THE SHRINKING UNIVERSE Sometimes intuition can be a better guide than logic when it comes to choosing life partners.

Over the last year or so, there has been a subtle though distinct shift in the profile of people who seek my counsel. While in the past, I would usually see people who’d been married at least a few months, if not a few years, looking for ways and means to deal with unanticipated, though unsurprising, issues in their relationships, I now find young individuals, sometimes young couples, who are not yet married, but are keen to be, assailed by fears, anxieties and concerns about whether or not the marriage will work. Have they chosen the right person? Or if they’ve not yet done the choosing, what should they look for to ensure that the person they end up choosing is right for them?

I’m not referring to commitment-phobic people, although I do see a lot of them too. I’m talking about young people on the threshold of making one of the most key decisions of their lives, overwhelmed by the potential enormity of the choice they are about to make, but paralysed by the fact that they lack the tools or even an understanding of the parameters which they can use in arriving at a decision. So, who do they turn to?

The Internet, of course.

After all, more likely than not, it is the same Internet that brought them in contact with each other (through the marriage portal they registered their profiles in) and created this dilemma in their minds. So, it’s up to the Internet to give them a solution. And as always, the Internet comes through for them and provides them the tools, in the form of a psychological test, with which to make a decision.

All the answers you want

However, this happy outcome takes place only if they limit themselves to the first page of their Google search results. If they go past this, and many do, they then find a plethora of such tests, and each of them usually ends up giving different results. The situation is not unlike “doctor shopping” where, dissatisfied with the diagnosis, prognosis or treatment plan offered by the first doctor one consults, a second opinion from another consultant is sought, and if this is at variance with the first one, yet another opinion is sought until one finds a doctor who gives one the answer one was hoping for in the first place.

Some people use psychometric tests in just this manner. Initially a “best of three”, later a “best of five”, sometimes a “best of seven” and so forth. In recent times, such tests have gone pretty much viral on the Internet and I’m not unused to couples who are on the brink of getting married or even those that have been married a while, coming to see me with their scores and ratings, asking whether there can ever be harmony in their relationships considering they belong to such widely divergent personality types. On top of their minds is the whole issue of compatibility, whether both are well enough suited to each other to get it right. Obviously, this is not a new phenomenon, for, our country has a long history of ensuring compatible partnerships by matching horoscopes. The basic approach is to find a perfect match based on an assessment of parameters that one may not quite understand, but nevertheless has abiding faith in. Today, the choice of tools is changing with horoscopes giving way to psychometry.

Not the full story

Without detracting from the merit and validity of psychometric tests that have been developed to assess compatibility, I believe that they can, at best, only give you an indication of the kind of issues your relationship might be expected to experience given your basic personality types.

No test can tell you how much of an effort either partner will make to resolve these differences and get the relationship on to a companionable footing.

What they successfully do though, is facilitate tolerance for each others’ quirks, for, now both partners have obtained a framework with which to view themselves and each other.

In truth, partner choice in a marriage or any long-term committed relationship, whether through love or family arrangement, is a bit of a lottery. What you see is not always what you get, for, over time both partners change, whether they want to or not. However, one can’t be blasé about choosing a partner, as some people tend to be, when they give greater importance to the ‘profile’ of the prospective partner than the individual behind the profile. After all, one is marrying a person, not a profile.

The only true indicator of compatibility is the ‘emotional and intellectual connect’ between two people, for, these would serve as the lattice around which a relationship can be built. And ‘connect’ is easier to feel than measure. If you're wondering how such a key decision can be made on such a tenuous and intangible parameter, take heart, for, most major decisions in life are taken more by intuition than reasoning.

The other key requirements for compatibility are mutual tolerance and flexibility. And for these to make their appearance, two ‘connected’ partners in a relationship have to like each other. Being in love can be wonderfully uplifting for both partners, but it’s only when they like each other can they hope to lay the compatibility conundrum to rest.

vijay.nagaswami@gmail.com