So now you are in a dating relationship. Beyond the casual fun of You want to grab a beer sometime?, but before you let friends and family know you have found The One. Not yet settled but not really single. If your relational intent is to search for a future spouse or life partner, this early dating stage of a relationship is crucial to the future of your marriage, your career and personal life, your yet unborn children, and ensuring the pension you hope to someday collect all winds up in the same bank account. Dating can be fun but make no mistake: If commitment is what you are looking for dating is serious business!
In last month's article, Looking For a Date?: Maximize your chances of avoiding the psycho, we discussed the challenge of simply meeting good people to go out with, and then offered some suggestions to make meeting them easier while avoiding human landmines. This month's article is particularly for those who are dating and looking toward the future, know someone who is, or might someday be.
We believe experiencing the early stages of a possibly long-term relationship with eyes wide open, a sense of purpose, and devotion to honestly assessing whether you and your significant other are an objectively good match are necessary to the lasting strength of the relationship. As our goal is to help cops live safe and healthy emotional and relational lives, we offer the following relationship checklist to assist you in determining if you should move forward... or move on.
First, go slow
We all put forth our best selves in the early stages of a relationship, doing our best to hide our warts, shortcomings, and insecurities. To paraphrase Chris Rock, In the first six months your representative will be dating your partner's representative. Take the relationship slowly; in time defenses come down and you get to see each other warts and all. To get to know someone you need to see who they are when they think no one is looking, how they handle conflict, meet their families and friends, manage their money, as well as many other aspects of their lives. Sit back once in awhile and evaluate who they are and whether or not they meet your criteria as a lifelong partner and remember it takes two years to get to know someone.
Do you feel accepted and liked for who you are or do you get the feeling your relationship partner is giving you pointers of who you should be? Are you able to share your opinions, dreams, aspirations, likes, dislikes, openly and honestly? Do you feel safe, encouraged, and nurtured to share emotions or do you get the sense you need to hold back parts of you? Do you like who you are when you are with them? In order to build a future together, authenticity in who you are at all times is key for a lasting friendship.
Commonalities & complementing differences
When Mike and I were dating, it felt as if we were two puzzle pieces who fit together perfectly. We have many activities we love to do together such as sports, cooking, traveling, a love for books, that we always have something to do or talk about. However, our commonalities also bled over into our personalities, our approach to life, spiritual beliefs, work ethics, and morals. In the early stages we also evaluated our differences to see if they worked together or would tear us apart. Mike is an introvert, while I am an extrovert. I help Mike stay organized and scheduled while he helps me to relax. He helped me to get a thicker skin, while I have helped him to learn how to be more diplomatic. If you appreciate your partner's differences without seeing them as areas to be changed, but hopefully a way that will provide balance in a needed area, proceed with the relationship. Otherwise, cut bait if you experience the differences as negative traits that cannot be overlooked or tolerated. This will not change, but only get worse!!!!
Independent, dependent, vs. interdependent
A common mistake many first responders make is dating and then marrying the person who needs to be rescued. They come to you already broken and you feel needed by helping to put this person back together. If you are dating this person, leave now. You cannot fix this person and they will always be needy, dependent, and clingy. They will also begin to resent you when you are not able to take care of their perceived emotional needs or crisis they have created.
Also it is not healthy if you feel you are always chasing after someone because they are too independent of you. Are they returning you phone call, text messages, and emails or do their Facebook friends know more about them? Do you feel you need to interrogate them to find out about their day or are they excited to share with you funny anecdotes about their coworkers? If you feel this person has a life they do not want to include you in and you've talked to them a couple of times about what you need, but are still met with resistance, get the clue that you are more into them than they are into you. Break it off and move on.
The goal of a healthy functional relationship is interdependence where two people can have separate interests and hobbies, yet when they come together their life fits together. It's a balance between dependent and independent that encourages each person to achieve their goals in life while including the other person.
Simply put, the person you are dating, are they positive or negative? Do they find solutions to life’s challenges or do they see the world as holding them back? Do they see hope or despair? Do they talk about people's good points or focus on other's faults? Negative people are victims to life circumstances and over time will blame you for what is wrong in their life instead of seeing what they need to do to take charge of their fate. Being in a long term relationship with an Eeyore will be days filled with pouring rain even when the sun is shining bright. If you sense at this stage your dating partner is an Eeyore, it is best to break up.
Dating is challenging and fun, however, too many people are try to force a relationship to work instead of calling it what it is, irreconcilable differences. When you find yourself in this place, it is best to move forward. Recognize it is not anyone's fault, but just two people who were not meant to spend a lifetime together. That is why we call the person you are supposed to spend a lifetime with the one.