The way to know if your romance will last is to observe your partner's past and present behavior, especially in group settings, and to learn the proven skills to make marriage work. Because I see so much of the damage caused by people blindly connecting, rushing through the stages of commitment, and not creating the solid basis a true relationship needs, I always welcome the chance to do pre-commitment counseling. My job is to ask the tough questions that, in the excitement of a new romance, the couple may not have considered. Here are several questions every couple should consider before moving in together or making joint financial commitments:
1. What is your definition of commitment?
Whether you know it or not, you and your partner will define your relationship. If you don't know what your relationship means to both the of you, you risk repeating past mistakes, getting stuck in uncomfortable roles, or fighting about what a healthy relationship is. Talk about what you mean by words such as relationship, commitment, love, and faithfulness. You'll be amazed by what you learn.
2. Have you discussed finances?
Next to sex, money is the biggest generator of problems, arguments, and resentment in long-term relationships. Couples tend to assume that money should be pooled, but it usually isn't that easy. A disparity in income can mean struggling about who pays for what, or whose income determines your lifestyle. Different financial habits (one likes to save, the other spends more, or doesn't keep track) can become a source of argument. For many couples, separating your money makes things run smoother; you don't wind up struggling for control. You can split expenses evenly, or work out a percentage share if your incomes are different.3. What about household responsibilities?
If you're not yet living together, take a tour of each other's homes. Drastically different decorating styles, neatness, and organization levels can become sources of argument, and so can housekeeping and chores. If you have different tastes, it may require a lot of creativity and negotiation to decorate a joint home in a way that makes both of you comfortable.Additionally, think hard before moving into your partner's established home. You may have trouble feeling as if you "belong" in a home that was previously established by your partner, unless you participate together in reorganizing and redecorating it.4. How close are you to family or friends?
If one of you has a lot of family or friends, and the other does not, find out what those relationships mean. Where will you spend holidays? If there are family members who have problems, such as addiction or mental illness, how much will that impact your relationship?5. How do you handle anger and other emotions?
We all get upset from time to time. If you are usually good at diffusing each other's anger, and being supportive through times of grief or pain, your emotional bond will deepen as time goes on. If your tendency is to react to each other and make the situation more volatile and destructive, you need to correct that problem before you live together.6. How do you show love to each other?
Sharing what actions and words mean love to you may be surprising. Even if it's a struggle, discussing how you give and receive love will improve your relationship. You will understand what makes each of you feel loved, and how to express your love effectively.7. How well did you discuss these very questions?
Asking yourselves these questions are excellent tests of your ability to define and work out problems. Constructive discussion that leads to a mutually satisfactory solution means you know how to solve problems in your relationship. If not, get counseling before going further. Tina Tessina, Ph.D., has been a licensed California psychotherapist for more than 30 years. She has authored more than 11 books, including "Money, Sex and Kids"; “The Commuter Marriage: Keeping your Relationship Close While you’re Far Apart”; "How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free"; "The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again"; and, “It Ends with You: Grow Up and Grow Out of Dysfunction.” Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.