Relationships, by nature, change a lot over time. Most of these changes are very gradual, but it’s hard to see when things start to go off track. Once you notice there’s a problem, sometimes it’s too late to fix things.
By then, maybe your heart is invested, and you’re not able to let go of this person. If only there was a way to keep track of these things before they cause a bunch of pain.
But maybe there is!
By thinking about your goals, values, and future plans at many points along the way, you can help keep from finding out that the woman you just married was having an affair for the past year and a half. OK, maybe that’s a bit severe of an example, but I’m sure you understand the point. Early detection is the key to preventing heart break.
If you’d like to try giving yourself a “relationship report card”, follow along with our steps below.
Step One: Decide how often to evaluate.
It’s a good idea to take a look at your “progress” at every big event in your relationship – occasions like the first time you spend the night together, first time you say “I love you”, when you move in together, your first anniversary, when you get engaged…
But if you want to prevent a painful heartbreak down the road, it’s best if you think about it a little more often. Your exact amount may be different, and it might not be on rhythmic intervals. (I like to reflect every time I’m facing a big decision in my life – is this something I could see my partner being a part of?)
There’s no set-in-stone timeframe here. Maybe you want to think about things every month, or maybe only every six months (apart from those “big events”). In time, you will uncover the right time for you and your relationship, and adjust it as necessary.
Step Two: Think of what’s important to you.
There’s a whole world of different values and expectations you can have for your relationship, and no one can tell you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” deal with. This is a deeply personal decision, and sometimes our values change as experiences in our lives shape us. This is one of the reasons that periodic reflection is so important.
Think of how your values and goals have changed since the last time you reflected. Is there anything new that you want that your partner absolutely won’t fit into? It’s a good idea to actually discuss these things with her, instead of assuming you know the answers – she could surprise you.
If there’s something that you think is going to cause a clash, make sure you find the time to talk to your partner about it. Maybe it’s a misunderstanding, or maybe she’ll confirm the reaction you guessed she would – you’ll have to decide where to proceed from here.
Step Three: Think of what you want to change.
This should be all about yourself. A healthy relationship doesn’t expect your partner to change just because you want her to. Instead, think about the mistakes you’ve made and the things you wish you had done differently. Even if there are only a couple, nobody’s perfect, so be honest with yourself.
Think about what you need to do to make these changes in your life. Are you self-conscious about your weight? Plan to eat healthier. Are you tired of not being able to save? Start a separate bank account and don’t carry the card with you. There are a million little changes you can do to improve yourself as a person, and you should consider yourself a work-in-progress.
Once you have a plan, you’ll need to follow through – as best as you can. You probably won’t break all your bad habits in a single day, but your partner is likely to notice your efforts, and it might even inspire her to do her own reflection.
Step Four: Picture your immediate future.
Think about the next six months. What are the things that you immediately imagine? Is your partner there? Is someone else there with you? The independent among us may automatically picture ourselves alone when we think of the future – this doesn’t automatically mean you need to break up, but it’s something to consider if step two brought forth some problems.
If you picture your partner by your side, but step two uncovered some doubts, it’s absolutely vital that you and your partner attempt to work things out. It’s obvious that you want to be with her – but maybe you guys got off track somewhere. The good news is, even professional air craft are off course about 90% of the time – and they usually still make it to their target destination with minimal delays. Just because you’ve strayed from the path doesn’t mean you’re lost forever.
If you pictured someone else by your side when you thought of your future (or you thought of someone else with your partner) – chances are you and your partner are not meant to be. Either you are insecure in your relationship or your intuition is picking up on foul play, and neither of these things will help support a healthy relationship.
Step Five: Picture your distant future.
Think about the next sixty years or so. Can you picture the life that you and your partner have built, or do you no longer see her by your side? Just like with the immediate future question, this isn’t so much a premonition as it is your own prediction. And you probably know – consciousness helps create reality. If you can’t feel positively about your relationship, your relationship is doomed.
If you picture positive things in your future, you will be more motivated to attain your dreams. Write it down! Find a safe place and make a note of the future you want with your lady, and then work to make it happen.
If you don’t picture her in your distant future, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy her in your present. As long as you still picture her in your immediate future, her place in your life doesn’t have to end. After all, not every relationship is meant to last forever – just because she’s not your last love doesn’t mean you can’t love her.
Step Six: Talk to your partner.
No matter what you find when you’re evaluating your relationship, it is super important that you talk to your partner about things. Maybe you won’t call it a “report card”, but you should be discussing what’s on your mind. You can’t expect her to be a psychic.
If you are happy with the results of your evaluation, let her know how much you appreciate her. Tell her how happy you are to have her in your life – sometimes she needs a little reminder! Don’t forget to tell her. Keep her updated on your life goals, and try to stay updated on hers, too.
If you aren’t happy with what you find, you should still talk to her about it. Tell her about your goals, your plans, and the things that are bothering you. Make sure you come from a place of constructive criticism, and not nagging – she has to want to make the changes. You can’t demand them, or even expect them.
With any luck, regular reflections can help keep your relationship right on track – I find it helps to write my findings down, but that’s just a way I process. Your methods may vary. It’s only important that you get started.