As a dating coach, some of the most commonly asked questions get have to do with whether or not someone should settle down with the person they’re dating. Having “been there” myself, I totally get the confusion, frustration, and desire for clarity – but I never tell my clients what to do.
Why not? Because that wouldn’t be fair to my clients. A good coach doesn’t dispense advice; they reflect back your own experiences to help you understand how you felt, why you may have felt this way, and what new thought processes/actions can lead you to a brighter future. Therefore, my job is to equip you with the lens through which you can accurately reflect upon the quality of your relationship, challenge your assumptions, identify your blind-spots, and understand how all of your relationships are actually a mirror of you. As an outside voice with objectivity, my opinion may be valuable and helpful. But you are the only one who can ultimately determine whether or not someone is right for you!
Here are just a few of the guiding questions, plus the critical pre-requisite questions I strongly suggest that you answer for yourself while deciding if your current relationship has lasting potential:
1. How do you feel about yourself when you’re with him?
But first: How did you feel about yourself before you met him?
If you can honestly say that you entered into the relationship with a healthy level of confidence and sense of self, then the answer to the first question could be very clarifying. But if you are relying on another person to create your self-confidence for you, that’s a different story – and a big, unhealthy mistake. Your spouse must respect you and treat you with kindness. But ultimately, nobody can give you your self-worth but you!
2. Do you miss him when you’re apart?
But first: How much time do you spend together?
Many people use the first part of this question as a barometer for determining compatibility. But before you can say whether or not you miss him, you’ve got to be real about whether or not you’re giving yourself a chance to miss him! If you’re together 24/7 (or something close to that) then there’s no way you have the ability to answer that question fairly. If you think you’ve been spending too much time together to know the true answer, then speak to the person you’re dating about setting new boundaries for the frequency and length of your dates. Then you’ll get to see if your feelings and deep sense of appreciation for him grow with the distance -- which may be one indication that he just might be a keeper.
3. Is there a balance of power in the relationship, or does one person dominate?
But first: Are you able to express your needs in general, or are you constantly repressing them? Also, do you give him the opportunity to assert his needs and preferences, and respond respectfully when he does?
All relationships are a constant negotiation of power, so not every decision you and your partner make in your relationship will be your preferred one. (You may decide, for example, to go out for Chinese food one night instead of Italian even though you don’t really enjoy it, because he’s in the mood for it, and you love him, and know it will make him happy.) Marriage requires making thousands of decisions together, big and small. So reflecting upon how decisions are made between the two of you – and more importantly, how you make each other feel while those decisions are being made – is key to understanding the potential your relationship has to succeed. Remember: You don’t always have to agree (and in marriage, you inevitably won’t!). But you do have to feel heard and respected.
4. Does he bring out the best in you?
But first: What are your greatest strengths and contributions to the world?
If you don’t know what gifts you have to offer, then you can’t really know if the person you’re dating is someone who brings them out in you. So if you aren’t quite sure what’s unique and special about you, think about the moments in your life when you felt the most useful, valued and appreciated. Ask your close friends what they value and admire the most about you. Then, think about your goals (which you’ve hopefully shared with him by now) and reflect upon whether or not he’s been supportive of them through words and actions. At this point, the answer to the first question should come to you with clarity.
It isn’t fair to place the entire responsibility of our emotional well-being on our partner. Until a person feels psychologically healthy, fulfilled, and whole on their own, they will continue to find fault with – and shift the blame for their unhappiness and insecurities – onto others. This behavior is unhealthy for any relationship, and it’s certainly toxic for a marriage.
Someone once told me: “Choosing a spouse is the loneliest decision you’ll ever make.” How true! Though speaking to someone who knows you well (and/or a good therapist) and gaining their outside perspective may be very helpful, the choice of committing to someone for life is ultimately yours to make. (Please beware if someone tells you otherwise.)
If it sounds scary to make such a big decision alone, well… that’s because it is. The good news, though, is that if you can answer these 4 questions with emotional honesty, then you’ve got a great start at making a healthy choice about whether or not you have found The One.