Dear Dr. Norquist:
How do I know when I’ve found the man who is right for me? I’ve been in several long-term relationships in my 33 years, all of which I initially thought were the one for me. That ended up not being true. One of them cheated on me. One took a job in Texas (over my strenuous objections) and we grew apart.
My current relationship stays status quo. We just don’t move forward towards making a commitment. I really enjoy being with him, but he isn’t even supporting himself, so how could he support a marriage? (by the way, this doesn’t seem to be something that bothers him at all). What should I look for in a marriage and a potential marital partner?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Marital relationships hold different meanings and serve different purposes in each person’s life. There is no one ‘right’ way, what’s important is what is right for you. What do you want from a marriage? There are various possible answers to this question such as – a partner, a support system, a caretaker, a fellow parent, someone who provides safety and protection, someone to share life with, or probably some combination of these. Each marriage has its own flavor. Some marriages are easy-going from the start and continue on an easy flow. This doesn’t necessarily make this kind of relationship better than a difficult marriage.
A difficult marriage that leads to meaningful growth as a result of hard work can lead to a deeply satisfying experience of love and contentment. Even a marriage that ends can provide unexpected life changing growth that could only have occurred because of the marital experience.
A marriage doesn’t have to be perfect or to fulfill all of your needs (contrary to what the social media would have us believe). It does need to meet the needs that are most important to you and your marital partner. Similar values and a shared vision of your desired future are extremely important. No marriage is without difficulty but if both partners are willing to work on the problems, each taking responsibility for their own part, then these difficulties can lead to greater intimacy and growth in the relationship. Along with similar values and life vision, I believe it is important to look for someone who is mentally stable and reasonably skilled at navigating life.
Everyone has ‘issues’ and difficulties. From my perspective, some important questions to ask yourself are:
Is this person willing and able to look at his problems, take a pro-active growth-oriented approach, and seek help when necessary?
Does this person have an intrinsic attitude of respect and consideration towards all human beings (and life in general)?
Is this person capable of empathy?
Does he see, understand, support and cherish me for who I am?
Does he recognize that I have my own inner life journey to follow?
Is he happy seeing me happy?
Is our relationship a priority to him – is it something he is willing to grow, cherish and protect?
Sometimes it also comes down to timing; the relationship has to be right, and both parties have to be in a place in themselves and in their lives to make a responsible commitment. I hope this is helpful.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2014 Chaitanya Counseling Services