Romantic love is a powerful force – it gives meaning to our lives and often drives the ups and downs of daily life. So, it’s really important to pay attention to how you’re going about creating and maintaining relationships, rather than just fumbling through the process. Of course, this is not always so easy to do – there’s a lot that goes into developing and maintaining good relationships.
One approach that can be helpful: think of relationships as developing in stages. First, you have to spend some time looking at yourself. The better you know yourself, the better you’ll know what you want from a relationship and what you have to offer. Next, you need to consider how you want to approach the search for a partner. Once you’ve found a partner, you establish a relationship. And then, and if your partner is someone you decide to commit to, you maintain the relationship for the long haul.
Here are some questions you might find helpful as you navigate this process:
Are you ready for love?
Getting to know yourself is extremely helpful as you seek out the love of your life. Consider how you feel about yourself and how you expect others will respond to you. Ask yourself how open you are to love. Think about problematic patterns you’ve repeated in previous relationships. Get to know what you are looking for in a partner. These are just a few things to reflect upon as a way to prepare yourself for a romantic relationship. Use what you learn from this kind of introspection to appreciate what you have to offer, motivate you to grow personally, and focus your thoughts about potential relationships.
What are you willing to do to meet someone special?
To find a good match, you need to be open to inviting that person into your life when you meet. And you will also likely need to be active in searching out that special someone – unless you luck out by tripping over the person at the grocery store. You want to think about ways to meet people that you are willing to pursue, such as being set up by friends, going to singles programs, and internet dating. Once you decide what you are willing to do, then you need to prioritize doing it. Just as with physical exercise, you might find it helpful to buddy up with a friend; get support from loved ones; and remind yourself that the more effort you put in, the better your results are likely to be.
How will you know if it’s time to commit?
Though your heart might be racing when you first meet a potential partner, it’s often helpful to take it slow. Enjoy the initial excitement and giddiness, but don’t let it get to your head… do the best you can, think clearly about what is healthy for you. Take the time to make sure your personal styles and values align. If there are other relationships or activities that are important to you, continue to nurture them. And enjoy the physical intimacy, but go at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
If there are warning bells, be sure to listen to them… no matter how much you feel compelled to just keep charging forward. Those warning bells are there to give you an important message that you may later regret ignoring.
What can you do to keep your relationship strong?
As anyone who has ever committed themselves to a partner knows, relationships take work. So make sure that the two of you work to maintain open and honest communication. This might mean that you sometimes upset one another, but this would be in the service of resolving differences or learning to live with them. It’s equally important to support each other’s individual interests and values. The result of these efforts will be greater respect between you and a healthier connection.
If you find thinking about relationships in this way helpful, you can learn more about each of the steps above in a recently-released book, Love: The Psychology of Attraction (I served as a psychological consultant for the book).
While you alone cannot create a future relationship, you do have the power to increase your chances of finding a good partner and building a healthy relationship that will last.
Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.