Once upon a time, getting married was easy. Your parents chose your mate for you, you had little or no say in the matter, and you got what you got. If you were lucky or blessed, it was a good match; if not, you endured, and the whole thing was over in a few decades, anyway.
Today, technology provides us with unlimited choices. The one big down-side to our thoroughly modern system, however, is that single people are expected to figure out all by themselves how to engineer this most important relationship. Perhaps some day someone will write the perfect mate-finding algorithm that will guarantee the perfect match. Until then, here are some thoughts on how to stack the odds in your favor in the dating and mating lottery.
Read this book
My nomination for “The Best-Ever Title of an Advice Book” is How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. The sub-title is pretty good, too: The foolproof way to follow your heart without losing your mind. Psychologist John Van Epp brings some rationality to what is often a non-rational (and sometimes just an irrational) process.
Van Epp uses the acronym FACES to highlight five important determiners of your prospective mate’s readiness for marriage (and your own readiness, too). Here are some important questions to ask:
- How did her parents and family show love and affection? How did they argue, and how did they resolve arguments?
- To what degree does he exhibit both healthy closeness to and healthy distance from his family?
- How do her family and friends feel about your relationship?
Attitudes and actions of the conscience
- How honest is he, about things both big and small?
- How does she show patience and kindness, especially in an upsetting circumstance?
- How consistent is he? To what degree does he do what he says he will do?
- How easily does she apologize? How hard or easy is it for her to “own” her mistakes?
- Does he share your deeply held values and goals?
- How flexible and adaptable is she (versus rigid, unbending or “right” all the time)?
- Is he very avoidant, self-contained, secretive? Very clingy? Very anxious or depressed?
Examples of other (past) relationships
- If she has been in a serious relationship before, what was that like for her? How did it end, and why?
- How does he talk about his exes? To what degree does he take responsibility for his part in his past break-ups?
- How does she relate to her family members and friends?
Skills in your relationship
- How aware is he of his inner emotional world, and how does he reveal it to you?
- Does she know how to offer and receive “repair attempts” after a fight?
- How well does he listen to you, with understanding and empathy?
Nowadays, we need a lot of help in finding and staying on the road to romance. In my next post I’ll offer some further suggestions about being the right person and finding the right village.
Making sense of dating and mating may be the toughest job you’ll ever love. It would be my privilege to share with you what I’ve learned about this from many clients over many years.