Benchmark #1: You Have No Doubts

July 6, 2016

expression of doubtIn my last post I laid out ten criteria for judging whether a new relationship is likely to last. Several of you have requested that I go into more detail on each of the criteria, and I think that’s a good idea. Let’s review each one in turn and discuss how each might be useful to you. Today’s benchmark, from 10 Ways to Know Your Relationship Is The Real Deal:

1. √ You have no doubts about the relationship.

Successful relationships begin with a certain kind of early commitment: the strong wish to keep going, to see where it goes, to make it work. That desire to give the relationship every chance of success comes from a very strong feeling that this could be it. He could be the one. No prior relationship has felt so right. There’s a conviction and a certainty that this really, really matters.

Where does that strong feeling come from?

It comes from extremely positive early experiences that signal the potential for very high compatibility. Some examples of strong early signs:

  • Sparks flew at the first meeting.
  • Both of you took the risk of clearly expressing interest toward one another. All risks have been mutual and shared.
  • You had a great first conversation.
  • You have a sense that you have a lot in common, and you’re eager to discover more.
  • The time you’ve spent together has been fun, even joyous.
  • You feel attractive and alive when you are together.
  • You can’t wait to get together again.
  • You know your friends and family would think this person is great.
  • You realize that no one is perfect, but you think you’ve found someone who is perfect for you.

How do doubts creep in?

There are lots of ways you can begin to have doubts about a relationship, even though you’re crazy about someone.

1. You perceive the feelings are not equal or entirely mutual.

It’s essential that both parties feel equally strongly at the start of a relationship. If you perceive that you’re more invested than the other person, or vice versa, you will doubt the match.

2. There are circumstances beyond your control that create obstacles to your future happiness.

These might be related to timing, geography, family background, health, relationship history, or a thousand other things. The more complications in a person’s life, the harder it is to establish a committed relationship, e.g:

  • Traveling for work constantly
  • Moving far away
  • Ties to previous partners via marriage, children, shared property, etc.
  • Cultural barriers that make you fear disapproval from family and friends

Doubts take hold when people are not 100% free to be together as they wish.

3. As you get to know each other better, the idealized version of your partner falls away.

This is a challenge in all relationships. Early on we project perfection onto our partner. As time passes, the quirky habit of folding the Kleenex just so before using it becomes odd and annoying. She covers your bathroom sink with her makeup. He leaves the toilet seat up.

Sometimes you learn something terrible. I know one young woman who was in love with a man, then discovered from his friend that he’d fathered a child with a random hookup two years ago. He had no role at all in the child’s life – including financial support. She didn’t want to be with someone who already had a child, especially one he pretended didn’t exist. She was devastated he’d hidden the truth from her. Their wonderful relationship was built on deceit.

In my post about Jonathan Haidt’s work on companionate love, I quoted him as saying that the period where couples begin to shift from passionate to companionate love is where a lot of breakups happen. The dopamine system settles a bit and we see our partner more clearly. Haidt argues that this is a good thing, and that no one still in that passionate phase should marry. When the dopamine high wears off, doubts may creep in.

4. Some people are natural doubters.

Unfortunately, some people are naturally anxious, skeptical or risk averse. This makes them unable to give and/or receive love, and prevents the formation of successful relationships.

Fortunately, we are capable of change. We can work on our emotional triggers, our responses, our attitudes and our fears. This kind of self-development is hard, but once we do it, it makes everything easier, including finding love. If we don’t make these necessary changes, we’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Then we wonder why “all the good ones are taken.”

5. We have unrealistic expectations.

It’s important to have high standards in order to filter relationship prospects effectively. But the kinds of standards we set can have a dramatic effect on our relationship prospects. You’ll notice that none of the criteria I listed in the original post have to do with income, facial hair, bachelor pad decor or how many days notice you should require before agreeing to a date. Be choosy about the important stuff, and cultivate a “live and let live” attitude as much as you can about the less important stuff.

The Bottom Line

Relationships are made up of two people – you and your partner. Doubts can creep in from either side. If you have done the necessary work on yourself and are relationship worthy, then you should be searching for the person who makes you feel liked, admired, attractive, cared for, safe and secure.

When you find that person, you will have no doubts. That feeling of certainty is the first step in creating a successful relationship.

Have you had the experience of doubts creeping in, signaling the beginning of the end? Have you felt certain about someone from the start and known you were beginning a great relationship? Is there a way we can overcome doubts to protect or nurture relationships? Should we? If yes, then how?

Let’s discuss.