by: E.B. Johnson
Falling in love is an exhilarating thing. It draws us in and bonds us in powerful ways, but we can often overlook some critical pieces of information in this dramatic fall into someone else. There are some crucial questions that should be asked before we give ourselves over to a serious relationship. It’s not enough to simply ask these questions, though. We have to take action when we don’t get the answers that we want.
Don’t leap into a serious commitment before you’re clear on where your partner is at. You need to ask your potential partner about their past, and you need to make sure where you know where they’re standing emotionally. We need to want the same things from our futures, and we need to be on the same page physically and mentally. Ask the right questions and take the right action so that you can get yourself into a partnership that works.
You should always look before you leap.
We often leap into relationships that are doomed for failure because we don’t take the time to honestly look before we commit in the most dramatic fashion. This looking includes considering our needs, but it also includes considering the needs (and desires) of the people we consider bringing into our lives on an intimate level. Maybe you know what you want, but are you explicitly clear on those same things in the person you’re falling for?
Avoid committing before you ask the tough questions. This includes questions on family relationships, what their friendship groups are like. You should even ask questions that help clarify where your potential partner is at on things like family, feelings, and conflict resolution.
We can only learn so much from simply watching our partners. At some point, you have to sit down and be candid with one another. Don’t leave room for misunderstanding when it’s so easy to be honest with the people you love and respect. Ask them what they want from their futures. Delve into their past experiences and the things they fear most. Only when we’re on the same page can we commit with integrity and hope of success.
Questions you should always ask before a new relationship.
Before we take a leap into the deep end of the pool, there are some crucial questions we should as ourselves and our partners. From questions that touch on family history to emotion, we need to have a full picture of who we’re settling down with before we open ourselves up to hurt and disappointment.
Are you willing to open up?
Honesty and vulnerability are crucial to any relationship, but they are especially important to a long-term or serious relationship. You need to be sure that the person you’re committing to is willing to open up to you, and when they do you need to make sure they’re being honest with you. Watch your partner. Question them. Are they being honest with you? It’s an answer you must have before moving on to the next stage.
What do you want out of this bond?
Long-lasting relationships work because the partners involved are working toward the same goals in their lives. It’s not about liking the same football team or color. Those things won’t keep you together when life gets rough. What will keep you bonded and focused is having the same goals. When you’re working toward the same aims in life, you can overcome hardship side-by-side.
What are your friends like?
Our social circles are an important part of our support networks, but they can also be important indicators of who we really are. Look to your partner (or potential partners) — what do their friend groups look like? Do they always take precedence over you? Are they filled with drama and conflict? Are you kept entirely separate from them? All of these are signs you should look out for.
Are things good with your family?
Family relationships are another important indicator to look at before investing in someone on a serious or long-term level. While we are not responsible for the behaviors of our family, the way we interact with them is often similar to how we treat our partners. How does this person treat their parents? Their siblings? How do they talk about them when they aren’t around? Ensure this aligns with your own values and expectations.
How are you feeling?
Emotional awareness and emotional wellness both feed into the stability, equability, and longevity of our partnerships. You need to know how your potential partner is feeling about things, but you also need to notice — from a distance — how they handle or deal with their emotions. This relationship (between individual and their feelings) is closely tied to their reactions and interaction with others and their environment in general.
Do we make each other better?
While we aren’t responsible for the quality of life our partner leads, we should encourage them to be a better version of themselves. Our relationships shouldn’t make us worse. They shouldn’t bring out our worst behaviors and beliefs, and they shouldn’t make us feel small. Ask your partner for the truth. Do they feel like a better person when they’re in a relationship with you?
Are you over your past?
The past is a powerful thing, and it often creates ties that damage us on an emotional level. We have to severe these ties in order to establish futures that are authentically aligned, and to let go of the painful shadow lessons that keep us small. Is your potential partner over the past? Have they let go of old hurts and past hearts that used to be theirs? We can’t move into the future if we’re constantly looking backward.
What to do when you don’t get the answers you want.
So you’ve asked the questions, but you didn’t get the answers that you wanted. What comes next? Rather than giving up, you need to regroup and reconsider what you want to do. Maybe their answers are enough, and maybe they aren’t. You need to get back to the core of your needs and then take positive action in the direction of your happiness and fulfillment.
1. Reprocess and regroup
Once the questions have come to a close and you have the answers that you need, it’s important to let the dust settle. Reprocess your thoughts and your emotions. Ground yourself and figure out where you’re at. Regroup and ask yourself the same questions. Are your answers a match? If they aren’t, are the inevitable divides good enough for you?
Take a step back and reconsider your position. What means the most to you? What are your priorities in life? Our relationships work when they are aligned along our core future visions. We are the only ones who can decide when that alignment happens, though.
Collect your thoughts. Be alone with them and process them without bias and without judgement. Don’t allow your partner’s responses to tamper with your own, but make sure that you keep them in sight with reality at all times. Take your time and figure things out at your own pace. Think through your emotions and consider how you want to proceed next.
2. Show some self-respect
Investing in someone who isn’t heading in the same direction as you is a bad investment. You’re setting yourself up for heartbreak, and you’re setting yourself up for inevitable disappointment. Why would someone who loves themselves do this? Why would someone who respects themselves do this? It’s a trick answer. They wouldn’t. When we have self-respect, we don’t align ourselves with guaranteed hurt and failure.
Does committing to this person require that you compromise things which are centrally important to your happiness and sense of meaning? Will you have to give up on all of your dreams so that they are able to pursue theirs? This isn’t workable, and it’s not respectful to self. When you settle for endless imbalance and self-compromise you tell yourself, “I’m not worthy.”
Would you allow your best friend to settle for someone who wasn’t honest with them? Someone who was still chained to their past, or unwilling to open up? Consider the person who you respect most in the world (if that person isn’t yourself). How do they expect to be treated? What types of people do they align themselves with? Show some self-respect when you consider what you want to do next.
3. Reaffirm your boundaries
Boundaries are an important part of every relationship. They protect us from people who try to take advantage of us, but they also help us to communicate and explain our needs as well as our expectations. Our boundaries are the barriers that let partners and loved ones know where the lines lie. In order to build partnerships that last, we have to secure our boundaries and ensure that are both respected and aligned.
Once you’re clear on what matters, you need to figure out where your boundary lines lie. What does being pushed too far look like to you? Where are your no-go zones? What behaviors, beliefs, and goals are you unwilling to tolerate or work with?
There’s no right or wrong answers when it comes to figuring out our boundaries. It simply requires that we are brutally honest with ourselves and considerate of our needs. Leave your partner’s answers out of it. What is the absolute limit of the things you need to feel as though you are in a partnership that’s worthwhile and meaningful? Get to the root of your answers and then compare them to your partner’s. Do they match?
4. Communicate honestly
All of this internal work and consideration means nothing if it’s not followed up by honest communication. Asking your partner questions is only one side of the equation. Once you’ve got their answers — and considered your own core truths — you have to return to the other person and make your position clear. It doesn’t matter if you’ve decided to move forward or cut your losses. You still own them an explanation of your position.
After getting some clarity on your reality, sit down with the other person. Find a time and place in which you won’t be disturbed and then open up about how you’re feeling. Start slow and make sure you leave any blaming language out of it. They want what they want and you want what you want. These things don’t work out sometimes, and that’s okay.
Speak calmly and with nothing but compassion. Once you’ve made your boundaries and your needs clear, give them room to reiterate whatever points they feel need to be made. At this point, you can either decide to make compromises with one another, or you can make the decision to move on. Whatever you do, communication and conversation is necessary to avoid an uncomfortable limbo.
5. Take forward-focused action
As the air clears allow yourself to step forward and take a deep breath. The end of a budding relationship is not the end of your dreams. It’s another opportunity to find someone who is looking for the same things. That’s the journey. We aren’t meant to force things with someone who is a bad fit. We’re meant to align ourselves with someone who has been on the same path; we’re supposed to find people who already want the same things without being forced.
Take forward action in the name of your ultimate aims in life. Always be looking for the positive opportunity that moves you closer to your happiness. Don’t focus on what the other person doesn’t want. That’s a waste of your time and your energy. Do what’s right for you and focus on your own actions and desires.
If they aren’t ready for the path that you’re heading for, let go with compassion. Avoid forcing yourself into a relationship that doesn’t fit with someone who isn’t aligned to your joy. This is backward movement, and it’s movement that pulls us away from the places we’re truly supposed to be. Look to your future. Do you want to stay stuck always pulling someone along behind you? Or do you want to move in joy with someone who’s already going in your direction?
Putting it all together…
To fall in love with someone is an exciting experience, but it can cause us to turn a blind eye to a lot of the disconnections and mismatches that otherwise spell out disaster. We need to want the same things from our futures, but the only way to get clear on that is to ask the right questions and communicate. Are you asking your partner the things you actually need to know? Or are you making blind compromises?
Once you’ve got the answers that you need, take a step back and reprocess and regroup. Does the other person’s answers change how you view them or your partnership? Are their needs wildly different from your own? Have enough self-respect to be honest about their needs and any clash with your own. We build long-term relationships by aligning our future designs with that of the people we choose to invest in. Put your time and your effort into the right people. Set boundaries that work and communicate these boundaries to the people you build a future with. Not every relationship is meant to work out, and that’s okay. Take forward action for yourself and ensure that you’re falling for someone who wants similar things from their lives.