Successful, happy relationships require that both people know and understand what they want out of the relationship. Without that knowledge, you run the risk of being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want the same thing you do, a relationship that stagnates and goes nowhere, or one in which both partners are trying to change the other in order to get what they need.
You might also go into the relationship with the idea that your partner should, or can, complete you. No other person can truly complete you. They can complement you, they can make you feel settled, at home, and satisfied. But if you are not a whole person by yourself, you will struggle in a relationship.
So how do you figure out if you’re truly ready for a relationship?
Start with the following tips.
Would I live with me?
No one is perfect. Expecting perfection from yourself or another is unrealistic and will only lead to disaster. But so will pretending your flaws don’t exist.
Do you know yourself well? Do you know what your values are? Do you know what your flaws are? Do you know how your values and flaws impact your relationships?
Do you know what you need and want from a relationship? Do you know what you can offer to a partner in a relationship?
What do you believe about relationships? Do you think they’re like Cinderella and Snow White, where a man will come and rescue you? Do you think they’re all about equality and making sure that both partners put in the exact same amount of effort, no matter what? Do you think they’re filled with yelling, screaming, and other kinds or drama, or even abuse?
Dig deep. Look at all the parts of you, the happy and healthy, and the dark and ugly. Ask yourself, would I date someone who thought these things? Would I be okay with my partner having these beliefs, these values and expectations?
If you look at the beliefs you have, the things you want, and expectations you have, you might think to yourself, “There’s no way I’d date someone like me.”
That’s how you’ll know you’ve got some work to do before you start looking for a relationship.
Learn from your past
Previous relationships are not failures. They’re learning experiences. Be honest with yourself as you take a look at your past relationships.
Do you have a tendency to pick men you have to “fix?” Do they leave you after you fix them?
Do you pick men who are distant, unreachable, and unemotional? Do you pick men who aren’t what you want because you see their “potential” and can change them to be what you want?
Learn from your past. Figure out what you really want, need, and believe about relationships based on the ones you’ve had that didn’t work out.
Use that information to stop making the same mistakes. Use that information to determine what beliefs need to change for you to find a healthy relationship, and what kind of man you should be with to get what you need and want from a relationship.
You can’t change anyone but yourself
In a healthy, happy relationship, two people grow and evolve together. While they may have differences, some even significant, they grow in the same general direction. This growth and evolution happens as the result of acceptance.
Accepting your partner as they are, as well as accepting yourself as you are, is critical to a solid relationship. You can not change your partner.
If a particular behavior is an issue for you, you can certainly bring it up and explain why it’s bothering you and ask your partner to work with you. But you should not say things like, “If you really loved me…” or demand they become someone they aren’t to satisfy you.
The best way to find a lasting relationship is to know what you want and need, and if someone is unable or unwilling to provide it, accept that and walk away. The right one, who can and will provide what you want and need, will come.
Don’t settle for less
There are four aspects to a lasting relationship: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Staying in a relationship for great sex (physical) when you have no emotional or intellectual connection will leave you unsatisfied and miserable eventually – no matter how great the sex is.
We often settle for two or three of the four, thinking that getting the majority of what we want is enough. For some couples, it is. If the differences are mild, such as being of different religions but able to respect and honor each other’s beliefs, you may be fine.
But settling for someone who shares your religious beliefs but being unable to ever have an intelligent discussion about a book you’ve read, a movie you’ve seen, or a current event, will eventually wear on you and cause you to resent each other. Great sex will only go so far when you feel no emotional bond to your partner.
Hold out for someone who can meet you on all four levels – or who is at least willing to put in the effort to be close.
Communication, communication, communication
Communication may be the most critical part of any relationship. Clear, concise communication is key to resolving any problem, and to building better, healthier, happier relationships when things are good.
Authentic communication of what you need, want, believe and value will help your partner understand you better. It will help you and any potential partners determine your compatibility. It will allow you to determine the root of relationship problems so they can be resolved.
Being in a relationship with someone who is an exact duplicate of yourself would be boring. But the differences between us are what create friction and conflict in our relationships, so honest communication is the key to a smoother relationship.
Be willing to embrace the following four parts of clearly communicating an issue to your partner:
- The situation that’s happening
- Your feelings because of the situation
- What you need
- A clear request for what you need
This would look like:
- When you’re not going to be home for dinner and you don’t call me,I feel hurt and unimportant I need to know when you won’t be home for dinner, so could you please just take a couple of minutes to call or even just text me when you’ll be late?
- All we ever do these days is work, watch TV and go to bed. I feel like we’re growing apart because we don’t do anything fun together anymore. I need us to spend some time together that’s just for fun. Can we go away this weekend to the beach?
All relationships require honesty and risk
In any relationship, we run the risk of getting hurt because we open up to someone else. But the same intimacy that can hurt us is also what creates the close connections that lead to a lasting relationship. By taking the time to do the work and be sure you’re ready for a relationship, you decrease the chances that you’re going to be hurt. You make it much more likely that you’ll find someone who desires the same relationship you do and is willing to put in the same effort.
Invest in getting to know yourself and determining what you need, want, value and believe. The investment will give you a much richer and more rewarding relationship than you’ve had before – and even if it doesn’t work, you’ll gain even more knowledge to apply to the next relationship.