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This article first appeared on Your Tango and has been republished with permission.
If you’re dating, in between relationships, or feeling ready to settle down and get married to "the one", it's time to reflect and ask yourself, "Am I ready for a relationship that will lead to a long-term commitment?"
To further guide you in your self-reflection, there are two crucial questions you need to answer:
1. What do you want your committed relationship or marriage to look like?
2. What are you bringing to the table?
In order to get the relationship or marriage of your dreams, you have to know what you want it to look like and what skill sets and character traits you need to create it!
Successful long-term and healthy relationships don't happen by magic or luck. It requires a tremendous amount of self-awareness and maturity.
So, are you ready to love and commit?
Here are the top four benchmarks of maturity you need to have in a relationship.
Integrity means that we do what we say we will do.
And integrity assumes we are working towards bringing our core values and actions into alignment.
Self-control means that we understand that our actions and words affect others, and are actively learning how to manage our negative emotions.
For example, think about how you handle things like disappointment, anger, loneliness, or failure. Ask yourself what you do when someone hurts your feelings or disagrees with you? How do you handle stress?
The answers to these questions will help you determine what skills and tools you already have in your arsenal to help you maintain your emotional health and healthy interactions with others.
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All relationships require good communication, so what are your communication skills like? Do others think that you’re a good listener?
Can you express your feelings well and can you negotiate and cooperate with people who disagree with you? Are you a good team player?
This is not a popular word, but it is a necessary ingredient in successful relationships. Sometimes we will need to defer gratification or prefer the needs of others over our own.
And sometimes our unconscious and unrealistic misconceptions about relationships can prevent us from taking personal responsibility.
The top three misconceptions that I see in my practice include:
- "If I just meet the right person, I’ll be happy."
- "My partner will meet all my needs."
- "My bad habits will disappear once I find the right person."
In successful relationships, both partners understand that their attitudes determine everything, so they make an effort to develop, what I call, the "habit of happiness".
In other words, rather than expecting their partners to make them happy, they take responsibility for themselves and each other. They don’t blame their partners when things go wrong. Instead, they check in with themselves first and they assume the best of their partner rather than the worst.
Maturity means that we are willing to take responsibility for our actions and reactions and it is demonstrated in relationships in two important ways:
- Personal responsibility: "I am committed to growing my heart and maturing my character to its full potential."
- Partner care: "I am committed to helping my partner become the best they can be."
The next thing to reflect on is our capacity for love. Most of us like to think of ourselves as loving people — and we probably are!
But, take time to ask yourself how loving you really are. Before you begin, ask yourself how you know when someone loves you.
You know it because they show it!
Love in a relationship is not just feelings wafting through the air between people.
Loving feelings need to be expressed through loving actions. And the very real ways we can measure our capacity to genuinely love someone is in our ability to forgive them and sacrifice for them.
Being able to forgive is an essential quality in any relationship. When we live and interact with someone every day, we will inevitably make a lot of mistakes, and so will our partners.
We will hurt each other often and forgiving each other is what allows us to repair and renew our commitment.
Building and sustaining a committed relationship is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. And the hardest. It takes real skill and effort to do it well.
You will need to bring your best self to the table so that you can be a blessing to your partner rather than a burden.
So, before you start looking for "the one", take the time to reflect on these questions: What do you want your committed relationship to look like and what are you bringing to the table?
Then, work on developing the skills and attitudes that will allow you to co-create the partnership of your dreams!
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