Can you have everything in a relationship? For those who can, if it lasts well beyond the honeymoon, you deserve more than applause. Cheers and hugs all around.
For all other satisfied twosomes, your mate will fall short of scoring 100%, and so will you.
Perhaps those who succeed in living with the imperfect are the couples we should praise. They will work for their happiness, including the effort to recognize what should be changed and what can be lived with — accepted without recrimination.
Given that, try to peer through the springtime bloom of new encounters, those glorious moments of newborn bliss. Here is a two-sided list of qualities in your present or future lover to consider waiting for, insisting upon, or setting aside.
Which of these do you want? Name the items you can’t live without. Perhaps make a separate list of the qualities sure to bring unhappiness and discontent.
Evaluate for yourself the benefits and the costs.
- Does your mate give you the freedom you want or try to limit you?
- Are his parents wonderful to you and each other? Study the model he’s had for how relationships work. That might be your future.
- If the one you love doesn’t modify some of his characteristics, would you be able to accept that? Which might be deal-breakers?
- Is he playful, unsmiling, or both?
- Does he treat people with kindness, including acquaintances and strangers, regardless of rank? Does he display generosity of attitude and temperament?
- How much unsolicited judgment and criticism is sent your way?
- Are necessary and sincere apologies offered? Will this individual then reflect upon himself and change, trying not to repeat the errors? There will be errors, you know.
- Sexual compatibility, anyone?
- Are you in-sync and accepting of his hobbies, friends, money management, musical affections, sports, and fitness? How about pets, travel, and hopes for the future? If you assume rather than search for the answers to what the other is like, you might be wrong.
- How self-aware is your romantic partner? Many people believe they know themselves despite enormous blindspots. If the intimate friend cannot now recognize his dark side, you may find yourself in the dark.
- Do you agree about taking chances versus choosing the safe path? Do your preferences for deliberation or speed and patience or impatience match?
- What about sharing a sense of humor?
- Have the two of you created a workable division of housekeeping, managing finances, doing the laundry, and other life tasks? Do you coincide in terms of tidiness and messiness?
- Is he sensitive to you? Does he listen and provide comfort or point to solutions you didn’t request when you desire an attentive ear and consolation?
- Are differences resolved with words, careful listening, compromise, apology, change, and recovery without blinding rage? Do your hands touch in tenderness?
- Will the spouse defend you with family, friends, and children?
- Consider learning about his history of friends and lovers. If he hasn’t made them last, why not? He might not see any pattern, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
- Would he discuss such a list of questions as this and honor the reasons for the request?
- Do you share a vision of childrearing?
- Are you attractive to each other and satisfyingly attentive to scent, attire, and appearance?
- What about lies, towering or tiny, deceit, and fidelity?
- How do you mesh in being direct or indirect, confident, and assertive?
- Where do you stand on religious faith or its absence? Is the other accepting of any difference in this domain? Does he fathom why the two of you might not agree and accept it?
- Are your ideas respected?
- Couples often say they were first drawn together by the fun and the physical in the early stages of their relationship. Is there anything else that recommends the other now?
- Does he expect you to read his mind or tell you about his dissatisfaction?
- Will he fix his eyes on yours and love the soul beneath the beauty, recognizing what makes you unique and that which is necessary to fill your heart?
- While reading this list and considering concerns about your partner, have you recognized them in yourself?
- Does he know you as you wish to be known? Have you shown him who you are?
Any questioning of this sort could go on. Add whatever you wish.
Such queries are often not answerable by asking your lover but by shared interaction, observing him, and looking in the mirror at yourself.
I suspect that if we lived until the end of time, most of us wouldn’t be listing our accomplishments. I’m guessing the money we earned, the episodic urgency of vacuuming the rug and thinking of our best vacation wouldn’t matter much.
We’d think instead of love — or better — embrace it and the ones we care about. What else justifies our gratitude more than all the other good fortune we might have had, the trophies and awards we’d won or lost, and status high or low?
Sharing our hearts in generosity, protection, respect, laughter, and kindness, would be the most telling source of fulfillment, even in exciting and successful lives. So it seems to me. After all…
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” *
*The words of William Bruce Cameron, 1963, not Einstein, as often assumed.
The top photo is Sunrise Coming into Miami in November 2022 by Laura Hedien, with her permission: Laura Hedien Official Website.
It is followed by two works by Mark Rothko. The first is No. 13, White and Red on Yellow, 1958, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The second is Untitled, No. 11, 1963 from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
I have chosen these paintings because the late works of Rothko can be best appreciated if you take some time to look at them.
I’d suggest you begin with the large, fluffy white, gray, and yellow rectangle in the first Rothko mural. Focus on the center and wait. You won’t have to wait long.
You will find this work of art changing its qualities the longer you do. So do people, including those you love or hope to love.
Wonderful article! I am blessed to be in a great relationship and are thankful that many of your points we already “subconsciously” achieved! And are also still growing and adjusting independently as maturing adults. So thankful!
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Thank you, Laura. You and your husband sound like great exemplars of how to make love last.
Congratulations to you both!
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Oh my. I read this last night when you posted it and returned to it this morning, as a meditation, especially because of this:
“Have the two of you created a workable division of housekeeping, managing finances, doing the laundry, and other life tasks? Do you coincide in terms of tidiness and messiness?”
While I think the entirety of your list is on point in every way – what important considerations each is. The reminder that daily living and dividing up chores, with an awareness of what matters to each is crucial. I’ve seen far too many otherwise solid relationships crumble due to an inability to communicate (with respect, as you noted) about household chores. I will save this post for sharing with our DD – dear daughter. It serves as a powerful punch list to help her navigate a relationship challenge. Thank you, dear Dr. Stein! 💗
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Thank you, Vicki. DD will have a good example of what it takes to make a good marriage. You and the “Hubster” have given her a great gift.
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I hope so! What a lovely thing to hear. Thank you! 🥰
As you already know, Dr. Stein, my marital relationship collapsed after ten years under the stressors of emigration to Brazil. Based on your two-sided list of qualities for a lasting relationship, I can see that our relationship was doomed from the beginning on so many counts.
Affective forecasting is difficult for the best of us, Rosaliene. The divorce rate reminds us of how hard it is to maintain relationships, even without a move to a new country with a new language. And yet, life has not defeated you. You are a brave soul with a good heart.
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I appreciate your kind words, Dr. Stein ❤
Sense of humor, self-awareness, kindness, agreement on pets, respect, and so much more – wow, this is a great list.
It’s wonderful how easy you make writing a list like this look – but each point has so much wisdom with it, especially in the switch to ask these things about ourselves. I’m keeping this by my date book. Thank you, Dr. Stein!
Thanks you, Wynne. I’m pleased that the list looks easy. After the thousands of conversations and interviews I’ve had, I’ve learned a bit. George Bernard Shaw put something similar this way: “Few people think more than two or three times a year. I’ve made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.” Hope that gives you a laugh!
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It most certainly gives me a laugh — and a smile!
The list presents challenges when one in the couple has an avoidant personality. The question of what is worth giving up becomes daunting.
Agreed, Ricardo. An important point. Thank you for your comment.