He’s handsome, he’s charming, he’s making all the right moves. Could you finally have met the man of your dreams? The one you’ll spend the rest of your life with?
Well, hold on—says relationship expert and author of “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and Coupled Up,” psychologist Harriet Lerner, PhD. Before you start daydreaming of silver bells and harpists and invitations made of fine linen, you need put those wedding fantasies--and emotions--aside and ask yourself some tough questions.
Is this guy really good for the long haul? Or will you be hauling him to divorce court a few years down the road?
Harriet offers 10 simple tips to avoid marrying your future ex.
1) Don’t confuse intimacy with intensity. Intense feelings, no matter how compelling, are not a good predictor of true and enduring closeness in the future.
2) Evaluate him with your head, not just your heart. During the "Velcro" stage of relationships, we may automatically focus on the positive and overlook and make excuses for the negative. Be as clear and objective when evaluating a prospective partner as you would if you were hiring a candidate for an important job.
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3) Become a clear observer. Observe your partner with his family and friends, and with your family and friends. Never insulate the relationship. Watch how he treats his mother, the waiter and the dry cleaner. What kind of citizen is he in the world of work and family?
4) Observe yourself, too. If you’re too accommodating, conflict-avoidant, eager to please, and desperate to make it work, slow things down and practice having a clear, strong, assertive voice in the relationship. (Dating is a great opportunity to practice bringing your authentic self into the relationship)
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5) Consider whether you’d want the guy to be one of your best friends if you had no romantic interest in him. Don’t tolerate behaviors in a partner that you wouldn’t settle for in a good friend.
6) Pay attention to how you feel when you’re with him. Does your time with him leave you with greater self-esteem and more zest to connect with people and projects outside the relationship? If the opposite is true, consider whether the relationship is good for you. If phone calls or dates leave you feeling diminished or down, move on.
7) Know what you can compromise on--and what you can’t. Maybe it’s not so important that he likes cheese products and he talks too loud in the movies. But some things are deal breakers. Write your own list and refer to it. Your list may include things like addictive behaviors, dishonesty, irresponsibility, or defensiveness. When it’s a deal breaker find the courage to get out sooner rather than later.
Related: 5 Biggest First Date 'Deal Breakers'
8) Focus on your own life plan that neither requires nor excludes marriage. Always keep your own goals and priorities in mind. If you believe you can’t live without a relationship, you won’t be able to navigate clearly within it.
9) Don’t be conflict-avoidant! Don’t preserve the peace by silencing yourself. Enlarge and deepen the conversation when you’re feeling disappointed or angry. You won’t know him (or yourself) if you don’t take the conversation to the next level and test out whether he’s defensive or fair-minded when you have a legitimate request or complaint.
10) Don’t believe in the power of your love or nagging to create something later that isn’t there now. The only person you can count on being able to change is yourself.
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