Many of us feel the “need” to be in a relationship in order to keep our sanity. For example, I feel a lot more in control of my surroundings if I have something to plan – and often, my own personal plans don’t really keep me occupied for too long. When I’m single (or fresh into a relationship), I find myself compelled to start playing Personal Assistant to my friends. They don’t usually mind, but I do have to remind myself regularly that their business is their business. I’m also a bit of a nurturer, so taking care of someone else – or helping them to take care of themselves – has always had a pretty strong pull for me.
If you’re entering a relationship just to take care of these needs, stop – your girlfriend should not be there to fill a void.
We all know that we should let a relationship happen, instead of chasing it down, yet still there are so many who consider themselves actively looking for love. Doesn’t really make a lot of sense, unless you take into consideration the personal journeys these people are taking first. In some cases, their journey has taken them to their ideal self, and they’re looking for someone to share it with. In other cases, the person might think that having a partner can help them reach their goals easier. Neither one is completely good or bad, but the questions you ask yourself before you reach that point will help determine what you should do next.
1. What’s your affection style?
Are you the type of person to show physical affection, or would you rather shower your partner with gifts? Are you affectionate with all your friends, and do you need a partner who’s willing to accept that? Understanding how you show affection will help you determine what affection style will complement yours best.
2. What are your future plans?
If you don’t fully understand your plans for the future, you can’t possibly find a partner who fully embraces the same ideals you have – you’ll be loosely bound by the other person’s future plans. On the other hand, if your future plans are mapped out in absolute detail, it’ll be hard to find a place for your partner to fit. It’s best to have a general goal, and specify it in short-term steps.
3. Why do you want to be in a relationship?
Simultaneously one of the simplest and most difficult questions to answer, you’ll want to understand why you want to be in a relationship, in order to know how to move forward. If you want a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship, chances are, you’re not ready to be a good partner – wait until you are ready.
4. What do you want out of a relationship?
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with why you want a relationship, but they’re not mutually exclusive things. You might want a relationship because you have free time, but what you want out of the relationship is someone to fulfill your sexual needs, for example – in this case, a relationship isn’t really what you want, but an orgasm. If your answer to this question is anything other than “the company of someone I have shared interests with”, you might not be completely ready.
5. What do you bring to the table?
It might seem weird to make a list of the positive traits and qualities you have, but I promise, there’s a good reason. Evaluating the value you bring into a relationship will help you identify what you need to improve, and what your core values might be. If all you have is money, your relationship will probably be built around money. On the other hand, if you have no money, you’ll need to come up with a plan for how you’ll support yourself.
6. Why did your last relationship end?
Let’s face it: You can’t get over your last relationship unless you have explored why it didn’t work out. Maybe one of you cheated, or you couldn’t keep up with the long-distance thing anymore, or she refused to move out of her parents’ house, even though you were willing to help her get on her feet. No matter what the reason is, understanding it will help you prevent the problem in the future, or it will teach you what you’re no longer willing to settle for.
7. How happy are you with your life in general?
Sometimes, we seek out a relationship as a way to make us happy. Particularly after we’ve gotten out of a long term relationship and grown used to having someone next to us, it can seem important to find a person to fill that empty spot in our bed. But you can’t be a good partner unless your overall happiness is in check. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be positive.
8. What are you willing to give up to make this hypothetical relationship work?
Hey, we don’t like to think of the sacrifices we’ll make in a relationship, but it’s important to realize that it does happen sometimes. Identify how much you’re actually willing to give up, and then don’t allow yourself to compromise anything that’s more important to you. That way, if you see signs that your partner is asking for more, you’ll know your happiness depends on you stepping back.
9. What do you hope this relationship is going to accomplish?
All right, confession time… The right answer here is nothing. You shouldn’t enter a relationship with particular expectations about what you’re going to get out of it. Otherwise, you’re using the relationship as a crutch to get something else, and your partner is going to be quite understandably upset about it when and if she finds out. Wait until you don’t need anything from the relationship before you proceed.
10. What do you want in a partner?
In a perfect world, everyone would be compatible with everyone else, and there wouldn’t even be an issue about how things work out. But humans are unique, and you can’t reasonably expect compatibility between drastically different core values. If sustainable living is important to you, you’ll be happier with a partner who shares those values. If honesty is more important, prioritize that. Try not to over-complicate the list with general or aesthetic choices, but do keep in mind the type of person you’d like to be with.
11. Do you feel like this is a good time for you to be in a relationship?
We’ve discussed the importance of having time for a relationship before – but we’re going to talk about it today, too. You can’t expect to be a good partner if you don’t have time. And you can’t expect to keep a good partner if you’re not a good partner yourself. While your perfect partner should respect your hustle and understand that she’s not always going to come first, if you don’t have any time for her, you’re not being fair.
12. What’s wrong with you?
That old cliché of “you have to love yourself first” is way overdone, and in many ways it’s become almost a joke in the dating community. People who found love when they were at their lowest and had partners who taught them how to love themselves will come out with stories about their fairy-tale ending, but we need to realize that shouldn’t be the goal. If it happens, it happens – but that’s not going to happen if you’re out looking for it. If you start your relationship with unfair expectations, neither of you is going to be happy. Understanding what you’re not happy with will force you to decide whether it’s something you can change, or something you need to accept.
13. What do you dislike about being single?
It’s actually been scientifically proven that a woman in a happy relationship is no better off than she is when she’s single – at least, not according to her physical and mental health. But, given the fact that an unhappy relationship totally damages your mental and physical health, being unhappy in single-ness is actually better than being miserable in a relationship – and being miserable in a relationship is a little more likely if you weren’t happy from the start. Understand that this relationship might make you happy in the beginning, but if you don’t have a happy base that you’re working from, you’re not going to find long-term happiness. And don’t you deserve happiness that actually lasts?