Almost every healthy relationship takes work. A lifelong marriage can require lots of dedication, time, and emotional energy. Here are some guidelines for determining if your partner is right for you.
A Strong Foundation
Trust, respect, honor, and commitment form the foundation of many relationships. If you feel confident that you can create a future with your partner, your relationship likely has all four of these cornerstones. If you have any reservations, you and your partner may want to solidify your foundation before getting married.
Love and Commitment
Are love and commitment at the heart of your relationship? According a recent Pew Research Center report, 88% of Americans cite love as a predominant reason for getting married. Love is complex and typically involves more than being in love. Love is often defined as the ability to deeply connect with another individual, to feel understood and unconditionally valued for who you are. Do you feel loved by your partner?
Commitment also topped the chart, ranking second in importance for reasons Americans marry. Americans know that being in love is crucial; however, commitment is also key. Partners often want to know they are both in the relationship for the long haul. They want to know they can count on each other to be there. In many wedding vows, commitment runs deep:
I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…
Do you feel this level of commitment for your partner?
The Bond of Friendship
Is friendship the bond that keeps your relationship together? Many psychologists and marriage and family therapists would agree a strong friendship is what carries a relationship over the course of time. A deep friendship typically involves intimacy, support, understanding, and mutual attachment. Do these qualities describe your friendship?
Emotionally Intelligent Couples
Do you have mostly negative thoughts and feelings towards your partner, or do more positive ones abound? In Dr. John Gottman’s rigorous research on relationships, he has discovered a dynamic that emotionally intelligent couples often use in their day-to-day interactions.
Many emotionally intelligent couples keep their negative thoughts and feelings from overwhelming their positive ones. They stay in a state of positivity; they keep a positive attitude towards their partner. Many characteristics define emotionally intelligent couples; however, this dynamic can be vital and help keep a relationship in a state of well-being.
How is your communication with your partner? Many qualities go into healthy effective communication. Here are four questions you can consider when evaluating your communication.
- How do your conversations generally begin?
- Do criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling appear regularly in your conversations?
- Do you feel like your partner understands what you are conveying most of the time?
- Is communicating your thoughts or emotions difficult for either you?
Being able to talk easily with your partner can be crucial in a healthy relationship. If you and your partner have trouble connecting, you may wish to postpone your wedding plans and get some couples counseling.
Values and Dreams
Do you and your partner share common values? These can be important factors when sharing your life with someone. You and your partner may wish to have similar opinions on subjects such as:
Unlike values, dreams do not need to be the same, although couples may benefit if their dreams are compatible. Supporting each other’s dreams is the main consideration. Understanding what your partner desires in their life can be vital. Feeling your dreams are understood and valued can also be important.
Red flags are aspects of a relationship that bring you feelings of unease. They may include your partner’s behaviors, motives, interactions, or anything else that does not appear right to you. Red flags can be detected in verbal or nonverbal communication. Pay attention to anything that makes you feel nervous, uncomfortable, or apprehensive. Here are some signs to consider:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Pornography abuse
- Strong attachments to ex-partners
- Gambling addiction
Family of Origin
What is your partner’s family of origin like? Inquiring in depth about their family can be revealing. You don’t want to wait until you are married to find out any secrets or issues that could affect your relationship. Asking pertinent questions like the following can be valuable:
- What was your relationship with your mother, father, or siblings like growing up?
- What was your parents’ relationship like?
- If they argued or fought, how did that affect you?
- How did your parents comfort you?
- How did you feel about your family’s traditions?
- Was there any trauma in the family?
Friends, Family and Strangers
Love can be blind. For this reason, you may wish to consider other people’s opinions and thoughts when deciding whether to get married. My recommendation to couples is to consider the following questions:
- What does your family think of your partner?
- What do your friends think of your partner?
- How does your partner treat strangers?
If you bring your partner around family and friends, you can observe how they interact and ask for their honest opinions. You will likely benefit if you take any concerns seriously and assume your loved ones are looking out for your best interests.
Do you and your partner enjoy each other’s company? Spending time on recreational activities can be vital in a healthy relationship. Having common interests can motivate you and your partner to do things together. You do not need to do everything as a couple or share all things in common. However, you and your partner can benefit from doing fun activities together on a regular basis.
In conclusion, although this isn’t an exhaustive list, it does represent some guidelines to consider. If you detect trouble spots in your relationship, you may want to hold off on getting to “I do.” Whatever the state of your current relationship, a qualified therapist can help guide you through the process.
- Greiger, A., & Livingston, F. (2018, February 13). 8 facts about love and marriage in America. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/13/8-facts-about-love-and-marriage
- Gottman, J., & Silver N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
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