As humans, we often deliberate at length over the best option or deal for a specific product or service, be it a vacuum cleaner or a holiday. We find price comparison websites, we ask everyone we know what they think, and we literally become obsessed until such time that we think we’ve gotten the absolute best deal possible.
When it comes to choosing a life partner, however, we aren’t that rigorous. Our process is very subjective and we mostly only consult our heart and our feelings. But is that enough to make one of the most important and life-changing decisions?
Our brains are hijacking us into denial and deflection.
Most people follow the same pattern when it comes to falling for someone. It goes as follows: We become desperately drawn to them, we can’t stop thinking about them, and we want to be with them or near them all the time. We start to have tunnel vision, forget about our friends and family, and just want more of that person. In our eyes, they can do no wrong. Literally, they feel perfect, and we will argue with anyone who doesn’t think so.
This phase of falling in love is basically hormonally fueled and supercharged. Our brains relentlessly release pheromones and hormones, and that fuses us to this partner as if our very life depended on it.
Truthfully, we can’t really say that this is an informed choice. Often, people in this phase of a relationship can’t or won’t discuss realities and potential smoking guns that could derail it. Our brains are hijacking us into denial and deflection.
This is why it is actually crucial to ask your friends and family what they really think. They may be biased because they love you, but their opinion will still be far less skewed than yours is. They will be able to see what your brain won’t let you see. It’s also important to have reflection space away from your significant other, allowing you to look at a situation through your normal (as opposed to rose-colored) lens and possibly consider healthy questions and concerns.
New love causes a myopia that can last as long as two years, by which time most people have made the significant commitment to or have even tied the knot. This means that, before we get into relationships or even whilst we are in our hormonal haze, we have to get mindful and conscious and think really carefully about who we are, where we are in life, what makes us tick, what matters to us, and what our needs, dreams, values, and deal breakers are. Once we have a really good read on this critical information, only then will we have a better compass with which to find our true North in a partner.
Common interest, feeling comfortable, and having the best time of your life with this person doesn’t a marriage make. What truly serves us for the long haul and creates a robust attachment that can withstand the obstacle course we call life is an alignment of values and some foundation-level compatibility in personality, needs, lifestyle, vision, and dreams.
The only way you can really know if the two of you are aligned on these key issues is to strength test your bond by having the difficult conversations that will reveal your partner’s perspective on topics such as kids, money, religion, culture, body image, materialism, or introversion and extroversion.
Even if it may be difficult, you need to fight the urge to be “perfect” and, instead, be courageous enough to show him the whole “you”. If your partner has seen your darker side and still loves you, you have yourself a keeper.
Here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself and your partner before you commit to marriage.
- What’s your description of a person of good character?
- Why are we getting married?
- What does an ideal marriage look like to you?
- What do we, as a couple, want out of life?
- Where do you see us in ten years?
- Does religion play an important role in your life?
- Do you think faith and spirituality are important in a marriage?
- Can we talk about money?
- Are you a saver or spender when it comes to money?
- What are our financial goals?
- Do you/we want to have children?
- What faith, if any, will we teach our children?
- What family values do you want to bring into our marriage?
- Are you comfortable with my family?
- Do I fit in with your family?
- How much time will we spend with our in-laws?
- Are we emotionally honest and vulnerable with each other?
- Are you able to accept your own vulnerability and that of your loved ones?
- Can you discuss sensitive matters without getting defensive or withdrawing?
- Do you have a short temper?
- Do you hold a grudge or are you forgiving?
- How do you normally resolve conflict?
- Do you have any bad habits that I should know about?
- Do you turn to others when you need help or support?
- What kind of rules should we establish for our marriage?
- Do we take care of each other’s needs?
- Do we admire and respect each other?
- Do we trust each other completely?
- Do we want the same things out of life?
- What are your expectations for physical intimacy both before and after marriage?
- Is there anything that I could do that would be a deal breaker for you?
Tara Wyne is a Clinical Psychologist and the Clinical Director at The Lighthouse in Dubai.