Monday, February 6, 2012

It's Not About Personality

I'm not saying that I dislike Owen's personality, I'm just saying that's not why I'm with him.

For some reason, American culture has set up an opposition between looks and personality, with the underlying assumption that a good personality match will provide lasting happiness and good looks will fade. (Google "personality vs. looks" and you will find 21,900,000 results). And I can't even count how many times I've heard people say that sense of humor is the number one thing that they look for in potential partners.

But is personality that much deeper than looks?

Around the time that I met Owen, I met another boy; we'll call him Tom. Owen's know-it-all attitude annoyed me, and I admired Tom's more modest personality. Tom and I dated for almost 4 months, and our relationship never even glimpsed depth. As I was busy adoring Tom's good sense of humor, attentiveness in conversation, and shared love of childhood emblems such as Rugrats and bubblegum Band-Aids, I failed to communicate my anxieties surrounding being in a relationship for the first time. For months after we broke up I remained certain that I would not find anyone whose personality was as compatible with mine as Tom's.

Two years later, when Owen and I started dating, all three of our personalities had changed. As my life became more and more structured around academics, Tom developed a party-boy reputation, and Owen's know-it-all mask started to fade.

Still, when Owen and I started dating, both of us lacked personality traits that the other desired. At that time, I wouldn't have called Owen funny, and he definitely talked more than he listened to me. Also, he was shocked and a little worried that I couldn't find Saudi Arabia on a map. Now, almost two years into our relationship, Owen has learned to harvest his sense of humor and to converse with me in such a way that makes me feel valued, and I have made an effort to learn my world geography.

Debates surrounding the age that our personalities stabilize still continue; I've read textbooks that claim we're stuck with our personalities from the time we reach three years old, and others that say our personalities are volatile until we reach thirty years old. Research aside, I would imagine that we probably have aspects of our personalities that change more than others and that if we want to we can learn to harvest personality traits that don't come as naturally. Whatever the case, personality just doesn't seem like a substantial enough reason to marry someone.

I like Owen's personality more and more as we continue to grow and change together, but I love our relationship. I can tell him he's annoying, and he can tell me I'm too tense about time. The openness and freedom of thought and expression allows each of us to thrive within the context of us. I may have loved Tom's personality, but that experience feels one dimensional compared to the multi-faceted love that I experience with Owen: I love him, I love me with him, I love our relationship, I love our future plans, I love our conversations, I love our teamwork, I love the life that we are building together....

Also, Owen and I share that inexplicable draw commonly known as good chemistry. Trying to explain that one might take a blog post by itself.

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