A relationship evaluation can’t be achieved in an afternoon. Set aside a few weeks or even months for this process.
Write an honest letter to yourself or your partner describing your issues and feelings about your relationship – but don’t send it. Handwrite it, to slow down your automatic thoughts.
Discuss your issues with your partner, avoiding accusations. (Use ‘I feel….’ language instead of ‘You always…’ or ‘You never…’). Each partner can propose ways in which he/she can satisfy the needs of the other. (Communicate differently? Plan more regular activities together?)
If you end your relationship, do it mindfully. This is an opportunity to acknowledge what it’s meant to have him or her in your life – even if your partner has behaved destructively – and closes the experience.
SHOULD YOU MOVE IN TOGETHER?
Here’s what to consider before taking that step:
Make sure your motives match
You might see moving in as a step closer to marriage. For your boyfriend or girlfriend, it may be a regular-washing-and-ironing deal, or a way of keeping you happy while delaying making a commitment. To avoid disappointment and arguments, make sure you agree on why you want to live together. Before you move in, sit down and discuss what each of you is hoping to gain from the arrangement.
Don’t do it because you’re insecure
Moving in with someone doesn’t guarantee they’ll stick around. If your relationship’s shaky, living together probably won’t cement it, so wait until you’re in a secure partnership before considering moving in. And avoid pressuring your partner into cohabitation – he or she may end up agreeing to it simply to appease you, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Discuss your needs and no-compromise zones
Do you expect your partner to share cooking and housework duties? Does he assume, for example, that you’d be happy to host his friends for Saturday soccer matches on TV? Are your Friday girls’ nights out a sacred institution? It’s best to air these issues at the start, before they lead to misunderstandings and inadvertently hurt feelings.
Realise no person is perfect
Living together isn’t all candlelit dinners and cosy breakfasts in bed. Because human beings are imperfect creatures, you might have to get used to your partner’s nasty little habits, such as leaving toenail clippings on the side of the bath. If you expect him or her to suddenly conform to your strict standards of neatness and hygiene, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment – not to mention a dreary life of nagging and petty arguments.
Decide how you’ll handle finances
Money is the single biggest couple breaker. It’s likely to be an issue if you live together, but by deciding how you’ll tackle joint finances before moving in, it’s less likely to become a focus. For example, work out your monthly household expenses and consider creating a joint household account into which you both pay a fixed amount each month.
Red alert! Think especially carefully before you buy a house together, buy expensive appliances such as washing machines and stoves together, or swap your personal bank account for a joint account. Keeping your own account helps you retain independence and encourages you to take responsibility for your own finances.
Scary Challenge: WALKING AWAY FROM A PARTNER WHO’S GREAT ON PAPER (BUT YOUR GUT IS TELLING YOU ISN’T THE ONE)
Why it’s hard: It’s about questioning yourself after initially trusting somebody. Also, your cultural and religious beliefs may obstruct you: for instance, in traditional cultures, women especially are encouraged to stay in relationships, not to take flight.
What to do: Consult friends and family who give you valued feedback. If, after leaving the relationship, you doubt your decision, see a therapist to gain perspective.
The risks: You’ll lose the comfort, companionship and support the relationship offered you.
The benefits: You’ll boost your self-esteem, particularly if it’s taken a knock in the relationship. You’ll learn to trust yourself in decision-making, and open yourself up to meeting the right person.
TRY ARGUING INSTEAD OF EXPLODING
It’s a myth that a great relationship is a peaceful one. Arguing itself isn’t a sign that something’s wrong; what you do need to pay attention to, though, is how you argue. Stick to the subject during conflict and don’t let the argument degenerate into a personal attack.
That said, don’t fall for the misconception that a good relationship is one that allows you to vent all your feelings freely – it isn’t. It’s often in the more personal arena that we allow ourselves to be more emotional in our response, and these responses can be destructive if self-control is lost.