment. What happens when that girlfriend gains a little weight, or she is in an accident and gets a scar on her face, and he can't accept it because he doesn't know how to separate the physical from the emotional? Deep love adjusts to and accepts flaws."

"The first thing I noticed about Scott was that he is cute," confessed Tammy Grooms, 25, a computer consultant. "But that doesn't get you far. Looks can't sustain you, looks can't feed you, looks eventually fail. Our intellectual and spiritual compatibility is what sealed our relationship."

"We don't look to each other to provide our inner happiness," said Rick Mitchell, 32, a radiologist, of his relationship with wife Jeanne. "If an unhappy person gets married thinking that their spouse will make them happy, they'll just end up with two unhappy people."

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