The beginning of any new relationship is filled with intensity. Dating is different than falling in love. Falling in love with someone is only one side of the equation. The magic moment is when you realize that this person you have lost your heart to loves you back. The elation at this realization is almost indescribable. There are some physical signs, of course – racing heartbeat, tears, or trembling hands. People spend their lives searching for this moment – with the right person.
Sometimes, falling in love is not something that you plan for. You may not have been dating; circumstances may have brought two people together who have that intense chemistry that they cannot deny no matter how practical the relationship may be. Two people may be completely, head over heels in love with each other, but not know enough about each other to commit.
That is hard to take, if you’re newly in love. I understand. Love is the most important thing in any relationship, but it is not enough to sustain a healthy co-existence long term. So many of us know people who met, fell in love and married in a short time period. We also know a lot of relationships that ended badly because of it. Here’s some advice for your new relationship to make sure it has a good chance of success.
A long-term commitment requires constant compromise. However, there are some values and beliefs that we hold so close that we can not abandon them for any reason without losing ourselves. I’m not necessarily speaking about religion or politics; I’m speaking about closely held values that define the way you see the world. For example, if one partner is rude to a server at a restaurant, and the other person feels a twang of anxiety in their gut because they believe in treating every person with dignity. There is a question that needs to be asked about the future of that relationship.
Some values are necessary in and of themselves for any relationship to last. Honesty and empathy, for example. Maya Angelou’s famous words – “When people show you who they are, believe them.” is so often repeated because it is excellent relationship advice. Remember, at the beginning of any loving relationship, new lovers are presenting their best selves to each other. If someone claims to be in love with you but you find them dishonest or indifferent, there is something wrong there.
“You were dishonest with me. Why?”
“I was in pain. You rolled your eyes and treated me like a child. Why?”
Gathering up the courage to ask is difficult, but the answer to questions like these examples could quickly uncover an unavoidable incompatibility. Directly asking about behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable can also indicate that you will not tolerate being mistreated.
Having children is a personal decision, and no one should ever be coerced to change their mind. The rule of thumb when it comes to children is two yeses, one no. No one should ever agree to have a child that they do not want. I do not use flowery language about this because it is the highest stakes possible.
Deciding to have a child or not is the easy part. When the couple has come to an agreement, they need to discuss how they want to parent the child. Often, a couple is excited to have children, but when the child is born and the messy, hard work and long sleepless nights arrive, they find they have different parenting philosophies.
The following is a list of questions that MUST be discussed before making the decision to have a child and is good to discuss for any new relationship. It might seem early for this conversation, but it is important to be on the same page from the beginning to ensure an everlasting relationship. Do revisit this conversation later on in the relationship as well; people and life situations do change, and it is critical to maintain alignment.
- How the overnight parenting will be split between partners.
- Discipline. Parents must be united or children will divide and conquer when they’re older.
- Medical decisions – circumcision, ear piercing, etc.
- Child care – Stay at home mom? Nanny? Day Care? Grandma?
I could go on for days but you probably get the point by now. If having children or parenting values are incompatible, it could save decades of heartache to have the subject tackled early in the relationship. Many times, partners can explain why they feel the way they feel, share information, and where they once were incompatible they have now compromised in a way that everyone is satisfied. Those relationships will go on to have strong bonds and better outcomes when it comes to the children.
It is extremely important for each spouse to disclose debts. As well, income and lifestyle needs to be discussed. Some people budget every dollar and others spend on credit as much as they want and don’t mind being in debt. Before you join households or finances, these questions must be asked:
- How much debt do we have combined? How will we pay it off?
- What are our combined incomes?
- How much do we want to save in an emergency fund?
- What are our views on taking on more debt in the future?
- How to save for retirement?
These discussions will usually flesh out what financial priorities each partner has. Finances are the cause of many an ended relationship – going in with your eyes open and understanding each other’s priorities will increase the chances of the relationship lasting.
A Strong Start to a New Relationship is Critical
Every relationship is different, and there will be other issues that come up from time to time that you will need to tackle together. Having already had the above discussions will create a closeness between the two of you. The relationship will be stronger and you will be able to communicate effectively. The chances of a broken heart go way down – if you go forward, you will have set a strong foundation. This is where the Happily Ever After starts.