Choosing a life mate affects all areas of your life so it’s important to prepare by examining some key things while you are dating. What follows are 12 things to evaluate before getting engaged and fully committing to someone.
1. Know Yourself, and What Makes You Happy In Life: Socrates infamous advice, ‘Know thyself,’ applies to life and love. When you’re clear about who you are, you’ll be best able to choose a life mate who complement’s you.
2. The Main Things You Need In a Mate: I advise my dating coaching clients to write a list of up to seven qualities they most want in a mate. It’s best if a majority of those qualities are inside things and not just superficial or outer ones. For example, kindness or honesty as opposed to, ‘he makes at least $200,000 and is tall. ‘ The reason is that a soul mate can come in many packages but your energies will match.
3. A Handful of Things that Are Deal Breakers: It’s helpful to know what you will not tolerate before you start to fall in love with someone. For example, if you won’t marry someone who doesn’t want kids or a smoker, you may as well not date those people (if you are now looking for a life mate). Otherwise, it’s easy to forget your head, choose based on chemistry and end up living with a large deal breaker.
4. Your Important Values: Matching your important values is key in a life-long relationship. If you value family and time together the most and he values work, travel and his independence most, this may create much disagreement. It’s important to understand what values your mate already embodies and honors in his or her life and to compare those with your own. Can you create a life together with shared values? For example, one person may want to have lots of alone time or to see friends while the other wants lots of time together. This should be discussed because it can cause many problems in marriage later, especially when you add kids into the mix.
5. Your Differences & The Ability to Compromise: It’s unrealistic to look for a mate who is just like you. Everyone will have some differences but it’s important to know how you disagree and to discuss how to handle those discordant areas, regarding money, kids, religion etcetera. It’s important to be able to meet in the middle and to find solutions that work for both people. This skill can be learned and practiced but it can save couples from many fights going forward and preserve good will across your lifespan.
6. How to Communicate: Some people were raised to let issues go and others like to discuss them right away. Some singles abhor confrontation and others thrive on passionately expressing every feeling. So, it’s important to find effective ways to communicate and to bridge your different communication styles. I help couples do this in couples therapy.
7. Your Joint Commitment Level & Responsibility (and not just to each other): Marriage is a life-long commitment so it’s good to see how your mate handles commitment. Does he or she tend to follow-through on things? Do they change their mind a lot? Are they sure they want to be with you and have they shown they can work through challenges, with and without you?
8. Whether You Want Kids & Your Ideas About Family: Marriage is more than just dating (if you want children). We often don’t think about this and we care more about how attractive someone is and whether they can make us laugh than what kind of parent they will be. This can be a problem. Ask yourself if they like kids, would set a good example and would be an involved, responsible parent. If you aren’t sure, discuss this, as well as his or her view of family and even babysit together a few times before committing.
9. Your Attitudes & Practices About Money: Money is one of the things couple’s argue about most. Some singles are savers or spenders. Some are irresponsible with money and have debt. Others feel that they should keep money separate and other singles feel everything should be joint. So, it’s important to discuss all this early on to make sure your money styles will mesh.
10. Your Feelings & Needs Regarding Sex: Once you marry your mate will be your only sexual outlet (hopefully) so it’s important that you are compatible. This means not only making sure that you enjoy sex together but also that you know each other’s desires regarding frequency of sex and type.
11. Differentiation: How to Establish Your Own Family: When couples first marry, they sometimes are still used to listening to the marching orders of their families of origin. They are going to establish their own nuclear family now, so it’s important to sometimes say no to the old ways. For example, maybe his mom loves to cook but his future wife doesn’t. His mom goes house hunting with them and says, ‘This house is perfect. I love the kitchen.’ He may have to say to her, ‘Mom, a kitchen is not one of our top priorities. Marjorie likes to order in.’ When couples co-create a life together they create new rules and customs that can differ from the way they were raised. When they cannot set appropriate boundaries it can cause conflict.
12. Honesty, Acceptance & Respect: Dating games might attract a mate but in a lifetime relationship it’s important to be honest so you can tell whether your mate accepts you as you are. Otherwise you’ll both be living a lie. So, resolve to be honest from the start and see if you both accept and respect one another. Don’t expect to change your partner later.
We all think that dating is hard work and marriage is the easy part but the statistics beg to differ. While dating entails some rejection, it’s fun and romantic. Creating a life and family with your mate is ongoing work. So, make sure to do your due diligence now and you’ll be more prepared to succeed in this next chapter together.