Dating is a glorious experience and one which goes beyond finding a long term partner. If you are in a place of ease and feel no pressure to settle down, then dating is a time to become more and more self-aware of who and what brings out the best in you. Many a girl has fast tracked courtship because of the mission of securing a husband.

Considering that courtship before commitment is probably the most flexible time in terms of mapping out the relationship trajectory, isn’t it wise to take some time before making the decision to tie the knot. It’s good to see how you contribute to the building blocks of your relationship as a couple. Can you with confidence state what the basis of your intentions are towards each other? 

In the event that you do feel that it’s time to get serious, think about just how much the man you are choosing will determine your joint happiness or sadness. This man comes with his own set of challenges, a unique and personal story filled with other people whom impacted him in deep ways. When two people meet and fall in love, the stories they share tend to be happy ones, so it’s worth your effort to offer a space to share the more unsavory memories. Essentially, open yourself to the reality you’re getting into.

Talk about everything

As you bond, there are some things you’ll negotiate after the fact and others you’ll discuss beforehand. Oftentimes, things you may not think of as problematic only show themselves when either of you does something distasteful. When this happens, deal with it by stating your case clearly and be careful not to remain silent or else it escalates. 

Now, the better option is pre-emptive conversations. Even though you can’t prepare for everything, talking about some do’s and dont’s at least helps reduce the amount of things you’ll fight over in the moment. It’s surprising how many couples don’t discuss important expectations in advance like what their families of birth expect from their partner or the kind of professional life each wants in the future, where to live, money management or how important hands on parenting is. 

An excellent book packed with intimate conversation discussion questions to really get to know each other’s needs is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. Besides easier questions like ‘what is my favorite color?’, there are some that illicit deeper knowledge, for instance ‘what stresses am I facing right now?’ or ‘what medical problems do I worry about?’. If you need a boost in what to talk about, start with this book. Set aside time to ask the right questions and when you do, use the answers to talk about the future you hope for together.

Practice conflict resolution

Have the difficult discussions and practice conflict resolution with small problems. You can only know how to resolve conflict by having it. Couples who challenge each other often and have opposing opinions on issues tend to realize quickly the importance of respect for difference. Of course arguments can get out of hand but the advantage of constantly discussing these things while dating is the goodwill buffer at this stage. The intensity of the love helps overcome the tension when disagreements do happen. 

Wouldn’t you rather know how angry, frustrated or upset you can get early on? Once you do, you’ll know see who compromises, who sulks or walks away and the one who reaches out to mend things. When you do, you can discuss after the fact how both your conflict and conflict resolution styles contribute to the relationship. From there, continue to fine tune this part of the relationship. 

Couples who don’t disagree may harbor hurt feelings which may eventually blow up in other problematic habits or behaviors. It’s not about changing who you are, but understanding the way you handle negative situations and the emotions that come with them to become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent.

Who Else Matters

How the relationship progresses depends heavily on your early interactions with other people. An example is of this is whether a couple includes or excludes friends or close family in their growing relationship. If the couple prefers to exclude kin, starting this way usually leads to difficulties in including them when problems arise. The couple may prefer to solve their own problems, which in itself is a great way for them to remain connected, but it may be harmful if they can’t reach out to a third party to break a deadlock or give perspective when needed.

When you bring with you a well-known support system and create clear boundaries on how they play a part in your love life, it offers added strength which you can choose to call upon in difficult times. In the long run, it’s easier when you have support.

Build the framework early, focus on nurturing your love for each other and take your time to understand each other’s internal and external worlds as you prepare for long term love.

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