Following the pressure to couple for Valentine’s Day is the conscious un-coupling soon after that a spike in divorce petitions reflects. AttorneyFee.com, a legal referral site, cites February is the busiest month of the year for divorce filings, up about 18% from the average month. Another legal site, Avvo.com, reports a 40% increase in those seeking information and advice about divorce in the period right after Valentine’s Day.
Apparently, giving your sweetheart the 4 foot Hunka Love Bear isn’t enough to prevent a break-up.
So whether you are married or dating, how can you assess the health of your relationship?
There are many more considerations than these five questions. But don’t overcomplicate things before you ask yourself the following.
1. Do I feel safe?
The health of a relationship can almost be determined by just this one question.
- Do you feel at a gut level that your partner has your back?
- Through their behavior, have they shown they are trustworthy and honest?
- Do you sense there are secrets underneath the surface, or do they have an open manner (what you see is what you get)?
- Have you been in the relationship long enough to know if this person will stand by your side when the road gets rocky?
- Will they love you if you gain a few pounds, go through a period of depression or become physically ill?
It is easy to be with someone—almost anyone—when times are good. The real test is how this person shows up when times are rough.
2. Do I smile more often than cry?
In every relationship couples argue from time to time, and we unintentionally hurt each other. But if you observe the time you share together as a whole, ask yourself:
- Is it characterized by synergy and joy, or fraught with anxiety and tension?
- Do you freely express yourself, secure in knowing that you can say the “wrong thing” and be given the benefit of the doubt, or do you tread on eggshells, afraid of an eruption if your words are misinterpreted?
- Is there any sign of criticism or contempt?
How much effort are you putting into making the relationship work? Yes, relationships take effort, but if you feel exhausted, it may be that the relationship is depleting you instead of nourishing you.
3. Do I give to my partner from a place of love or fear?
Why do you do what you do? Do you give from your own free will, from a place of love, or do you do things to avoid an expected negative reaction (from a place of fear)?
For example, your partner is sick and asks you to go to the grocery store. You want to help, and so you go. They would do the same for you. But what if your primary motivator is to avoid an expected angry reaction if you refuse? Have you witnessed this person sulking or giving you the cold shoulder when you don’t do what they want?
Slow down and assess your motivators for deciding what to give to your partner. Giving is wonderful and it should be a two-way street. Giving in feels different.
4. Is my partner invested?
For a relationship to be successful, there has to be a vision for it. With a defined vision, there can be commitment by both people. Is your partner willing to show up each day and contribute to the success of the relationship, or does he or she just do the occasional grand gesture and leave the daily heavy lifting to you?
My former husband would dramatically proclaim: “I’d die for you.” Ok, but before that option presents itself, what are you willing to do?
If you haven’t been with your significant other that long, you may not be at this place, but it is useful to identify what this person is currently invested in. In other words, can you identify something he or she feels passionate about? In general, people who are committed to something other than themselves are more likely to be able to commit to you.
For example, is this person invested in the community or a cause? Are they enthusiastic about their career, or do they have an interest or a spiritual faith they are devoted to? Be wary of the person who doesn’t seem passionate about anything. That could be the level of commitment they make to your future once the infatuation stage ends.
5. Does he or she play well with others?
What relationships are present in this person’s life? (Facebook doesn’t count.) What real relationships—friendships, family, co-workers—can you identify, or do they tend to isolate? What is their behavior within the context of these relationships?
How well your partner gets along with others is a reflection of their emotional intelligence. People who are relational exhibit empathy and understanding for other people’s views. They don’t want to dominate the sandbox; they want to share it. Moreover, they seek to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for everyone. They understand the value of compromise and give and take. When things aren’t going well, instead of stomping out and taking their toys with them, they seek to understand another perspective and to positively influence the outcome. Generally, if someone has a healthy tribe with some longstanding friendships identified, they understand what it takes to make a relationship work.
What were your answers?
If you answered “yes” to each question, you may have found yourself a great partner! If not, then allow yourself more time and come back to these questions when you have more information.
If you are married and answered “no” to any question, this is a good opportunity to start a conversation with your partner and also to check in with yourself about what you may be tolerating and why.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Smith Photography