“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” – Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities
You met someone and you think he may be the one, but you still need to discover some things about him. How? Simple. Be observant, and communicate. You may think it isn’t so easy, but it really is if you pay attention, and guide your conversations to cover what’s important.
As to what’s important, that’s up to you, but the following list can be a good starting point:
- Money: No matter how much you love each other now, a few years trying to scrimp and save to build a retirement fund while he spends it all on gadgets will be a major problem.
- Sex: If you’re not compatible in bed (or elsewhere), you can be great friends, but not a romantic couple.
- Children: If you want kids and he doesn’t, you need to know this far enough in advance that you can make the incredibly difficult choice between him and being a mom.
- Role expectations: If your life goals include being a successful professional and he expects you to have a gourmet dinner ready on the table when he gets home, your relationship is not long for this world.
- Time together: In today’s world we’re all busy. Too busy. If the two of you aren’t equally committed to prioritizing time spent together, you’ll grow apart to the point of separation.
- Family history: Far too many women discover after the wedding that their marriage has three people in it – the woman, her husband, and his mom. If you want to honor your in-laws, but have no intention of having them be part of the marriage, you need to understand his family history and dynamics sooner rather than later.
- Managing conflict: Marriage researcher John Gottman published in a 1998 article in the Journal of Marriage and the Family a stunning result – based on observing couples arguing for just 15 minutes, he could predict with 83 percent accuracy who’d be divorced in less than six years! A later refinement of his work led him to announce that with only five minutes of observation, he could predict which marriages would fail with 91 percent accuracy! Among the factors he concentrates on – do the partners express disdain or ridicule each other when arguing.
Now that you know what to talk about, should you talk about these things while you’re still dating? Right after the wedding? When you settle into a routine?
The answer is – all of the above. The sooner you start, the better, but this doesn’t mean you have to have deep, long, heavy conversations about these flashpoint issues on your first date! Instead, be observant from the start! How does he treat the wait staff at the restaurant? Does he seem too frugal or too extravagant? Does he often cancel your dates because he got a better offer from a friend? Does he play with his nieces and nephews or avoid them? When he gets mad, what does he do?
All of these things give you glimpses into the main issues every couple needs to address. Once you’ve spent enough time together and have had enough interactions, that’s when it’s appropriate to have more formal discussions to see if what he says matches how he behaves.
Communication is the basis of any great relationship. Just keep in mind that communications are not just verbal. It’s as important to see how he says things as what he says.