This year I turned 30. 30 seems to be the age where people really start to question their choices, trying to determine what they are going to do with their lives moving forward. Life has a funny way of not following the plans we have made for ourselves, and by 30, my situation was no exception.
I am on my second marriage and have had a few serious relationships over the years. Deep down I am a hopeless romantic, but I have a bad habit of looking past all of the negative aspects of a relationship and focusing only on the good. Which is fine, until you realize you are destroying yourself and your happiness in the hopes that something will magically change, that the good will eventually overcome all of the bad, and your partner will suddenly become everything you need them to be. There is a significant flaw in that way of thinking, because the fact of the matter is not every relationship is meant to last forever, and we aren’t always going to be compatible with the person we love, no matter how much we want to be.
Navigating a relationship, and figuring out how to keep it growing and flourishing, is difficult. I would argue that building and maintaining a solid relationship is one of the hardest things a person can do. I have finally found the person that I am compatible with, the person that I can’t picture my life without. It hasn’t always been easy, but the foundation of our relationship is solid, and I don’t think my marriage today would have been this successful had I not learned from my many mistakes.
I’m not an expert on relationships, and I have never claimed to be. However, I have had many different types of romantic relationships, and life experience can teach you a lot. I have also witnessed a lot of friends and family members make the same mistakes I have. Before you take the plunge and make that lifelong commitment to someone, there are a few steps or milestones that I have learned should come first.
1. Compare Your Morals and Values
This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many people end up shocked and disappointed later. You are not always going to have the same values as your partner, but it’s important to figure out how to mesh them together. If you’re not on the same page, this can become extremely problematic down the road, especially when it comes to family and childrearing. Also, think about spiritual and political beliefs. It’s not something we always think about right away, but many times people have strong beliefs and opinions they are not willing to budge on. So you have to ask yourself, can I live with this? Can I compromise? If not, you may want to reconsider a long-term commitment.
2. Discuss Your Goals
Where do you want to live? What’s your life plan? What are your career goals? Make sure the answers to those questions match or blend with the plans you have for yourself. Learning how to make sure both individuals in the relationship are allowed to flourish and chase their dreams is necessary when determining how your lives will fit together. Life is a give and take. Finding out how you will make it all work before you say “I do” will save you from a lot of fights later.
3. Try It Before You Buy It
We have all heard the joke “try it before you buy it,” but I stand behind this 100 percent. Intimacy is, believe it or not, one of the things that couples fight about a lot. I’m a firm believer that you should make sure you are compatible in the bedroom before signing up to have sex with that person for the rest of your life. I’m aware that this isn’t for everyone, and I would never tell you to change your personal or spiritual beliefs, but in my opinion, bad sex can’t always be fixed and bad sex is a deal breaker for me.
4. Discuss Children
This is another huge topic that I find so many people do not talk about beforehand. Assuming that you are on the same page about children is going to be a disaster. For me personally, this conversation comes once I feel a relationship is getting serious. I don’t want to waste my time or risk having my heart broken to find out later that my significant other does not want kids. Don’t just ask if they want kids, but ask how many, and when they see themselves having kids. What are their views on IVF or adoption? It sounds ridiculous to think about if it isn’t happening, but what if you find out later that you cannot conceive and your partner won’t consider adoption? These are conversations that really should be discussed before you get to that point.
5. Talk About Finances
When you get married, your partner’s debt becomes your debt. No matter how you look at it, if they are having extreme financial problems, that becomes your burden as well. I am not saying you need shared bank accounts, or even combine your bills. It’s up to you how you decide to handle your finances. However, debt and income should at least be talked about so that you do not find yourselves in trouble unexpectedly.
6. Live Together First
This might not be for everyone either, but I believe you need to live with someone in order to get a look at the entire package. Generally speaking, people try to be on their best behavior when dating. I don’t care how often you spend the night; you will never fully know what you are getting yourself into until you combine worlds. People have weird quirks and specific ways of doing things. Maybe things need to be organized a certain way. How will they handle making space for your things? No matter how much you love each other, it can be really difficult to cohabitate. Especially if you are used to having your space. It’s another case of can you live with it, and can you compromise?
Again, I am not an expert in relationships, but I have learned a lot from my mistakes. It took a long time for me to figure out why my previous relationships had gone wrong. For many of them, it boiled down to a lack of compatibility on the things that truly matter long-term. Every relationship is different, and some of these may not work for every couple, but if you do the things listed above, you may find yourself in a much better situation when you make those forever vows.