Scotomas in dating

The term “scotoma” means blind spot. We all have the physical ones in our eyes, and I’d guess that we all have psychological ones, too. It means we don’t see something that is right in front of us or is apparent to others.

In dating, it’s easy to have a scotoma for someone we really like. We can not see — or see but overlook — glaring signs that someone is not a good match for us. But we blissfully act as if those signs aren’t there.

After a breakup it is all too clear what was present but we didn’t see — or refused to acknowledge. So the question is how to be more present to traits that are ultimate deal breakers we refuse to see.

Stepping aside to view a situation objectively is not a common skill. If we are able to do this, perhaps with the aid of a friend who’s willing to tell us what s/he sees, we can make a list of not only the pros of a potential mate, but the cons as well. Then we can honestly assess if we are willing to live with the trait or not.

For example, a young friend is living with her boyfriend who can be sweet and kind, but can also be unkind and selfish. He is far more immature than she, so she ends up in the mother role, angrily reminding him of the chores he leaves undone. Those who care about her see this as a terrible mismatch on many levels. She sees his foibles clearly, but ignores them when he treats her nicely. The rest of us see the totality of his behaviors and want her to see that he may change, but he may not. We ask, “Would you be happy in 5 years if nothing changed?” She would not.

When we are in the throes of new love, we often think we can live with a characteristic that we would reject if unrelated to the object of our desire. For example, many years ago “drug free” was on my list of absolute musts for a beau, but when I fell for a man who occasionally smoked pot, I told myself I was OK with it. But after we were together for a while, the pot smoking became more of a problem, as he would smoke while driving and I would get very worried when he was home late from a road trip. Had I stuck to my original requirements, I would not have become involved with someone who did drugs.

It’s hard to determine what we are ignoring and what we are aware of but willing to live with. But if something is truly a scotoma, you aren’t able to even see it clearly. Enlisting a friend to help you sort out what you may not be seeing takes courage and honesty, and the ability to not get mad at your friend when s/he brings up something you’d rather not see. But in the long run you are better off being fully informed rather than letting your illusions lead your heart. Eventually your illusions, just like a mirrage, will dissipate and the ugly truth will cause heartache.


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3 responses to “Scotomas in dating”

  1. Becky Avatar

    I think the old saying “love is blind” probably applies here. Much of the time when we’re so enamored of another we just don’t see their faults at first. We overlook way too much in the name of love. But, usually, after a while, we begin to have our vision unclouded and can see things a bit more clearly. It takes a while, and hopefully, it isn’t too late when we do begin to see the light. There are a lot of toxic people out there – men and women both – and we should all have a list of the traits that we can’t put up with. When things in a relationship just don’t add up; and questions arise that we cannot answer easily – is when we need to take a stand, clear the air, and move on. A lot of us have a hard time doing just this and tend to stay in stagnant relationships long after their expiration date.

  2. Samantha Avatar

    What helps me is to be clear about what it is I need, and to ask for it. If he responds and does that thing, he’s caring about me in a way I need. I used to over analzye him, the situation and in that process, would loose track of me and what I wanted and needed. As long as streamline it by directly asking for what I need, it makes everything so much easier for me.

  3. Deborah Avatar

    The question “would you be happy in 5 years if nothing changed” is a good one. So many times we decide to overlook something that’s not really ok with us, then after some time goes by we realize that it has snowballed to many things that aren’t a good match. Maybe they really aren’t treating us well, and/or we are not better with them than without them. Possibly asking ourselves early on “would I be happy in 5 years if nothing changed” as you mentioned; might stop the compromise before the emotional attachment has blinded us.