Many of us select a partner to marry without knowing some important criteria for relationship success. The early romantic stage of dating and relating tends to be chemistry between partners and blindness about potential hazards. In this stage people listen better and accommodate better. Exploring important components for successful mate selection helps to solidify our choice.

Most of us have a vision about the perfect mate and a vision about how life will be with this mate. Vision gives us energy and guides our choices both toward and away. The choice has to feel right and fit with the inside vision. About 69% of conflict is due to unrealized expectations. These include the dream for life that may not be supported by the partner.

We have to be happy as individuals in order for relationships to be happy. Relationship skills (not taught at school) may include some immature attitudes as well as the inability to manage emotions and differences. Most people listen as long as people agree and stop when they don’t agree. They also tend to make their thoughts the facts. Attitudes and skills make or break a relationship and are about functioning not chemistry.

Though differences may feel bad, they can be a learning lab for acceptance and negotiation. We don’t always have to agree, but we can learn to understand and figure out what to do. Money is a top area of conflict as well as domestic tasks: cleanliness, décor, etc. According to John Gottman, most men tend to think they are doing more than they are, while women interpret men who do things around home as more attentive and then tend to get turned on.

Another area of conflict is around extended family. Usually we accept more about our own family and less about in laws. Time and rituals become a big developmental step in relationships as a couple sets up its own culture. Gender differences and sexual style also become conflicts after the chemistry stage. Most tend to adapt to roles or behaviors based on what one partner tends to do or based on how his/her family functioned. For example, if one routinely takes out the trash, the other tends not to think about it.

Parenting is also an enormous area of conflict. Marital satisfaction goes down after the birth of a child and changes the relationship significantly.

How one feels loved concerns emotional needs, rather than functional needs. This conflict is harder to identify and tends to be felt deeply. It is important to give unto each other as he/she wants to be given. We tend to give in ways that have meaning to us.

All relationships have challenge. It is important to identify and choose the challenge to address. When not in alignment, we need to remain conscious and skillful. The pain of breaking up can be eliminated when we truly balance head and heart. We need to be clear about our own vision, share it with our partner, and create a shared vision. Be clear about the areas of conflict (domestic tasks, finances, parenting, and extended family). Be clear about requirements, needs, and wants; address challenges and create an action plan; and evaluate regularly.

It is important to be aware of challenges before marriage as well as ready and skillful to handle them after marriage. Chemistry can only carry us so far. Chemistry is more likely to remain when we are also conscious, informed, and skillful.

Contact Pamela Simmons, Licensed Professional Counselor & Relationship Coach at 214-674-8759.

Contact Pamela Simmons, Licensed Professional Counselor & Relationship Coach at 214-674-8759.