Happy Valentine's day. Or not. For some people this is the primary reminder day that they are not in the romantic relationship they want. For others, its a chance to show the person they love how much that person means to them. For me, its a day of renewing an old, well-worn and comfortable love with a little bit of attention and appreciation.
Sometimes, in therapy, I will meet a person whose 'presenting problem' (the issue that caused them to seek help) is loneliness, specifically the desire to be in a romantic relationship. All too often, the desire to be in any relationship trumps the desire to be in a good relationship. Even more often, the person in question is doing nothing, or at least very little, toward meeting the sort of person that they say they are interested in.
And sometimes, tragically, a person is 'stuck' in romantic feeling for someone who doesn't share that feeling, or worse, someone who is actively disruptive or abusive of a person's life. So today's dance is kind of a public service from me to you, a cluster of the sort of questions I ask someone whose goals are to develop healthy relationships with the potential to become long term intimate relationships. I hope they are useful to you.
- Have you spent time defining what a 'good relationship 'looks like' to you?
- Will you have a monogamous relationship, or are you looking for a relationship that has elements of an open or polyamorous relationship? Will you be totally honest about your relationship status with everyone involved?
- How will good intimate partners treat you, specifically? Will he or she be an equal partner, or will one or the other of you have more say in the relationship? Why?
- Is addiction a deal breaker? What about adultery? Or abuse? Does your answer change if you're in an existing relationship vs. a new relationship?
- Are you seeking people you are likely to be interested in where you would be likely to meet them, or are you not actually getting out, or looking in places like bars that are unlikely to produce the relationship you're looking for?
- Would you accept verbal abuse, even occasionally, from a partner? How are you defining verbal abuse? Why are you willing to sometimes accept it? Same questions, but physical abuse.
- Who will control the money in your 'good relationship'? Why?
- If there are children involved, how will you and your partner(s) make decisions about raising them?
- What are deal-breakers for you in an otherwise good relationship that are unique to you?
- What must a partner or partners understand about you that you are not able to or open to changing about yourself?
- How important is your partner's religious faith in the relationship? Does that answer change if there are children?
- How comfortable are you walking away from a potential relationship when you discover that the potential partner has committed a 'deal-breaker'? How comfortable are you defining your deal-breakers early in the relationship?
- Are there aspects of your life out of your control (like obligations or family members) that could affect potential relationships? How do you intend to deal with these as relationships grow?
- Are there patterns in earlier relationships that you want to replicate or avoid? Have you thought about your role in those patterns and how to duplicate or avoid the creation of the same pattern?
- Do you find yourself ultimately loveable? If not, have you thought of making yourself your first intimate relationship, in the sense of valuing and honoring yourself enough to be choosy and happy with your own company over the company of someone who treats you poorly?
As always, feel free to answer these questions here or elsewhere, or simply carry around the questions and think of them on your own. I'd greatly appreciate you sharing these posts with friends and family via those handy buttons at the bottom of the post. The more the merrier!
- Gratitude is for Lovers (greatergood.berkeley.edu)
- Another Threesome - Intimacy (normaldeviations.wordpress.com)
- How to Have a Healthy Relationship (everydayhealth.com)