I’ve never met anyone who has grown out of childhood without some unresolved conflict or unmet need. For most of us, the pain or unhappiness of the unmet need associated with these conflicts or unmet needs does not preoccupy our conscious thoughts and feelings. However, they do become part of who we are psychologically and set the stage for how we interact with the world and those with whom we have a relationship.
As human beings, we are naturally driven toward self-healing whether it’s a small cut on our skin or a deep psychological trauma. Recovery requires self-awareness of those nagging unmet needs or unresolved conflicts because they are coded into how we deal with conflict and issues that arise in our adult relationships.
The consequences of denying these unresolved conflicts and unmet needs can be enormous. If we don’t understand ourselves and why we react in a certain way we can easily get lost in the dark and may chose the wrong partner.
So, how do you know if love will last, how do you know if you’ve chosen the right partner?
After 40 years of engaging in love and relationship research, The Gottman Institute found that whether love will endure is about how couples address their differences and support one another’s needs and dreams. They suggest that it starts with 8 must have premarital conversations.
In their book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, John and Julie Gottman and their co-authors, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, describe the conversations in detail. I’ve condensed it to the short version below.
Trust and Commitment?
Trust is showing your partner that you believe in them and your relationship with them by being there when they need you even if you don’t feel like it. It means turning off your cell phone and listening without trying to fix the problem.
Choosing commitment means that you’re accepting your partner the way they are despite any known or unknown unresolved conflicts or unmet needs. Commitment is not getting married because you don’t feel like starting over with someone else or don’t want to be lonely, or it’s just the next logical step. Being married to someone that you feel you “settled for” is the recipe for an unhappy relationship as you begin to resent them and live with regret.
If you feel as if you’re settling, it’s time to be honest and break the engagement.
Like it or not conflict is a part of every relationship. The key is to know what’s really behind the conflict. In most cases the issue is a proxy doe some unresolved conflict or unmet need from childhood. It’s not what you fight about, it’s how you fight. If your conflicts always end up unresolved and you’re constantly finding yourself at the crossroads, reconsidering your engagement may be the answer. Sex and Intimacy If you act out of lust alone without understanding or sharing the deeper nature of your desire, you may mistakenly become attached to someone simply because you have great sex with them. Romantic, intimate rituals connect the couple but this doesn’t happen spontaneously, it must be discussed between them.
If you can’t talk about honestly about your expectation of how often you’ll want to have sex, or what your sexual fantasies are, it may be the red flag that tells you that a long term relationship is a mistake.
Work and Money?
The Gottman Institute found that money issues usually aren’t about money, they’re about what money means to each person. If you find you can’t agree on how you’ll handle money or you have significant financial differences of opinion, that’s a flashing warning light that reads get out now. Turning next to work, if one of your careers is treated as more important than your relationship, eventually the marriage and the partner will be seen as getting in the way of the other’s career goals. If this is the case rethink what you’re doing.
The Gottman Institute’s research finds that having a child decreases the relationship satisfaction of both parties and the more children they have the more that can happen. It is absolutely key that there is a discussion about having children before you get engaged, but once engaged if one of you wants to have or adopt children and the other wants nothing to do with children ever, do not go through with the wedding. Additionally, if your fiancé is keeping you from seeing or talking to your friends and family for reasons that don’t have your best interest in mind, strongly consider breaking it off.
Fun and Adventure?
Most couples tend to play it safe when it comes to adventure and trying new things. The problem is while you may think you’ve found your groove with your soon to be spouse it can become a rut after the wedding.
Talking about the inevitable boredom that sets in without some adventure and fun in the relationship should be discussed before you get married and mired down in the rut.
Dopamine in the brain is essential for happiness and as we age we lose it, and it doesn’t regenerate. Trying new things regenerates dopamine and heightens our happiness.
Growth and Spirituality?
The true purpose of a relationship is to help strengthen your connection to love and realize your true self. It’s very different from the image that media and movies use to brainwash us with. The purpose isn’t about perfection, far from it. The success of a relationship isn’t about happy endings and always being happy. It’s about the potential to be spiritual, to gain personal knowledge of self and soul-searching. It is to know that your soul is connected to someone. If you and your fiancé have very different opinions about spirituality, and they don’t think the relationship is any more than just two individuals coming together, than the chances of working together for each other’s growth and transformation are very slim. Dreams During the dating stage of a relationship, it’s natural to share your dreams. When you dream together, it builds trust, love, passion and a visual for the future. However, if you feel judged by comments like “that’s silly” or feel threatened by the scope of your fiancé’s dreams. For example, he or she dreams of being on a mission in some remote part of the world, and you don’t talk about it and make your feelings or fears known, your marriage could become your worst nightmare.
Someone once said, “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution”? The purpose of this blog is to help those who are about to get married explore their compatibility in an effort to identify fundamental differences in their personalities that could create conflict in a long term relationship and avoid one or both feeling like their living in an institution.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!