Love, lust, cohabitation, marriage, divorce…relationships, like people can be complicated. Most of us want to be in a good relationship, but it is often hard to know when we are in one. Oftentimes, we can’t even decide if we are in love or in lust. Many of us question ourselves, our mates, and what we want. We compare what we experience with what we know of the relationships of our parents, friends and others we have seen, perhaps in movies or on television. Many of us have never observed or personally experienced a good relationship. This can foster a belief that they may not exist at all. This is reflected in the marriage statistics. In the United States today, the marriage rate is the lowest it has been in many years and about 46% of the adult population is single. Yet, most people want to be in committed relationships.
With such strong desires for committed relationships why is the American divorce rate nearly 50% of all first marriages, 60% for those who try for a second marriage, and 75% for those who go for three times around? The number of couples co-habiting has increased dramatically in the last 30 years. Couples use the “try it out” method of relationship to see if they are compatible, and with an 85% failure rate, it has the worst odds of all. Cohabitation actually increases the chance of failure if the couple does marry. What’s going on?
No one enters into a relationship with a plan for failure. Many do enter into it for wrong reasons, no reasons or with a naïve idea of what it means to be in a relationship. First marriages are usually between young people who have no idea who they are much less what they want from a relationship. Let’s face it. A good relationship is not easy to come by. It takes work on the part of both partners. What if you are trying and your partner is not or vice versa? What if today you try and get nowhere and give up, and then tomorrow your partner tries and you have none of it? This scenario is very common and will lead directly to the divorce courts.
Men and women are social beings. We want to be in relationships, but it is very common for singles to enter into relationships, and even marriage, with questions about whether it is the right relationship. This happens for many reasons, such as not wanting to be alone, security, wanting children, or just someone to take care of us. It may even be for status. It should be because we are great friends and truly want to spend our time together exclusive of anyone else.
So why do so many marry for wrong reasons? Marriage is often not treated as the lifetime commitment it should be. After all, if it doesn’t work out we can get a divorce, right? Men and women may have strong desires for committed relationships but often don’t have the maturity or the understanding of who they are or what they desire from a relationship to be successful in one.
What can you do to help determine whether the relationship you are in is going to “the one” for the long term? There are some things to ask yourself that will give you better insight into whether you are ready for a committed relationship or not. If you are ready, your chances of being in a successful long term relationship will greatly improve. Believe it or not, the place to begin is within yourself, not your partner. I know, you are saying, “that’s nuts!” But it is really true.
A solid understanding of who you are and what you want brings great clarity to an existing relationship or the process of finding a mate who is “just right.” Why? Because when you know who you are and what you believe and what you are seeking, it becomes easier to decide what to do about the marriage or relationship you are in, whether it can it be saved or if should you move on. May of us have a belief system riddled with negative self talk and holdover issues from our past creating co-dependencies that without resolution will remain roadblocks to successful relationships or marriages.
If you are dating and in the “seeking” mode, recognizing what you believe and want can be even more valuable information for you because potential mates without the same core values can be easily spotted and quickly rejected before the emotional entanglements arise no matter how strong the physical attraction may be. Do you have similar religious or political beliefs? Do you both want big families or any children at all? Knowing our core values and beginning a relationship with someone else who holds those same values sets the stage for the relationship to succeed. This is because when the core values matches we can generally work through everything else. If one partner wants a big family and lots of children and the other can’t stand kids and wants no children, we’ve got problems on a core level that may be insurmountable, and it may be better to move on than tell ourselves they’ll change. It may be possible to get beyond the issues of one partner being a neat nick and the other a slob, but remember the movie the Odd Couple? There may be other issues to resolve before a decision to enter a committed relationship is made, but that is the next step after making sure the bedrock beliefs and needs are assessed and matched.
Meeting mister or miss right can be more than a hit or miss process. Saving an existing relationship or marriage when core values are misaligned is difficult but with serious work by both parties and a commitment to the marriage, it can be done. This usually requires working with a good relationship coach or marriage counselor for success. Dating is often taken lightly, but it is the gateway to marriage and learning who we are and what we want before we allow our emotions to get involved. It may actually be a way to reducing the numbers of divorces and break-ups and create more satisfying relationships and marriages.