Brenda (not her real name of course) wasn’t the first client to ask me for advice about how to figure out whether she loved her spouse enough to spend the rest of her life with him. For some reason, when she asked, I felt a spark of desire to write down a formula of sorts – for her, as well as you – from which to measure the extent of desire to stay in a committed relationship. I decided upon a set of ten questions from which to begin the process of evaluation and making a decision that will, no doubt, alter the shape of life events to come. So, here goes:
- When you hear good news or something of note, who’s the first person you want to share this with? If it’s not your spouse, then you may want to consider why not? In addition, consider what motivates you to share with the other person first? Is it the way that he or she matches your level of excitement? The questions that he or she asks to show interest? If it is your spouse, my guess is that he or she shows just the right level of interest and enthusiasm so as to encourage you to want to connect often.
- Are you able to show your natural self to your spouse and know that he or she loves you – for better or worse? By natural self, I mean the most genuine you – the part of you that’s sometimes hidden behind a mask.
- Are you able to work through arguments and come up with resolutions? Being able to do this, most of the time, typically inspires good feelings within a couple and makes each partner feel more connected to the other.
- Do you share the same values? This is an important part of any relationship and without sharing the same beliefs and values about how you want to conduct yourself in the world, it may be difficult to truly feel connected and loving towards one another.
- Do you feel that you are each other’s priorities and that you have one another’s backs or do you feel ridiculed or undermined in front of friends and family members? If you are put down or condescended by your spouse, it’s unlikely that you will feel loving towards him or her.
- Do you make enough time for one another in your relationship? Is there a good balance between work and play? This is often a chicken or egg situation since if you’re not feeling loving towards one another, then you are less likely to want to spend time together. However, the less time you create for one another, the less likely you are to feel loving.
- When he or she is not feeling well, do you feel the inclination to help your partner with tasks such as walking the dog or do you do so under duress or because you feel a sense of obligation to or because you are afraid he or she won’t do the same for you when you need help? Love comes from the heart and if you have to even think twice or are put out by helping your partner, then there is a greater chance that you are helping out for reasons other than love.
- Do you accept each other’s family members, through good and bad? Are you able to recognize that no dispute between you and his or her family members is worth losing your relationship over? This is a tough one because it’s often hard to overlook extended family issues. However, if you truly love your partner, you will likely try to make the situation better for both of you and so long as you’re feeling supported by one another, able to put his or her family’s issues to the side – where they belong.
- When you think about retirement is he or she in the picture? Part of this depends on what your long term life goals are and another part on whether you can imagine growing old together.
- When you think of life when the kids leave, can you bear the thought of being alone together? Children often act as a buffer in relationships, protecting you from having to confront some of the bigger issues. When children leave, you are forced to face what may be creating problems. If you’ve been disconnected or not in love for years, then thoughts of being without the kids can create anxiety. This is a tell tale sign that things are not all that they could be.
Keep in mind that being in love and loving someone are somewhat different. When people talk about being in love, there are typically associations with butterflies and sparks. Loving someone may not be as romantic, but can be a deeper kind of love, a more mature kind of love that you grow into.
I read your column “committed to marriage for life”. I must say these are best summed up questions relating to the topic I have ever read.
Hope each and every couple is able to do justice to these points.
– B Gupta, Thornhill, Markham