How To Know If You Are In The Right Relationship?

A couple sitting on a bench by the lake in a green park

Caveat: I’m not a therapist—I just like to pretend to be one. What I am is an ordinary human being with decades of life experience who’s currently separated from my husband and using this time to determine if my marriage is salvageable. 

Under the category of “Things I Wish I’d Known Before I ______ (fill in the blank),” I’m going to share with you some of my own personal retrospection and dig-deep conclusions through a list of questions that you can ask yourself about your partner. 

I hope the answers help you find validation for your current partnership….or realize that it’s best to end an unworkable relationship. 

Indecision is no way to live a life.

Hey, I know how hard it is to find the right person. There are twenty-some losers for every keeper, but here’s the bottom line: Fixer-uppers are a lot of trouble, whether it’s a property or a partner. My best advice? Start with a solid foundation.

Feeling brave? Then let’s dive in.

  1. Everything you need to know is present on first date. (Or at least the first three dates.) Did he show up late with an excuse? How does he treat the wait staff? Does he tip fairly? Does he say he will follow-up with you at a certain time and then doesn’t? 
  1. Have the “exes” talk early. Pay attention for signs that she might still be attached to her last relationship. Some people will stay with their partners while dating others under the guise that they don’t want to hurt their current girlfriend, husband, or wife (all while promising that the tired relationship will be over very, very soon.) Huge red flag. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. 
  1. How does he talk about his ex? Or for that matter, anyone who’s a difficult presence in his life? How does he talk about his mother? One day, in a less than rosy moment, that could be you he curses out. 
  1. Fighting style matters. Is your partner a communicator or a screamer? What dynamics come to light when you fight? If you are being gaslighted in month three, I can pretty much guarantee you will be gaslighted well beyond your 30th anniversary.  
  1. Can your partner apologize? A true apology acknowledges what that person did wrong, not just the pseudo-version that goes like this: “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” Can your partner state the impact that her behavior had on you and finish by suggesting how she hopes to act differently in the future? Apologies are not easy for anyone. If your partner can accomplish this skill from the get-go, it’s a great sign.
  1. Competitive resolutions. If your fights always end with this sentence: “Let’s just agree to disagree,” then one or both of you may be unwilling to be wrong.
  1. Consider your partner’s worst trait. If you have to deal with this quality for the next thirty years, will you still be sane?
  1. What’s your partner’s view on marriage? Before you take any major step, know whether she considers divorce to be a viable option or whether she believes marriage is a lifetime commitment. Marriage is a rollercoaster and without a strong sense of loyalty and commitment, no amount of future marriage therapy may be able to save your relationship.
  1. If having a family one day is important, then discuss having children often. Are you on the same page with timing and family size? The woman who carries the babies gets to decide this. Will your partner respect your choices? Bonus points for having multiple talks about how you each want to raise them. Are you in sync?
  1. Will your partner make a good parent? Here are two ways to tell: housecleaning and pet care! 
    1. If he’s the first to discover dishes stacking up in the kitchen, does he tell you about it or does he clean it up without prompting? This is the kind of person who will change diapers, trust me. 
    2. How is she with pets? Does she leave the party earlier than she might want because she knows the dog needs to go out, even if it means cutting short plans? Or is she the kind of person who dismisses the issue and figures she’ll just swat the dog on the nose before cleaning up the inevitable mess?

I suspect that many relationships will not pass this test. And I do believe in second chances. After all, we all need time to grow up, right? But stay especially tuned in to behaviors that are repetitive. Fifth, eight, and 89th chances are not okay.

If you are truly brave, then I suggest you return to question number one and consider how you might stack up under this same criteria. If you don’t do so well, then maybe it’s time to consider whether you’re ready for the next step, too.

Remember this: every second that you and your partner are in an unhealthy relationship is time you can’t get back. It’s also time where both of you have shut the door on the opportunity to find that true right match.
Choose happiness. Always.

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Lisa Schulman

The author of the blog, BestLifeTakeTwo, where she explores the idea of saving your marriage and finding your identity by spending time on your own. She is the author of award-winning young adult novels, STOLEN SECRETS, and LEAGUE OF STRAYS. She is a creative writing tutor for all ages and the Co-Regional Advisor of the Bay Area’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Most of her work can be found on her website.