NOT All About That Bass

Relationships are like music. Fun, complex, and once in your head, very difficult to get out. Each relationship is a different song. That’s why it’s hard to say that what works with one couple will work with another couple. As a professional Matchmaker for Three Day Rule in the San Francisco Bay Area, I informally interview single people every day, learning about them, what they’re looking for, and some of their relationship history. Throughout this process, I observed that while each relationship is different, there are definitely some interesting patterns. And the dynamic that I think is so fascinating is the idea of balance in a relationship.

If every relationship is a song, each one has treble and bass. Often I’ve noticed that one person acts as the treble and the other the bass. This provides a built-in sense of balance. There’s a power distribution. The upper register of the treble shouldn’t overpower the rhythm of the bass. Both people should be heard well for optimum results. If both parties are in sync with timing, they can play off each other well and be so much more engaging than alone. As the old cheesy adage goes, they can make beautiful music together. Solid, long-term relationships are able to thrive on a particular balance.

A healthy relationship should feel like you’re one part of the song. The other person allows you to be heard, but makes the song so much fuller, more engaging and powerful. And you want to be on the same wavelength, both playing the same genre of music.

Megan Trainer is talking about physical characteristics when she sings “I’m all ‘bout that bass, ‘bout that bass, no treble.” But in a metaphorical sense, she’s missing out.

The treble and the bass have different roles in the relationship. The treble is the melody. It stands out and commands more attention. It dances more. It sings. It’s a little more flighty. The treble person tends to express more emotional ups and downs. They’re often more fun and more outgoing. They carry the tune, meaning they can express more emotion. They bring variety to the table and ideas for new things to do together.

The bass is more steady, dependable, logical and practical. Maybe more consistently responsible. Probably a little more introverted. They’re commonly referred to as the other person’s “rock”. They bring emotional stability and a solid sense of security.

My grandmother, who just turned 90, was so much the vibrant treble and my grandpa the mellow bass that it’s a mystery they worked at all.

One of our Three Day Rule team members says she didn’t want a clone of her – she wanted a balance and she found it. She considers herself the treble and him the bass, making a great team. No relationship is 100% perfect, but what matters most is clearly there – he supports her, appreciates and admires her, he’s loyal, an exceptional dad to their son…and they balance each other out.

And with my clients, the matches that have lasted have that element of balance. I say to my clients, my job is not to bring you everything you’re asking for on a silver platter – it’s to bring you the right person. And determining the right balance is a key component.

Personally, I’m certainly treble-esque, and when I reflect on my own past relationships, the times that were more challenging were when both people were clashing for “trying to be” the treble. As much as I hate to admit it, I enjoy feeling like the star.

Generally, it’s the women who are the treble and the men who are the bass. But not always. Will Smith says it took two years before his lovely wife Jada laughed at his jokes. Will seems like the more light-hearted one in that relationship. My good friend and her husband also exhibit those roles. My bass-like female friend is more naturally calm and focused while her treble-like fiance is more energetic and excitable.

Treble versus bass is a spectrum, rather than two distinct boxes. People are complex and fall at different points along the scale. Someone can even switch between the treble and the bass based on the other person in each relationship. Again people try to create a balance. And it seems that the more a person falls to one side of the spectrum, the more they end up with someone further to the opposite side.

In relationships, typically people are attracted to what is different than themselves. They’re subconsciously trying to create balance. Even a narcissist doesn’t want to date himself — you want someone who brings different skills to the table. Someone who thinks the same as you would be boring; you want someone who challenges you to think in different ways, try new things, and keep things interesting. 86% of people say they prefer a partner who complements them rather than whom resembles them (“Do People Know What They Want: A Similar or Complementary Partner?” 2008).

However, with online dating, people all too easily overlook the idea of balance. We filter and over-filter using criteria that mirrors us (Emma Pierson, FiveThirtyEightLife, 2014). While you should have similar values and at least one common interest, why are we forgetting what we need online? If we want someone who complements us, why are we online looking for ourselves?

With online dating, we should try to be more open-minded. You shouldn’t have a laundry list of 50 pieces of criteria that your partner needs to live up to. About 40% of American singles are involved with online dating (, Meredith Broussard), and so many of them are missing the bigger picture as they swipe left to reject a potential match. Women tend to want a taller man than needed, even if they are short. Men tend to place too much emphasis on looks right away. Don’t lower your standards if they’re realistic – just make sure that you’re placing importance on what is genuinely a necessity for you.

Personal matchmaking services remove the “find someone like me” mentality and instead allow for “find me the right person”. It’s often hard to truthfully discern who you would pair yourself well with, but it’s easier for a friend or other outside party. Three Day Rule Matchmakers individually meet and vet every potential candidate to identify the right fit. I know both people, their individual energies, and can picture two people together just like a friend could. But unlike your friends, we have a much larger pool of potentials, are without bias, and are constantly working to recruit the person for you, from networking events to utilizing our personal networks to tapping someone cute on the shoulder at Whole Foods or the sporting goods store.

No matter which route you choose for dating and finding your ideal partner, embrace that balance in each “song”. You can think about your relationships as an album of songs. Here’s to finding that title track you can listen to again and again.