“I don’t understand how anyone could overlook the hateful and misogynistic things he said — to say nothing of his policy views!” I heard one friend say of the United States’ president-elect.
“Well, I don’t understand how anyone could overlook her email scandal and corruption! It’s just more of the same!” another friend countered when speaking of the Democratic party candidate.
Whether you were feeling jubilation or horror about the results of the United States presidential election, it’s fair to say that emotions were running high for everyone.
If you’ve been on social media lately, there are reflections, analyses, and commentary flying right and left—often with very strong words and opinions.
Politics aside, these exchanges made me realize that voting is A LOT like dating and relationships: everyone has their own deal breakers.
I’ll give another example.
A colleague of mine had a client who said that his ideal woman must have “large artificial breasts”—that was a requirement for him.
If his date didn’t have large artificial breasts, it was deal breaker!
That certainly raised my eyebrows. But who am I to judge, right?
We might not always understand or agree with other people’s choices—whether it’s their choice in presidential candidate or who they choose to date.
But the point is, it’s our deal breakers that are at work here.
We all have relationship requirements that are the basis for our everyday decisions—including the big decisions—like who we want to share our life with.
So how do you decide whether you should make a long-term commitment?
I’ve identified seven key things that you need to consider to set yourself up for long-term relationship happiness (in no particular order). Here are the first three keys. This is the first post in a 2-part series.
Identify Red Flags or Danger Signs
I’ve compiled a list of 36 questions that are important for you to consider for your long-term relationship happiness.
When you’re in a relationship and thinking about the next step, what are the things that you need to look at? What are the things you need to know?
Making sure to not overlook red flags is very important.
A red flag is anything that gives you pause, any behavior that conflicts with your values and anything that gives you concern that the man you’re in a relationship with might not meet your relationship needs and relationship requirements.
Danger signs are a form of red flag, they’re the BIG red flags.
These are the things that signify a lack of social or emotional maturity, or they signify a lack of physical or emotional availability.
For example, it’s a big red flag if he reacts to frustration with a lot of anger, rage or blame, tries to control everything including you, or if he’s impulsive or irresponsible.
Also, notice if he’s emotionally distant or aloof.
Is he married and still living with his wife or otherwise is unavailable to commit?
Or is he actively in an addiction of some kind, especially if he’s rationalizing that it’s not a problem?
If he is not available to commit or is lacking relationship skills, these problems can undermine your ability to have a long-term happy, healthy relationship.
The problem is, when we’re in love, we often look at our relationship through rose-colored glasses and we tend to bury red flags or overlook them instead of paying attention.
So the key is: instead of overlooking them, dig around the red flag, uncover it further, and investigate its source.
Know Whether You’re Talking Yourself INTO or OUT OF a Relationship
I go into more detail about this in my free guide, but an important thing to be aware of is to make sure that you’re making relationship decisions based on reality—your real experience with him—not based on his potential (which is not based on real experience, it’s based on your hopes for the relationship).
When we focus on and get attached to his “potential,” we risk talking ourselves into a relationship—and making a relationship decision that is not based on reality.
And when you make relationship decisions that are not based on reality, you set yourself up for a lot of disappointment down the road because he’s not going to meet your hopes and expectations.
A big trap that we tend to fall into (I’ve done this on many occasions) is to want to rescue or help a guy because you “see his potential.”
Or sometimes we focus on one important quality like money, sex, fun or humor and ignore unmet relationship requirements.
These are some different ways that we can talk ourselves into a relationship.
Conversely, we can talk ourselves out of a relationship when we focus on an issue in the relationship that might not actually be a real threat but rather is a result of our own triggers that are surfacing in the relationship.
For example, if you were cheated on in the past and never fully healed from that experience, you might come into your next relationship with a lot of unconscious fear and insecurity that could be triggered—even if there is no real evidence in your relationship that he’s cheating.
You might be talking yourself out of a relationship because of unresolved feelings that are resurfacing, even when the threat or issue in the relationship might not be real.
So, in that case, it might be necessary to step back and do the inner work necessary to resolve those feelings so that they don’t interfere with the success of your next relationship.
The bottom line is, be conscious about how you’re perceiving your relationship. Is it based in reality?
Check for Alignment and Support of Your Vision
Your vision is your dream for the life and relationship that you want.
If you and your significant other are thinking about taking the relationship to the next level, it’s important to have a heart to heart talk about the vision you both want, and how you can create it together.
You have a vision inside you for the kind of life that you want to live.
For example, maybe you dream of being a mom someday if you don’t already have kids.
Does your partner support your dream?
Are you able to live the life that you want in this relationship?
A lot of people don’t think ahead about, “What kind of a life do I really want?” and, “What is my reason for being here? What do I want to be about in this life? Is this person that I am with going to have what I need to be able to live my vision?”
This is so important.
We’ve learned from John Gottman, renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, that 69 percent of the conflict that couples experience is related to this very issue.
The dream that they have for their life—the vision that they have for their life—is not being supported by their partner.
That’s a huge amount of the conflict so it’s important to pay attention to this.
There are many ways in which you examine this. For example, are you in alignment about money and financial responsibility? Or, do you approach money in a different way? Is the way your partner approaches money a deal breaker for you?
It might sound glaringly obvious about the need to assess alignment in your relationship requirements and vision.
Of course you want to find somebody who’s lined up with what you want for your life, right? Who wouldn’t? If that person is not going to support something important to you, of course it’s not a good relationship for you.
But most people do not look at this.
Most people try to fit a round peg into a square hole.
Often, they try to overlook things that don’t work because they are focused on MAKING the relationship to work, rather than focused on seeing if this relationship is a true match.
Many women try to deny or suppress their own values or their own needs and relationship requirements, or they overlook things that don’t work in the relationship, or try to change the other person…all in attempt to “make it work.”
The problem with that is that when you deny your needs and relationship requirements to try and “make it work,” you’re actually denying the things that are deeply important to your long-term happiness.
And that ends up being unsustainable.
So choosing a relationship that can support your vision is key.
When I was dating my husband and we were getting serious, I really started to wonder “Is this the right relationship for me? Should I make a commitment here?”
I had my doubts.
Not about his love and commitment to me, but about my own ability to be happy in the relationship long-term.
I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I wanted to have kids of my own, let alone be a stepmom.
He’s older than I am, by 20 years, would that have an impact on our ability to “grow old together?” I wondered.
Sure, there were other issues in the relationship. But not insurmountable in my opinion.
Still, I was scared I would be making the wrong choice.
Did I really know what I was in for?
Did I really know what I was committing to?
The truth is, you don’t know 100%.
Love is risky.
The question is, are you willing to take the risk?
Even though taking the risk was scary and I didn’t have all the answers, what I did know was that if I walked away, I’d be leaving the man who I felt loved me and understood me better than anyone else.
Isn’t that what we all really want?
Not just to be happy.
But to be understood.
Be understood by someone with whom we can be our truest self.
Someone whom, even in our ugly moments, will kiss us on the forehead, hold us close and love us even harder.
That’s when it dawned on me when I was trying to decide if I should take the leap: I had to really get clear on what mattered to me before I made a commitment.
I had to decide the values that I wanted to live by.
I had to get clear on the dreams that I hold dear so that I could really see if this relationship had a good chance of supporting them.
“Is he the one?” isn’t just a question of can you be happy with this man.
It’s a question of can you bravely live by your values.
It’s a question of can you joyfully, shamelessly be who you are in this relationship…
Not just so you can make your dreams come true, but so that you can be fully self-expressed and live your full potential—and share in that miracle with “the one” who will celebrate that journey every step of the way.