I’ve been married for 30 years. When we were teenagers, I didn’t know much of anything– including how to pick a mate. So I can say with certainty despite my cluelessness, I got lucky. The luckiest. I’ve learned a lot from our relationship and from watching others fail, so I present this as an open letter from the luckiest man to the youngsters in my family:
Someday you will meet a woman. She will feel like a lantern in a forest at night. She might be the woman who changes your life. Before you give her your heart forever, pause and look for these things:
Are your long term goals compatible?
It is said that “love is the law,” but love is not the only key to happiness. If you are true to yourself and your passions, and she is too, there are plenty of ways your paths could divide. To force those paths from dividing could mean giving up on an important goal. Does she dream of joining the Air Force? Is it your dream to move across the country? Are your dreams compatible?
You will save yourself from heartbreak or avoid the regret of giving up on your dreams if her path runs parallel to yours. Write it out, plan it, think about the future. Is it going to work?
Does she have her own interests?
What if she doesn’t have long term goals or any strong interests? That could be a problem because it could mean she hasn’t grown or matured enough just yet. It could also mean she is resting much of her interest and expectation on you. Having someone willing to do anything you want to do gets old fast.
If she knows what she wants and what interests her, she will have her own pursuits. You don’t want someone who clings to you for their happiness; you want someone who is happy to share their interests with you.
Does she treat the two of you like a team?
Having each of your own interests is healthy. But if she sees the two of you as a team of individuals, that’s great! It means she will give you space to follow your own dreams but also nurture the two of you as a team. Of course, you should see the two of you as a team as well. It really works best when both people are on the same page.
If she can invest her heart in you (as well as for the both of you), make good decisions for the team, build a healthy habitat and ensure there is enough morale support to go around, then you two will be unstoppable.
Can you have a conversation about anything?
Any romantic partnership is still made up of individuals. Life will present awkward and sometimes scary situations where you need to talk things out. That’s not easy. But if you feel like you can’t talk about certain things at all, you are locking a part of yourself and she won’t have access to it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep some things to yourself, but if you can’t talk about something because she is closed off to it–one of the most important things in a working relationship, COMMUNICATION, is already starting to fail.
Does she disagree with you in a mature, loving way?
It’s totally crazy to think the two of you are always going to agree. A couple has to navigate religion, politics, parenting styles, family dynamics – a lot of complicated topics. If she always agrees with you that is a red flag. It could mean that she doesn’t have opinions or doesn’t feel comfortable sharing them with you. But if every disagreement turns into a heated argument that pulls up old issues, that’s an environment that feels unsafe and communication will collapse.
So if she disagrees with you in a way that feels like she still cares about you and your opinion, you should learn from how she does that.