If you are involved in a romantic relationship with someone and are wondering if you should slow things down, go full speed ahead, or hit the escape button, you should plan on doing some heavy self-evaluation and answering some hard questions about the nature of the relationship.
First of all, before you can know if you have found the “right one,” you need to know yourself—who you are. What are your goals? What are your pet peeves? Will this person help you meet your goals or at least not get in the way? Does this person have traits or habits that annoy you? If you are irritated during courtship, you surely will be after marriage.
Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Were You Born for Each Other?, suggests there are five things NOT to look for in a mate.
Dr. Leman is also a proponent of the birth order theory. He suggests that there are certain traits common to first born, middle born, and last born children. For example, first born children tend to be well-organized, serious, tense, and stubborn. Middle children are often social and loyal, but they avoid confrontation and feel inferior to others. Last born children tend to be fun-loving, caring, tolerant, disorganized, impulsive, and irresponsible. Dr. Leman suggests that the birth order of your prospective mate should play an important part in your decision. For instance, if a first born marries another first born, they should be prepared for a power struggle. The best match, apparently, is a first born and a last born.
You should consider seven factors when examining your current relationship.
Do you find this person attractive physically, sexually, mentally, and emotionally? Is he or she your intellectual equal? Is he or she empathetic and compassionate?
Do your backgrounds have common elements such as religion, education, and nationality?
Complimentary: This is a negative relationship style, despite its name. In a complimentary relationship the partners are opposites. One is dominant and one is submissive, for example.
Symmetrical: This is another negative relationship style. In a symmetrical relationship, the partners are very like each other. Their personalities and interests are nearly identical. This leads to a competitive, critical relationship.
Parallel: This is a positive relationship style in which each partner is self-confident and self-motivated. They make allowances for each other’s differences. They recognize and appreciate their partner’s uniqueness. They are motivated internally, not by how their partner treats them. Each accepts personal responsibility.
Is communication a joint effort? Each partner should be able to freely self-disclose, share confidences, and be a good listener. Can you comfortably discuss the nature of your relationship? Do you each assume equal responsibility for the success of the relationship? Do you each avoid blaming each other for problems?
Are both partners solution-oriented? Are you each willing to adjust your behavior in order to solve problems? Is there an absence of criticism in the relationship? Criticism during courtship is an important warning sign.
Can your partner read your emotional signals correctly—and respond correctly? Does he or she show love and tenderness when you need it, anxiety when you are threatened, and even anger when it is appropriate? Does he or she understand your perspective and communicate this understanding?
Are you each well-disciplined, organized, and stable? If each partner has attained a high level of personal mastery, the relationship is likely to be successful.
Of course, you need to know if you are really in love before you decide to marry someone. Chances are, if you’re not sure, you probably aren’t in love. But, it’s possible you may think you’re in love when you aren’t. In Were You Born for Each Other?, Dr. Leman has designed the following test to help you know.
Answer each of the following questions with a true or false response.
Dr. Leman says that “false” is the best answer to all of these questions. If you answered true to three or more of these questions, you should reassess your situation. True answers suggest infatuation rather than love, jealousy rather than trust, emotional dependence, and a lack of control. For example, if your “love” makes jokes at your expense, he or she is not considerate of your feelings. And, according to Dr. Leman, “It’s unhealthy not to care about yourself. You can put the other person first, but your feelings had better matter to you, too. If you don’t think you’re important enough to worry about your own happiness, you could be heading for an extremely one-sided relationship.”
If your potential marriage partner does things that upset, worry, and hurt you now while you’re dating, you should not expect things to get better once you are married. More likely, things will get even worse. During courtship, consciously or unconsciously, we all try hard to make the best impression possible. After marriage, we tend to let our guard down. So, unfortunately, any problems you notice now will be magnified later.
Who you marry is quite possibly the most important decision you will ever make. Marriage is not something to be rushed or entered into half-heartedly. If you still feel confused after reading this article, asking yourself some honest questions, and examining the nature of your relationship, perhaps you should consider seeing a counselor. He or she may be able to help you see your situation more clearly and aid you in your decision-making process.
Cowan, C. and M. Kinder. Smart Women, Foolish Choices. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.
Leman, K. Were You Born for Each Other? Delacorte Press.
Lovenheim, B. Beating the Marriage Odds. William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Schlessinger, L. Ten Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives. HarperCollins.