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10 Things to Ask Before You Commit to a Forever Relationship

How to establish a strong foundation before you say, "I do."

Irma eyewink/Shutterstock
Source: Irma eyewink/Shutterstock

Finding the right partner is one of the most important things you will do during your lifetime. In all probability, you’ll go through a few significant relationships before you find the person you don’t want to live without. For some, there will be many; for others, only one or two; and in those rare cases, the “right one” is the only one they’ve ever been seriously involved with.

You might think that the more experiences you’ve had with relationships, the better, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes, having had too many relationships is far too confusing, leaving you to wonder if maybe there’s someone better waiting just around the corner. And so you keep on looking for the real “right one.” Some people have very high expectations for a lifelong relationship, perhaps too high for anyone to fulfill. On the other hand, some people have little idea about what to expect from a committed relationship, but know they like what they see in a particular person, and that seems to be enough. Everyone is different, and each person’s search is its own unique story.

Regardless of how you get to that place where you feel ready to commit to someone else for a lifetime, there is an essential need to establish a basic understanding that will guide you and your partner through your relationship, and the best way to establish the guidance and provide the “language” for the relationship moving forward is to ask some fundamental questions of yourself, and each other.

1. Have you taken the time, energy, and effort to explore and develop who you are?

Before you commit to a lifetime relationship, it's important that you know yourself—the good, the bad, and the ugly—so that the person you bring into the relationship is the most authentic you can be. (This doesn’t mean you stop improving once you’re in a committed relationship. There is always room for growth.) The stability you bring to the relationship will serve to anchor and secure you both as a couple moving forward.

2. What have you and your partner learned from past experiences, especially relationships?

Do you have some insights about what was wrong with past relationships and why those relationships didn’t work (e.g., the problems, conflicts, and areas of dissatisfaction and disagreement between you and previous partners)?

3. Are you honestly willing to acknowledge “red flags”?

Is there a history of cheating, being unfaithful? How about abuse of any kind? Has either partner been an abuser or been abused—physically, verbally, emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually? Is there a history of addiction: problems with drugs, alcohol, gambling, spending money irresponsibly, etc.? How about trouble with the law? How about skeletons in the closet? Are you prepared to reveal secret parts of yourself, perhaps things you’ve done that you’re ashamed of, that you may try to ignore or hide?

4. Do you trust your partner completely?

Committed partners are consistently reliable and responsible. Trust means that partners are sure that they can count on each other to come through no matter what. Complete trust implies that there is no deception of any kind.

5. Can you effectively communicate with each other?

Communication is a skill (often acquired over time) that requires focused attention to what your partner is saying. It means that you give your partner the floor to express themselves fully. You listen and you don’t interrupt. All too often, people think they are communicating when they discuss and argue, but in fact, they have a hard time hearing and accepting a perspective that may be very different from their own. With good communication, there is no shouting down, criticizing, demeaning, and/or insulting in order to “win” a point. Good communication means leaving your ego at the door. You communicate to clarify and compromise.

6. Are you willing to share life on equal terms?

Can you accept another person on the very same terms that you would want to be accepted? Do you admire your partner as a completely unique individual apart from yourself? Do you respect, support, and encourage your partner to be the best they can be? Aside from partners and lovers, are you best friends?

7. Is there room for each of you to grow and expand your potential within the context of your relationship?

This is an especially essential piece. Think of a pie: Your relationship may take up a fair amount of the pie, but there needs to be a portion that centers on an individual’s needs. Circumstances change during the course of a relationship. What works at a certain stage may not work later on. Remember that as much as a couple shares, each partner has individual needs and interests — friends, hobbies, projects, causes—that may not be part of the relationship but need to be pursued by the individual. “Power playing” with your partner unfairly takes them hostage.

8. Do you share basic values and ideals?

Do you want the same basic things out of life—lifestyle, where you live, having a family, or religious, spiritual, and moral beliefs? Repeated open discussion is essential to identify what you both want to achieve in life and in your relationship. Any major differences need to be discussed and ironed out before you commit to a lifetime together. There should be no surprises later on.

9. Are you on the same page about family?

Family can become a source of conflict. This includes the family of origin, the extended family, and the family you plan on having together. Is either partner too involved with family of origin issues/dynamics, to the extent that it would interfere with their commitment to your relationship? While family of origin and extended family can be a wonderful source of love and support, it’s essential that partners set clear boundaries so that their own intimacy and privacy is respected.

10. Do you agree about finances?

Is there an expectation that money is shared, or is there an agreement that each person retains and manages their own money? Too often, one partner is left to manage the family finances, while the other is left in the dark about what money there is and how it's being used. There should be absolute transparency, regardless of how you and your partner decide to manage finances, and there should be no use of funds without your partner being aware.

These 10 questions should serve as sound guidance while making your decision to commit. Your answers will form the foundation of your relationship. However, even with all the right answers, success will still depend on the work of the individuals throughout the life of the relationship, to be aware and sensitive to the needs of each other and to the needs of the unfolding relationship.