Dating and courting are (or should be) exciting, but you can’t forget the most important part: marriage and/or making a lifetime commitment to your partner. That person should be your lover – at least in the larger sense of the word – and your best friend. You must completely trust and respect each other, have shared your goals and desires, and love each other unconditionally. But before you make the big decision, be sure that not only do you have the best possible mate for you, but that you’re both willing to put in whatever it takes to make your love succeed. To help you do just that, here are the four cornerstones of commitment:
Are you capable of loving unconditionally? And are you sure you know what that really means? Unconditional love is the ability and willing- ness to love someone regardless of their actions or beliefs. Many people tell their children they love them unconditionally, but are you able to say the same thing to your partner? Will you love your spouse just the same even when he or she messes up or fails? Will you love and support regardless of any conditions, even those with which you do not agree?
Ask yourself if there are any conditions under which you would stop loving. If there are, you do not have unconditional love. And if you want to marry, you need to figure out a way to love unconditionally. The best way to develop your ability is to discipline yourself to think loving thoughts, re-formulate your perspective on behaviors you don’t like, and always give the benefit of the doubt.
Before you decide to enter into a commitment, you need to think in terms of mutual interest on a daily basis. Up until you began dating your dream mate, your life may have revolved mostly around you. But now that you’re considering spending the rest of your life with someone, your way of thinking needs to change in order for your relationship to be successful. No longer will the world revolve around just you; it will revolve around you and your mate as a couple, a team, a partnership. You’re making decisions that are right for the both of you – and keep in mind that from this point forward, you might not always be the one making the decisions.
When it comes to the bigger things in life, you’ll have to consult your partner, consider her or his point of view, and make a joint decision based on both of your thoughts and feelings. But when it comes to even your everyday decisions, they need to be made in the context of the consequence for the other person.
In healthy relationships with mutual trust, couples will be comfortable away from each other for short periods of time, and possibly extended periods of time with lots of check-ins. In fact, keeping up with some of your own interests will be key to your happiness and the health of your relationship. However, too much self-interest can be troublesome. Some couples have such separate interests that over time, they have less and less to talk about, which means their relationships have less and less connective tissue. Also, the busiest couples, even if they do their socializing together, are going to run into problems. An intimate relationship requires some downtime and some alone time.
The key is to find the balance of time together versus time apart that works for your relationship. This will vary from person to person and relationship to relationship, but be sure to allow individual time for both. You’ll know that you’ve found a good balance if you savor time together, but have enough trust in the relationship that either one of you could be absent in pursuit of a project, sport, or anything else without worrying about the other. In an ideal situation, you’ll be okay when you’re apart, but still miss your mate.
You can’t have trust without honesty. It’s as simple as that. If you’re hiding something, it’s going to hurt you – and your relationship – in the long run. Blurting out startling information after the fact makes a spouse feel justifiably duped, so make sure all big revelations are confessed somewhere between date five and fifteen in order to give time to assess the situation and allow the other person time to decide if she or he can handle the information. And keep in mind that whatever you might be afraid to say is potentially less hurtful than withholding. Secrets are omissions, and anything less than the whole truth is a lie.
Now, being honest doesn’t have to mean making a laundry list of every terrible thing you’ve ever done, or showing your partner every embarrassing picture of you. But it might mean telling him you used to be overweight, so he’ll have a better understanding of your being a little obsessive about what you eat and when. Or it might mean sharing a painful sexual experience that could explain your less than assertive and self-conscious sex life, and help your mate to realize that taking the initiative might be the only ticket with you. But whatever you have or haven’t done, if your partner loves you unconditionally, the revelation won’t matter in the long run. Allow for reaction time, but have enough faith in yourself and your relationship to know you will continue to be loved and accepted for who you are today. If you don’t have any large skeletons in your closet, just be honest about the little things as they come up.
Your mate wants you to be responsible, self-respecting, nurturing, and a friend. A good partner believes you have worth and expects quality in the person they would marry. Don’t be a doormat, and don’t turn your spouse into one. A true partnership is not bonded servitude. It is adoration and mutual respect.