- Michael Thompson
“Why did we break up?”
In a moment of bravery, relationship expert Matthew Hussey gritted his teeth and asked the question above to his ex-girlfriend.
He was expecting to hear the standard spiel that the timing wasn’t right or the woman wasn’t sure what she really wanted. But instead, she said something much worse: “You were boring!”
After swallowing his initial urge to argue, Matthew shifted in his seat, took a deep breath, and asked her to explain:
“When we first met, you were the most ambitious person I’d ever met. I’d never met someone with such an ability to decide they want something and then get it! This was so sexy. But as we went into our relationship — the more time went on — the more that’s all you were. You were so ambitious. You knew how to get what you want. But you were so one-dimensional. Even when we were alone you were always on the phone, always talking business, always talking shop. We never did anything spontaneous. We never went on any adventures. It was just all one track and it got boring!”
After digesting the bomb the woman had dropped on him, Matthew sat back and realized she was absolutely right — one quality may be enough to attract someone, but it’s not enough to hold someone.
Irresistible people always have an “And”
Ambition; confidence; intelligence— it’s easy to get caught up in our obvious strengths. The acknowledgment we receive when the world recognizes us makes us feels good. It’s hard to hold ourselves back from wanting to continually chase that validation.
But dangers arise when we lean so hard into that one quality it becomes our entire identity. If we aren’t careful, over time, we’ll lose our appeal. We’ll become like that amazing song everyone plays non-stop over the summer but gets tired of come fall. Or that brilliant writer who instantly caught our attention only to lose it by writing the same words again and again.
The people that continually keep us awake in bed night after night yearning for more, are never one-dimensional. This is why it’s often so hard to put a finger on what makes us feel attracted to them. There’s always something more. It’s their “And” that hooks us. And the better you become at getting your positive qualities to contrast each other — to complement each other — the more irresistible you’ll become.
The world is full of ambitious people.
Ambitious “and” empathetic make you hard to resist.
The world is full of confident people.
Confident “and” attentive make you hard to resist.
The world is full of intellectual people.
Intellectual “and” playful make you hard to resist.
This doesn’t mean you have to downplay your biggest strength. After all, they often serve as the initial spark that sets attraction in motion. It simply means that you continually develop your other positive qualities so you don’t turn into a one-trick pony. As the late Christopher Hitchens said:
“The challenge with love is not allowing your strengths to negate themselves.”
What’s your “And”?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Like Matthew, I’m ambitious. When my wife and I first met she liked that I had the courage to put myself out into the world. When I first moved to Spain, despite the challenges I faced, it was clear to her that I’d find a way to make it work. Over the years, professionally, this drive has served me well.
But that’s not the reason she fell in love with me. She fell in love with me because I was ambitious “And” I was attentive and I made her laugh.
I’m glad I heard Matthew’s story. It caught me at just the right time. If I can feel that my ambition is getting the best of me, I can only imagine my wife feels it twice as much.
This realization has opened my eyes to questions I’ve never taken the time to consider before:
- How I can temper my biggest strength so it doesn’t damage my relationship?
- Which of my personal qualities truly mean the most to my wife?
- If I had to travel for a week, what would I have to do each day for her to truly miss me?
Ambition is easy for me. It comes naturally. My wife, however, has never given me a look after I’ve reached a big goal that can compete with the eyes she gives me when she sees me playing with our kids or when I drop everything to listen to her when she’s had a bad day.
These are the actions that will lead her to squeeze my hand until we’re old and grey. These are the qualities I need to work on for my wife to continually love me. They are my to-do list each day.
If you too feel like you are leaning too far in one direction, ask your partner why they initially felt attracted to you. Then ask them which qualities will keep them loving you.
The chances are, it’s not your primary strength. It’s a combination of that “And” the not always obvious ones that are lying right under the surface.
These are the qualities you need to continually focus on.
They’re what make you unique.
It’s your “And” that makes you irresistible.