Firstly, if you’re in a new relationship – congratulations!
New beginnings can be so exciting!
At the same time, I’m guessing you might have some questions you’re asking yourself?
Like whether this person has the qualities you really value and admire, such as honesty, kindness, trustworthiness or generosity?
Or maybe you’re asking yourself whether this person will share the same sense of humour as you so you don’t have to explain why practicing your Michael Jackson moonwalk across the kitchen floor is so hilarious right?!
Maybe you want to know that they love animals or share your passion for keeping fit and healthy. Or perhaps the question at the top of your list is about whether this person has the capacity for thoughtfulness and selflessness.
All of these are great questions to be asking, heck, who wouldn’t want someone who embodies those things?! But…..what if there is a more important question to be asking? The answer to which forms the foundation for ALL of those things?
Ahhh that’s got your attention right?!
There’s one question you need to be asking above all others in a new relationship.
The answer is going to greatly determine the quality and longevity of that relationship and how you treat one another for the next 40-odd years.
That’s sounding like a pretty important question huh?!
If you’re feeling intrigued right about now then let’s get down to business!
If you’re in a new relationship then you know how easy to get swept up in the newness and excitement of it all, right?
Very quickly you can come to find yourself invested a person that you don’t actually know all that well yet!
This is the tricky stage where it can be all too easy to start looking at someone through rose coloured glasses and downplay or disregard any potential red flags. I bet most of us have taken a little trip down that road!
Even if there are no obvious red flags it can be hard to know what exactly it is you should look for in a relationship and potential life partner.
How are you to know if this person sitting across from you in a restaurant, twisting spaghetti around their fork, is someone you should seriously be considering embarking on a life-long journey with? How do you figure out if your relationship has the potential to go the distance?
In their popular book, Boundaries in Dating, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend suggest that there is one very important question that can help guide you in your decision-making process.
When making a decision around whether or not to make a serious, long-term commitment to someone ask yourself this: would I be friends with this person?
If the two of you were not together, say you met socially but there was no possibility of an intimate relationship forming for whatever reason, would this person be of the kind of character that would make you want to have them in your life as a friend?
If the answer is a BIG. FAT. YES, and you have the other variables you need for you to be happy and healthy in a relationship, then this is something that has serious potential to go the distance.
If, on the other hand, the answer is no, that while you’re massively attracted to this person there are issues with their character that you find troublesome, then ending the relationship sooner rather than later may be the wisest course of action.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said that it is not a lack of love but a lack of friendship that makes for unhappy marriages.
His words serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of taking the time in a new relationship to build a solid foundation so that our happiness within our relationship is not based solely on physical intimacy but also encompasses other forms of intimacy.
When you look for a life partner you’re looking for someone who demonstrates a willingness to build with you, who understands that any lasting relationship requires the ability to take the long-game view rather than merely looking at what can be gained in the short term.
Unless you’ve made a conscious decision that you will only date people you have a pre-established friendship with, it’s not always going to be possible to be able to build a friendship with someone before you transition into an intimate relationship with them.
However, dating slowly to give yourselves time to build a solid foundation together is vital because without this the relationship is unlikely to stand the test of time.
We tend to want to hurtle down the love road at full speed, but if this person is the potential peanut to your butter, what’s the rush?
Ensuring your relationship has what it takes to weather the tests of time requires just as much planning, preparation, thought, and care as building a house.
If you build a house too quickly, in the wrong location, with the wrong materials and without constructing the framework and foundations properly, the house will likely fall to pieces when the first bit of turbulent weather hits, right?
The same line of thinking can be applied to our relationships. Get the foundations firmly fixed in place and the rest of the build becomes much easier.
Think of the best friendships that you have. Now think about what makes those friendships so great. It’s likely that when you’re with those people you feel comfortable, at ease, able to be yourself.
You see all the different sides of them, they see all the different sides of you, and you love and accept each other for who you are.
Time spent together is likely a lot of fun no matter what you’re doing and you know that this person is your teammate, that they’ll be there no matter what.
Many of us are fairly picky about who we choose to spend our time with and who we will develop and maintain friendships with.
You likely have at least some basic criteria on what you need a friendship to look like, what standard of behaviour you expect, what you will and will not tolerate from the human beings in your life.
And yet for some strange reason, all of this so often goes out the window when we are making what is perhaps the most important decision of our lives – choosing the person we wish to spend the rest of our life with!
When you’re deciding what to look for in a life partner, character matters – A. LOT!
Character match is equally important. If you discover during the dating phase that the person you’re seeing is prone to being thoughtless, selfish, and self-absorbed, those are things that could severely impact the quality and sustainability of your relationship over the long term.
If you lie at the opposite end of the spectrum and these things cause you to feel uneasy or distressed in the early days, your feelings, no matter how many times you sweep them under the carpet, are unlikely to change, just as the individual you are dating is unlikely to change.
It’s important to ask whether these character traits are things that you would accept in a friend and if the answer is no then that points to a clash with your own value and belief system.
When we think of a good friend we may think of people who are of strong moral character. People who possess integrity. People who are trustworthy.
We may strongly value generosity and selflessness or perhaps kindness or thoughtfulness.
Maybe we love most those who are loyal, supportive and encouraging, people who are always lifting us up and cheering us on.
No doubt these are many of the same things we want to look for in a life partner and yet often who we choose to date is based on a physical attraction with the hope that good character will accompany good looks, something that may not be the case.
While physical attraction is important, making smart choices early on in the dating process and choosing to forgo those who offer good looks but are not of good character, or not a good character match for us, can save a lot of pain in the long run.
I hope this blog post has served you in some small way.
Believe me, I’ve rushed in too quickly in the past before really knowing someone’s character and I’ve regretted it. BIG TIME.
I want to save us both from that heartache the next time around.
If you ever find yourself struggling again with what to look for in a life partner remind yourself that there’s really only one question you need to ask – would I be friends with this person? The best friendships are long-lasting, their roots buried deep in a ground fertilized with trust and respect.
The same is true of an amazing intimate partnership. A deep reverence for one another is a pillar of any strong and healthy relationship and friendship is the concrete holding that pillar in place.
When it comes to choosing a partner to mate with for life choose someone who you would be friends with and give yourselves the best shot of going the distance.