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Weekly Musings with Dr. Goodheart

A checklist for determining your love's long-term potential

at last a keeper

At last, a keeper!

~ Sure it happens. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy likes girl. Girl likes boy. It's love at first sight. Or is it lust? Though it's not always impossible, if things seem too good to be true or too good too fast, they generally are. Still, occasionally the fairytale love stories do prevail. To gauge whether or not your relationship is based on love or lust; whether not there is true lasting potential, one needs to objectively reflect on some of the following criteria. Consider it a "Love List" of sorts.

*That said, if you find yourself speculating over one or two of the following scenarios don't fret. As long as you can put your doubts into perspective and see pathways toward overcoming any possible remaining obstacles, then you're on the right rack to long-term-love. Think of these following scenarios as guidelines; possibly highlighting areas where your relationship may, or may not need work.

Love List:

Checklist Criteria 1) "This is Me"

It's tempting to "adjust," or morph into a replica of your partner's dream guy/gal. Still, the moment you agree to confer with changing yourself to be someone you're not, simply because it's someone they want, a HUGE red flag should signal. This is the most obvious way to rate lasting potential. Either your partner not only likes but respects what they see, or they don't; take it or leave it is the attitude you need to maintain. Now that doesn't justify not owning up to your potential character flaws and working towards "bettering yourself" as a person by using the "this is who I am" argument. Your partner should always be a catalyst in helping you become a better version of yourself, rather than becoming someone different altogether.

KEY POINT: Remember being "me" doesn't equal being your partner's other half. It may seem like a version of that at times, but not in the way that you surrender your opinion, preferences, or likes of your own; yours may be distinct and potentially incompatible with your partner's. The real test is judging whether or not those incompatible differences act as a way to better the dynamics of a relationship, or seem too incongruous to reconcile.

Remember to maintain your personal dignity and identity; don't surrender your girls/guy nights; don't compromise you. Don't abandon your wacky wardrobe, instead use discretion as to when and if it's appropriate, etc. You're quirky distinctions are what attracted your partner to you in the first place. Now its time to see if, quirky or no, you can both appreciate each other's eccentricities; within reason, not censor them.

Checklist Criteria 2) Honestly Humiliating

Sure you say you are an open couple; completely honest with each other. But are you really? Just because you are honest about your daily events. doesn't mean you're necessarily being honest about the most fundamental, and important element of your relationship; your feelings. Do you constantly feel like you have to hold your tongue so as not to say anything to offend your partner, despite the fact that what provokes you to want to speak up offends you in the first place? For example, is your partner constantly flirting and you're constantly holding your tongue about it? Not good. Or, are you constantly feeling overly self-conscious and self-censoring around your partner for fear of embarrassing him/her? If so, you're not just being dishonest with your partner about who you really are (by suppressing your natural character), but likewise, you're not being honest with yourself.

KEY POINT: It's important to confront the difficult stuff, be it embarrassing, dangerous, trivial, etc. If you're constantly aware of your censoring either your actions or your informing your partner about certain stuff, or likewise, if you suspect your partner of the same, you may need to sit down with him/her and discuss just how comfortable you are with being completely open and honest with one another. The couples with lasting potential are the one's who can not only confront each other with the uncomfortable things, but join in a team effort to overcome them, be they embarrassing personal ticks, scenarios, family members etc. Humiliation is a natural part of life, and is just as important to honestly admit as other potentially uncomfortable situations.

"It's the relationships that fight as passionately as they love, with an equal respect for each partner, and an equal deference to one another's opinions, that stand the test of time."

Checklist Criteria 3) Same Book, Same Page

Though some partners might try relentlessly to convince themselves they're on the same page, more often than not, they discover in the long run they aren't even in the same chapter, or book; to extend the metaphor. For example: do you really want to live in Tahiti for several years before you settle down, but your partner avidly refuses to leave the states? Or, the obvious: Do you want 5 kids but your partner absolutely does not want any? Questions like these may seem insignificant or irrelevant in the beginning stages of a relationship when you're still testing the "compatibility waters" but the truth is these questions are just as, if not more important.

The key is in determining just how "unwavering" each of you is with your answers to such possibly conflicting scenarios. In the long run if you really do want to live in Tahiti and your partner really never will live out of the U.S. then both of you are just lying to yourselves and drawing out a relationship that's doomed to fail for longer than you have to. What's worse; by holding out even longer you're only making it harder to say goodbye, and consequently, making the pain and the baggage all that more severe. Sure you may be perfect for each other right up to that dilemma about having kids, but even so, if you can never reconcile the answer then you're not on the same page. And couples that aren't on the same page don't stand a very likely chance of surviving longer than the breaking point when that "dilemma" finally surfaces as an undeniable reality.

KEY POINT: Couples with lasting power not only have a pretty solid frame about their own "life path," wants, desires, dreams, etc., but they also have a generally good notion about their partner's values, dreams, etc. Knowing each other's values and more is the first step. The second step is identifying which ones, if any, are conflicting (honestly), and if so, how much each of you are willing to work towards a compromise between your two extremes. Usually the "Tahiti" crises can be solved by a compromise to live in Hawaii, or even the mainland of Southern California, or maybe the Florida Keys. Being able to objectively value your partner's life goals as much as yours is a fundamental component of getting each other on the same page and thus working towards a stable, lasting future.

Checklist Criteria 4) Fun Fighting

No one likes to fight. But as much as people do their best to avoid fighting, unless you're slightly perverse, it's axiomatic that, in the long run no matter how white-picket fairytale perfect your relationship is, fights will ensue: be they little tiffs, spats, or even all out wars. The test is seeing how each of you handle the ripples in the water without completely getting off track. For a relationship to last, smooth sailing needs to prevail after the storm.

For most couples the notorious "first fight" is the big test: the maker or breaker of the relationship. Still, even if you survive your rift over who ate the last cookie, bigger problems like, potentially, infidelity, criminality, etc. may arise where you two will undoubtedly need a bit more substantive conflict resolution tactics than those employed in the "cookie fiasco."

KEY POINT 1: As with any healthy fighting relationship, the key is communication and honesty. Can you genuinely discuss your feelings, concerns, thoughts, hopes, fears, etc. with your partner without fearing that doing so may end your relationship? If not, chances are you're partner may not respect either yourself or the relationship as they should and its likely the relationship is headed towards either, a quick end, or (more tragically) a long-term rocky relationship of self-denial, regret, and psychological abuse with you as victim. And still, generally even the volatile unstable ones also end up in separation; but with far more baggage left behind.


Likewise, is your partner ever psychical with you during your tiffs, be they man or woman? Or, more importantly, do you purposely withhold your feelings and perspectives for fear of your partner responding abusively? These are obvious, though difficult red flags to concede. Still, to be honest with yourself, and truthful to your future, one must acknowledge such possible shortcomings in either you or your partner's behalf: are you the one who tends to get psychical, or overreacts during fights?

KEY POINT 2: When you fight you want to fight passionately. This signals that you care about each other and yourselves enough to be truly passionate and engaged in your argument. Still, just as you want to be true to your feelings, so too do you want to be fair. Allow for each to speak their side, to rebut and/or defend their possible critiques. It's the relationships that fight as passionately as they love, with an equal respect for each partner, and an equal deference to one another's opinions, that stand the test of time. Those who care just how much their partner feels during the good times are likely to be the same type that worry how their partner is feeling during the bad times. That's the key: look out for each other and worry about the other's happiness even when things head south for a bit.

Checklist Criteria 5) Rock Solid

With couples it's best to think of teammate metaphors: your partner should always be that person who's got your back; who won't let you fall; who crosses the finish line with you instead of in front or behind; who pushes you one step further when you're ready to give up; who won't let you give up. You get the point. In short, your partner should be your rock: stable, reliable, dependable, solid, and unwavering. They are to be the dependable hand to hold onto during the good times, and the beacon of hope in the bad. You should always be able to turn to your partner for anything, with anything, in need of anything, and in turn they should always be there; and vice versa. For example: when you're sick does your partner take time and effort to bring you soup, rent movies, or make any other visual gesture towards showing they're considering, and sympathizing with how you're feeling? When you've just been publicly humiliated for a recent scandal, professional or otherwise, does your partner stand loyally by your side, and better yet, stand up for you?


KEY POINT: True love is blind, and though its sometimes a hindrance, still, there's nothing more loyally devout than taking the good with the bad in stride with your partner, even if that means feeling the brunt of their mistake or vice versa. Remember, rocks are unwavering, and just as your partner should be one for you, so should you be one for your partner.