It's a family affair

It's a family affair

He and his family had concerns about the relationship before he married. His wife ended up in an affair and pregnant by another man. It’s heartbreaking but not surprising. Parents and friends can see things you can’t or don’t want to. They act like your gut when you’re ignoring yours. What do you do if you get feedback from them that you don’t like?

You have to know yourself and what you need in order to make heads or tails of it. Here’s an exercise to help. Make a list of everyone you’ve dated. Write what worked and what didn’t about each. Things to include: shared interests, how you communicated, values, views on the future, sex, and how you tackled practical everyday matters like handling money, energy levels, and gender roles. Look for what you learned about what you need. Say you never talked about sex. Create a statement that says what you wish had happened: “We talk openly about our sex life so we know how to satisfy each other.” When every item is stated in positive terms, you can categorize them.

Sort them into requirements, emotional needs, functional needs, and wants. Identify your relationship requirements first. They’re deal breakers. Things like wanting kids, taking responsibility for actions, monogamy, or sharing political views. Ask yourself: “Would this relationship eventually end if I didn’t have this?” If yes, without exceptions, it’s a requirement. You’ll likely have between eight and 12, says David Steele, author of Conscious Dating.

Emotional and functional needs are next. When emotional needs are met you feel loved and cared for. Honoring differences of opinion, and feeling supported and listened to may make the list. Functional needs speak to how you get through the day. Think about organization, initiating activities or punctuality. Ask, “Will the relationship end without this”? If yes, no exceptions, bump it up to a requirement. If no, ask “Will this bug me, if it doesn’t happen?” Unmet needs lead to disagreements that can be resolved, but won’t lead to relationship death.

Wants are the icing on the cake and add fun. They’re shared interests like listening to music, running or traveling. If wants aren’t met, there are other ways to enjoy each other.

Knowing what you need, you can weigh your loved one’s concerns. Are they picking up on a requirement that you missed, or is it merely a want or need that you can negotiate? Romantic notions of love aren’t enough to guide partner choice. You get second opinions on your health and investments, why would love be any different?

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