Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’ve been going out with my boyfriend for 6 months now. This is the most serious I’ve ever been in a relationship. I’m 27, and my boyfriend is 30. I think he wants to propose sometime soon, so my question is how do I know when a relationship is right for me? I can easily see myself marrying him. He treats me well. We both want a family and with both of us working, we can afford a home and a family life. How do you know when someone is the right one? I come from parents who are divorced so I want to make sure I don’t follow their example.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Your heart tells you when you have met someone with whom you have a substantial connection. There is something extra there; a familiarity, an easy togetherness, a longing for closeness, a trust, a deep sense of understanding. Having a substantial connection with someone doesn’t mean there won’t be any difficulties to overcome, or even that it is right to be in a married relationship with that person. A marriage requires that both of you have similar values, and compatible visions of what you want for the future. You must be on similar life paths, so to speak. A marriage is a commitment to be partners in creating a home, a family (if that is what is desired) and a future together. It requires the ability to work together, to communicate well, and to jointly build a common vision. It is possible, of course, to meet people with whom you have a strong connection who would not be good partners, for a variety of reasons. Therefore, you need to rely on both your heart and your mind in making your decision.
Decisions are most true when they are not made out of fear or insecurity. You must first know that you can be happy and comfortable on your own. This will help you to trust your judgement. Decide which values and beliefs are most vital to you and look to see if these are also shared by your boyfriend. This could include your religious/spiritual beliefs, cultural beliefs, basic values with regard to how to treat others, values in child rearing and values with regard to finances. Is the power/dominance dimension in the relationship satisfactory for you? Are both partners’ needs, feelings, and opinions respected and considered? No relationship is perfect in every dimension. What is most important is that the two of you are considerate of each other’s needs, feelings and opinions, and willing to take responsibility for your contribution to whatever difficulties arise.
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2018 Chaitanya Counseling Services