Lately I've gotten a ton of requests for relationship tips. By all means understand that every relationship is different and there's no recipe to the perfect relationship. Though there is no recipe, you can definitely have a game plan. Let's take a look at a few questions you should ask yourself before and during a relationship.
Before: There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before getting into a relationship.
1. Why do I want to be in a relationship, what's the purpose?
So I've heard many people say they want a relationship because they're lonely or unhappy. Relationships DO NOT cure loneliness and unhappiness. Loneliness and unhappiness has to be dealt with within yourself, find out why you are feeling that way. The worst thing you can do in a relationship is let your relationship be the source of your happiness or fulfillment. Before entering a relationship you are at your best when you are content exactly where God has you at the moment, content with or without having a significant other.
2. Are you the person you expect to date? A lot of times we create this long list of what we would like in a significant other, but we never sit back and think am I even the person I've described on this paper? You have to make sure you also possess the things you're hoping your future boo has to offer. It's backwards to ask for a man that does not curse or disrespects women, yet you curse daily and disrespect your mother or girl friends. It is good to create a list, but make sure you match it as well. Also, be careful not to idolize your list so much that you create a "type" dismissing anyone who does not fit it. Many times the person you end up with is nothing like you expected, but they can offer you more than you even thought to ask for. When making a list, don't put God in box limiting Him, be open to what He may bring your way, even if it looks different than what you expected.
3. Do you have any deal breakers or boundaries already set in place?
It's easy to fall for anything if we never set a standard at the very beginning. It's good to know what you can and cannot tolerate. By having deal breakers set in place it's makes it easier not to engage in relationships that we know ultimately we don't belong in. Boundaries are also important, they allow us to set up the right precautions so that we can prevent things we don't want to happen from happening. Know what you are comfortable with and what you are not comfortable with.
4. Is it really a good time for me to date?
The answer to this varies for everyone, because we are all at difference places in our life. Though, there are certain times that you should not date.
If you are not completely past your last relationship: Baggage can ruin your potential chance of starting a new relationship. If you are still secretly hoping to get back with someone from your past or still in frequent contact with someone from your past, it is not a good time to begin a new relationship. You have to first close that door, before opening a new one. Not only could you potentially hurt someone by stringing them along, but you also do not allow yourself enough time to heal and reflect. It is best to start a relationship when you are complete unattached from anyone else.
If you do not know what you want: If you do not know what you want please do not date. I say this because if you are unsure of what you want, you are only putting another person at risk for being hurt. It is good to know what you want before you enter a relationship. Knowing what you want includes if you are looking for a long term relationship or just wanting to casually date. Also, is marriage an option or would you rather not be married in the future. These are things you should be sure of before entering into a relationship.
During: Here are a few things to keep in mind when in a relationship
1. Is there a healthy balance in your relationship? While you're dating it's important that you and your partner live balanced lives. Your whole life should not be centered around your relationship. It's good for both of you to have hobbies and activities that you enjoy outside of each others company. Isolating yourself from friends and family because you have now gotten into a relationship is more damaging to your relationship than helpful. It is good to have good friends during this time because they can offer sound advice and help keep you accountable for the boundaries you set.
2. Is this relationship pushing me towards my purpose and dreams or away? Your potential spouse should always push you towards your purpose, always encouraging and motivating you to do your very best. If you are in a relationship where you feel yourself starting to push away from what you are called to do, that may not be the relationship for you. If before you started dating this person, you had certain morals or standards that you now see falling by the wayside, it's time to re-evaluate the relationship. Your significant other should always encourage you to be better and do better. If you find yourself frequently making poor choices and not staying true to the original boundaries you set, its time to step back and evaluate if you are with the right person.
3. Do we deal with conflict in a healthy way? Every relationship will have times where conflict arises, it's normal. The important thing is how are you handling things when conflict does arise? If you are in a relationship where every time a conflict arises there is screaming, disrespect, the same person apologizing constantly, or the first thing you think of is breaking up, it's time to re-evaluate. You do not have to scream, disrespect, or breakup every time you two don't see eye to eye. If your significant other constantly does any of those things, it is safe to say that this person is not mature enough to handle a relationship. It is good for a couple to establish at the very beginning which style of communication works best for them when conflict arises. You may be the person who likes to immediately discuss the issue, while they may like to ponder on things before they are able to discuss the issue at hand. This is something you should discuss with them at the very beginning so that way there are no surprises when an issue comes up of how you all will handle it. The best way to handle conflict is to first take time to think on your own about the situation before bringing it to the table for discussion. It's best to think about what we are going to say before we say it, hopefully to save us from saying anything we'll regret. We should all be slow to speak and quick to listen, meaning before we assume and start an argument, we should lovingly bring the issue to our significant other and hear them out. In a regular toned voice explained to them (without accusing) how you are feeling regarding whatever happen. Depending on how they answer, you will know how to proceed. Just know that screaming, name calling, and accusing has never been a healthy way to address conflict.
4. Do I see myself with this person long term, am I willing to marry this person?
There comes a point in a relationship where you need to review your relationship and discuss where you both see things going in the future. If the both of you are not on the same page regarding the future it may be time to split. It is not a good idea for one person to forfeit their future plans, just to go along with the other persons plans. If one of you desires to be married in the future and the other never wants to, it's time to call it quits. A good time to have this review is one year after you all have been dating. I say one year, because one year allows you to see someone through all seasons. You are able to see who they are during the less stressful times of year, as well as the stressful times. I am not saying that one year is the magic amount of time, but I do believe it is the minimum. Now this only goes for relationships that are healthy, balanced, and are progressing. There are times in a relationship within the first few weeks you see red flags and if they go unaddressed, you could prolong the relationship until you look back and realize you have now wasted a whole year with the wrong person.
REMEMBER: There is no recipe for the perfect relationship and no one relationship is the same. Although this is true, it is still great to keep these questions in mind and honestly answer them. There are a lot more questions that will be added next blog so stay tuned!
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Have a great week and as always I will be praying for each and every one of you! - Love, Rissa
Clarissa C. Burton, M.S.W
Devoted to guiding others toward living a life they don't need a vacation from.