I never like to dabble in formulas for the heart; tonics that make every relationship work. But I do feel there are a few things that, over my miniscule lifetime, I’ve discovered the reasons why we shouldn’t stay in the relationship. When is it time to go? And how long do we hold on before marriage?
Some relationships I stayed in for too long, others I should have weighed it out and walked through the phase, knowing everyone has something to walk through.
If we don’t have people advising us, if we don’t have family and friends whose wisdom we actually value and listen to, then we will always think we are right alone, comforted by our own conceptions.
7 questions to ask in your decision making:
- Are you growing or dying?
If only one of you is growing, and the other isn’t, then the other is dying. There is no such thing as plateau. People in good and healthy relationships take it in turns to inspire, to nurture, to dream with each other. If one is constantly in the lead, if one is draining the other emotionally by any means of codependency or indeed just high expectations, then there is little hope for a vision of the two of you together in the future.
- Are you both compromising?
Neil Warren, author and founder of EHarmony, after all of his years of psychological research and marital therapy came to the conclusion that the number one principle needed for marriage to work is adaptability, malleability.
Without this, the longevity will crumble, resentful towards the other for not adapting to our own way. Stubbornness is one of the most difficult characteristics to work with. No matter how you explain your intentions, or your perspective, if they won’t budge, love won’t either.
- Is there trust??
Relationships and dating are really just about building trust. The most vulnerable and fragile place you can be is in the stages of dating – will the story end or not? And in all that exchange you make, the kindness, the affirmations, the honesty, the bad jokes, our flawed selves, if it’s been lost by them or by you, is the other side doing what they can to repair and build back trust? With intention? With integrity? Without trust, without a full belief that you are both for each other and running the same race, you’ll always be looking over your shoulder. And no one likes a bad neck.
- Are you sexually attracted to them?
‘I’ve got a man for you.’ My friend smiled with anticipation. ‘He’s tall, kind, really kind, he’ll treat you real nice.’ I waited for more.
‘You haven’t said if I will find him attractive.’ He kept smiling. Almost freeze framed.
‘Okay listen.’ I sat him down. ‘I am going to need to procreate with this man at some point, should it be for family or husband. So. Do you still want me to go on a date with him?’
‘No you’re good.’
If you’ve had a period of time where you found you struggled to keep your mitts off them, and you’ve gone into the 18 month stage where there is a greater needed for intentional contact, then that’s different. But if it’s never been there and you’ve been hoping for a while that physical attraction will occur, then maybe it’s time to ask some harder questions?
- Do you share the same core values?
For as much as you can have many differences and perhaps that’s why you like him, having similar core values are like an investment into the marriage, every time you have a difference, that’s going to take work and a ‘withdrawal’ to find compromise. Core values such as: faith, purity, integrity, ambition/drive, community, financial management will all contribute or distract from your connection with each other. If there are fundamental core values you are unable to find adaptability in….how will legacy and family be formed?
- Is there honour?
I remember a beautiful woman, in her late seventies telling me about her marriage of 40 years. Her husband had died 3 years prior to our conversation in a road trip to Oregan. He hadn’t shared the same value as she had for faith, not until the last few years of his life. ‘If you hadn’t shared a faith for all those years, what was the secret to your marriage lasting until death parted you?’ I asked.
‘Honour.’ She smiled. It was a beautiful exchange, a humbling one. I looked back at previous loves and wondered how much honour had been there? Perhaps if that had been our focus, ridding our needs to change the other, ridding our panics of our needs not being met, demolishing any incessant pull to make the other our security blanket, the final act would have been different? Just maybe.
- Do you both have people speaking into your life?
This, over the last few years has been a deal breaker for me. I might have a few dates with a lovely guy, but if there is no one in his life that he reaches out to gauge guidance from – and I don’t mean friends – but mothers, fathers, people he admires and respects and are doing relationships and marriage better than he is, then he’ll likely believe he’s always right. He’ll make decisions that will be more beneficial for his needs and his heart, than your own. He’ll make some really basic mistakes that could have been avoided with seeking wisdom first. It doesn’t mean we avoid all mistakes, it doesn’t mean we can’t function for ourselves but when you’re in a vulnerable play with a person you really like, it’s too easy to walk away from the objective and plunge into the subjective. If he does have people speaking into his life, is he actually acting on their advice? Because that might save you quite a few tears, and even if the story does end, you can guarantee you and he, will have carried out the break up in a way that respects and builds trust for any future relationship to come. Rather than add to a catalogue of poor decisions.
In all these points, what will add confidence and what could bring more shame? The more shame you subconsciously build through actions not thought through, the hared it becomes to be authentic with what your heart truly wants.