Pool Party, Summer 2010
It would seem that much of what Rabbi Dov Heller, M.A. outlines below would be self-evident and yet many of us, myself included, would do well to remind ourselves of these basic guidelines for finding and creating a fulfilling relationship with long term potential. Keep in mind that this is written by a religious man so if you're an atheist or agnostic or anything else, take the God references with a grain of salt. They don't dilute the significance of the underlying message.
5 Golden Rules For Finding Your Life Partner
When it comes to making the decision about choosing a life partner, no one wants to make a mistake. Yet, with a divorce rate of close to 50 percent, it appears that many are making serious mistakes in their approach to finding Mr/Ms Right!
If you ask most couples who are engaged why they’re getting married, they’ll say: “We’re in love.” I believe this is the #1 mistake people make when they date.
Choosing a life partner should never be based on love (alone).
Though this may sound not politically correct, there’s a profound truth here. Love (alone) is not the basis for getting married. Rather, love is the result of a good marriage. When the other ingredients are right, then the love will come.
Let me say it again: You can’t build a lifetime relationship on love alone. You need a lot more.
Here are five questions you must ask yourself if you’re serious about finding and keeping a life partner.
Do we share a common life purpose?
Why is this so important?
Let me put it this way: If you’re married for 20 or 30 years, that’s a long time to live with someone.
What do you plan to do with each other all that time? Travel, eat and jog together? You need to share something deeper and more meaningful. You need a common life purpose.
Two things can happen in a marriage. You can grow together, or you can grow apart. 50 percent of the people out there are growing apart.
To make a marriage work, you need to know what you want out of life – bottom line – and marry someone who wants the same thing.
Do I feel safe expressing my feelings and thoughts with this person?
This question goes to the core of the quality of your relationship.
Feeling safe means you can communicate openly with this person. The basis of having good communication is trust! i.e. trust that I won’t get “punished” or hurt for expressing my honest thoughts and feelings.
A colleague of mine defines an abusive person as someone with whom you feel afraid to express your thoughts and feelings.
Be honest with yourself on this one. Make sure you feel emotionally safe with the person you plan to marry.
Is he/she a mensch?
A mensch is someone who is a refined and sensitive person.
How can you test? Here are some suggestions
1. Do they work on personal growth on a regular basis?
2. Are they serious about improving themselves?
A teacher of mine defines a good person as “someone who is always striving to be good and do the right thing”.
“So, ask about your significant other: What do they do with their time? Is this person materialistic?”
Usually, a materialistic person is not someone whose top priority is character refinement.
There are essentially two types of people in the world:
1) People who are dedicated to personal growth and
2) People who are dedicated to seeking comfort.
Someone whose goal in life is to be comfortable will put personal comfort ahead of doing the right thing.
You need to know that before walking down the aisle.
How does he/she treat other people?
The one most important thing that makes any relationship work is the ability to give. By giving, we mean the ability to give another person pleasure.
Ask: Is this someone who enjoys giving pleasure to others or are they wrapped up in themselves and self-absorbed?
To measure this, think about the following:
1. How do they treat people whom they do not have to be nice to, such as waiters, bus boys, taxi drivers, etc?
2. How do they treat parents and siblings? Do they have gratitude and appreciation?
3. Do they show respect? If they don’t have gratitude for the people who have given them everything, you cannot expect that they’ll have gratitude for you – who can’t do nearly as much for them!
4. Do they gossip and speak badly about others? Someone who gossips cannot be someone who loves others. You can be sure that someone who treats others poorly will eventually treat you poorly as well.
Is there anything I’m hoping to change about this person after we’re married?
Too many people make the mistake of marrying someone with the intention of trying to “improve” them after they’re married.
As a colleague of mine puts it, “You can probably expect someone to change after marriage … for the worse!”
If you cannot fully accept this person the way they are now, then you are not ready to marry them.
In conclusion, dating doesn’t have to be difficult and treacherous. The key is to try leading a little more with your head and less with your heart.
It pays to be as objective as possible when you are dating, to be sure to ask questions that will help you get to the key issues.
Falling in love is a great feeling, but when you wake up with a ring on your finger, you don’t want to find yourself in trouble because you didn’t do your homework.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF I’VE MET THE PERSON I SHOULD MARRY?
The choice of a marriage partner should not be based on “I get a warm, wonderful feeling whenever we’re together and I want to have that warm wonderful feeling forever, so let’s go get married”.
Feelings, as we have discussed, have no logic on their own. They need to be acknowledged, of course, but they need considerable assistance from your brain.
Marriage means choosing the person you will spend the rest of your life with. This, as you may have guessed, is a very long time to spend with one person.
This person will live with you, eat meals with you, sleep with you and go on vacation with you. More important yet, this person will share your children.
You need to choose wisely. The decision should not be made based on feelings alone. You need to ask yourself some tough questions. The decisions have to be made on solid considerations.
Will this person be a good partner? Is she mature enough to put her own selfish desires aside to look out for what is best for the family?
Is he prepared to be a good provider? What is his track record? Is he responsible enough to get a good job and keep it?
Will this person be a good parent? Can you stand the thought of your children turning out exactly like this person?
They will, you know. Children spend a lot of time with their parents and consequently pick up many or most of their parents’ character traits.
You had better like your spouse’s traits a lot because you will be seeing them again in your children.
If something were to happen to you, would you completely trust this person, alone, with the task of raising and forming your children? This is not a pleasant thought, but it is an important consideration. Not everyone dies at a ripe old age with great grandchildren gathered around the bed.
Sometimes a parent dies and leaves young children in the care of the other parent. If you feel that you would need to be around to correct or lessen this person’s influence on your children, then you are considering the wrong person.
Does this person share your faith in God? God does not give us children so that we can mould them into the coolest, most popular people in school. Our job is to get them to heaven. To do that, we need to raise them believing in God. It is tough to do that if only one parent believes.
Saying “This is right and that is wrong, and I want you to ignore Mommy until you are thirty-five” does not work.
Small children ask about eight million questions in a single day. The answers to those questions go a long way toward forming the kind of adults they will become. Who will be answering those questions for your children?
Does this person you are marrying have sexual self-control? Single people sometimes have this idea that marriage is just some kind of lifelong sex festival and that as long as they have each other, they will never be tempted by other people. Wrong!
There are many times in every marriage when one partner or the other is sexually unavailable – illness, the last months of pregnancy, travel.
There are also times when spouses, just get on each others’ nerves. At times like this, other people can seem very appealing. That can be dangerous, because there are plenty of very attractive people out there who are willing to make themselves available to married men and women.
Do you want someone who has never said “no” to sex? If he is not good at saying “no” at eighteen, it won’t be different at forty. Do you want to worry about whether or not your spouse is being faithful?
These are very important questions, and if you are not comfortable with all of the answers, you should definitely not marry this person.
None if this is to say that feelings play no role at all in a marriage decision. You don’t have to, “Well, I suppose that you would make a good spouse and parent, so even though I don’t particularly like you I guess I’ll marry you”. You need to be happy and excited about the prospect of spending your life with someone. Your brain however must acknowledge that this person as a good choice.
Don’t listen to your heart alone nor your head alone…
Wait until your heart and head agree.