Love isn’t easy. Oh, sure, falling in love is sometimes the easiest thing in the world – the catch of breath in your throat when you first see them, the infinite hours spent telling each other your stories, the whirlwind passion. It’s as relentless as the pull of gravity.
But staying in love? Now that’s tough. And what’s harder is knowing when your relationship is more than just a passing fancy, when it’s the real thing. It’s that moment when you stop telling yourself, “Isn’t she great!” and start asking, “Is she the one?”
True love – the sort of relationship in which you could happily spend the rest of your life with this person – relies on more than just chemical cocktails and breathless promises. Passion can substitute for agreement over the short term. But to make it through sickness and health, for better or for worse, you need more than just shooting stars and candy hearts. You need real-world compatibility.
Not sure if your relationship is up to the task? Find out by asking each other the following questions:
1. What are your dreams, ideals and goals in life?
This is a biggie. If you want to spend your life selflessly serving the less fortunate or bumming around Thailand writing emo poetry living as an ascetic, and she wants to jet-set around the world as an indulged and pampered millionaire’s wife…well, let’s just say that you’re going to have issues. Of course not all inconsistencies in vision are irreconcilable. But there has to be at least some common ground or the differing trajectories will eventually tear your relationship apart. Clearly, the time to discover this is before you exchange any vows or long-term promises.
2. What do you expect of a spouse?
Does he want a wife who’ll be his business partner and recreational buddy, or a housewife and stay-at-home mom? Does she want a 9-5 breadwinner, or someone dedicated to her favorite causes who’ll ditch a career if it gets in the way of doing the right thing? Unmet expectations can be the source of serious friction and can drive a wedge into an otherwise wonderful relationship. Before you commit to anything, you should know exactly what the other person wants from a significant other (now and in the future), and whether or not that’s a role you can be happy with.
3. What are your non-negotiable needs, wants, and boundaries?
One person may be unwilling to live with someone who won’t let them stalk their favorite band when it’s on tour. Another may refuse to cook. One individual may be extremely conservative, and require their spouse to be equally so, while another doesn’t care what your politics are as long as you agree that baseball is the reason the Universe was created. Knowing what the other person requires (or refuses to have) in their life – and whether you can live with that – is a very important part of building a strong, functional relationship. And it’s not something you want to find out on the honeymoon.
4. Who are you, and who do you want to be?
Do you want to be recognized for your dedication to helping the poor, while your partner wants to build a Trump-like financial empire? Do you want to be a globe-hopping socialite, but your mate prefers life down on the farm? Knowing what legacy your significant other wants to leave and who they want to be now can wind up being make-or-break information for any relationship. I doubt Oscar Wilde and Florence Nightingale would have made a comfortable couple.
5. The Big Three: Money, Kids, Religion
Never enter into a long-term relationship without discussing these three key topics. Nothing can turn true love into seething hatred faster than ongoing arguments over how the finances are arranged, if you’re going to have kids (and if so, how they’ll be raised), and whose holidays and traditions are honored in the house. If you can’t agree on at least the basics in these three vitally important areas (or find a compromise that works for both parties), your relationship is in immediate danger of tearing itself apart.
Of course there are other issues that you’ll have to face – whose family you’ll spend which holidays with, the relative values of suburban life over urban or rural options, whose career gets priority. But if you can match up (or at least patch over the differences) on these key issues, you stand a good chance of creating a lasting, loving relationship you can both enjoy for life.