Ready to Commitâor Forcing the Fit?

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Lovers enter our lives for a season or a lifetime. Both kinds of relationships can offer joy and growth. But signs along the way may point to whether we’ll grow together in the long term or whether we’ll grow apart. If your goal is long- term commitment, syncing with your sweetheart

in the following ways can help make it work. Consider these discussion topics in the weeks to come:

1. CAN WE SUPPORT EACH OTHER’S DEVELOPMENT? Each of you has goals related to education, career, recreation, family, travel and other issues that could require a lot of time, money, attention, partner support or even separation to accomplish. Which of these goals will take priority in your partner- ship? Trajectory and timing can determine whether these pursuits fuel your passion or suck the oxygen out of your relationship.

2. DO WE CLASH OVER CASH? The issues to explore here are both practical and emotional. If you’re a spender and (s)he’s a saver, can you find a way to strike a balance? Does one of you expect to be “taken care of ” financially? What short-, medium- and long- term money goals do each of you have—and do enough of them overlap? Do you come from or aspire to different social classes? Does one of you bring debt, obligations (such as child support) or consider- able assets to the table that you’ll both need to manage if partnered? Finally, talk about the “money messages” you gleaned growing up and the kind of emotional codes that make cash so much more than currency. Money may mean security, power, obligation, status, support, corruption, virtue, care or even control to you and something entirely different to your mate.

3. DO OUR SOCIAL TIES MESH? Your connections with others impact how you connect with each other. Is each of you available for an exclusive relationship? If there are children from previous relation- ships, are you both prepared to share the responsibilities and blessings that come with forming a blended family? Have you met each other’s relatives, observed their customs, culture and conflicts; are you ready for the prospect that these kin may one day be yours? How does your mate relate to his or her opposite- sex parent? What sorts of friends does (s)he have?

4. DO OUR CHARACTERS COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER’S? Some things to consider: How healthy is your partner’s self-esteem? Do his or her actions make you feel as if you’re a priority? Can you accept each other as you are? If one of you is outgoing and the other a homebody, can you adapt and compromise? How does each of you handle anger, hurt or irritation? Can you resolve a conflict in a win-win fashion? They key is to understand your own styles of coping and relating and recognize how your mate’s may be different.

5. ARE WE A FIT PHYSICALLY? He’s a night owl, and she’s an early bird. His drink is whiskey and hers is wheat- grass juice. Couples with conflicting physical habits such as smoking, fitness level, use of drugs or alcohol, face a disconnect that may or may not be a deal breaker eventually.

6. IS IT SWEET BETWEEN THE SHEETS? Do you meet each other’s unique needs regarding foreplay, frequency of lovemaking, variety and spontaneity, emotional closeness and satisfaction? Sex is an important dimension of intimacy and happiness.

7. ARE WE SPIRITUALLY IN SYNC?

The goal of having a soul-deep connection doesn’t have to mean things won’t work out if one of you is a Baptist and the other is a Buddhist (although, if shared traditions are deeply important to you, it might). Explore your partner’s relationship with God and see if the path (s)he’s walking aligns with or obstructs your own. Sharing a meaningful spiritual life also requires understanding that it’s not your partner’s responsibility to make you happy. Finding your soul mate sometimes means recognizing when it’s time to release a relationship that isn’t serving your body or mind and soul.