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Relationships

How to Be Sure That You'll Make the Right Relationship Decisions

7. Are you able to detect crucial red flags?

Key points

  • Relationships involve key decisions (e.g. should we live together before getting married?). Not being sufficiently thoughtful has consequences.
  • Research shows those who make more thoughtful and intentional decisions have better relationships.
  • The quiz below can help you learn how thoughtful you are on three dimensions: maintenance, seeing warning signs, and thinking through decisions.
Burst/Unsplash
How do you make relationship decisions?
Source: Burst/Unsplash

There are lots of decisions to make when you’re in a relationship. Some are mundane: what to eat for dinner, which movie to see, or where to go on vacation.

Other decisions are more important for your relationship's future: when to say "I love you," when to have sex, whether to move in together, whether to stay together, and whether to have children.

Each key decision is worthy of thoughtful and intentional consideration. Yet research on cohabitation suggests that a majority of couples move in together not because of a purposeful decision, but because of inertia (i.e., it just sort of happens or seems like the next logical step).1 That hardly seems like the best way to plot out your relationship going forward.

This raises an interesting question: Do some people approach relationship decisions more actively and with more thoughtfulness than others? To assess this, researchers from Florida State University2 created the Relationship Deciding Scale.* By seeing where you're at, you can better plan where you want to go.

Take the Quiz

How prepared are you to make the right relationship decisions?

For each item, please indicate how much you agree by using the following scale:

Strongly Disagree 1 2 3 4 5 Strong Agree

  1. I believe I will be able to deal effectively with conflicts in my relationships.
  2. I feel good about making a romantic relationship last.
  3. I am very confident when I think of having a stable, long-term relationship.
  4. I have the skills needed for a lasting stable romantic relationship.
  5. I can recognize early warning signs in a bad relationship.
  6. I know what to do when I recognize the warning signs of a bad relationship.
  7. I am quickly able to see warning signals in a romantic relationship.
  8. With romantic partners, I weigh the pros and cons before allowing myself to take the next 
step in the relationship (e.g., be physically intimate).
  9. It is important to make conscious decisions about whether to take each major step in 
romantic relationships.
  10. Considering the pros and cons of each major step in a romantic relationship is good for chemistry.
  11. It is important to me to discuss with my partner each major step we take in the relationship.
  12. It is better to think carefully about each major step in a romantic relationship rather than “go with the flow.”

Scoring

  • Confidence: Your score on items 1-4 indicates your perceived ability to maintain your relationship (add up your responses to items 1-4; if you scored 16 and up, you are high on this dimension).
  • Seeing Red Flags: Your score on items 5-7 indicates your awareness and perceived ability to deal with relationship warning signs (if you scored 16 and up, you are high on this dimension).
  • Intentionality: Your score on items 8-12 indicates your inclination to thoughtfully consider relationship decisions (if you scored 20 and up, you are high on this dimension).

Is Being More Intentional and Thoughtful Better?

Data from over 900 participants indicates that individuals higher on these dimensions were better at conflict management and resolution, were more dedicated to the relationship, had more self-control, had more positive interactions, and were more satisfied.2 That is, individuals who score higher on relationship decision-making should be able to control their impulses (e.g., avoid kissing random people behind their partner’s back), they should pick up on signs of relationship problems earlier, and should more carefully weigh the pros and cons of starting a long-term relationship, or deciding to move in together.

People already put a lot of time and effort into making decisions about their weddings. This research shows some benefits of doing the same with your relationship more generally.

What to Do?

If you scored low on confidence in maintaining your relationship, or have a hard time seeing red flags, spend more time learning about the psychology of relationships. Chances are, there's a lot that you don't know, and an even better chance that some of what you think you know is actually wrong.

If you scored low on intentionality, start giving your relationship the attention it deserves. Spend more time thinking through your options, and taking perspective. For example, think about what you want your relationship to look like in five years. More importantly, think about the aspects you don't want. Use that to guide decisions and conversations with your partner.

*For this article, the scale has been modified by reordering items and rewording reverse-coded items. This version is not for research purposes. For the original scale, please consult the original article.

Facebook image: fizkes/Shutterstock

References

1. Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. (2005). Measuring and modeling cohabitation: New perspectives from qualitative data. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 989–1002. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2005.00189.x

2. Vennum, A., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Assessing decision making in young adult romantic relationships. Psychological Assessment, 23(3), 739-751. doi:10.1037/a0023287

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