How you and your partner handle seven events may be a predictor of the longevity of your love.
Regardless of how close you may feel with your love, until you and your partner have gone through these seven major events, you are circling the periphery of really learning each other. You may wonder, what if we went through a death together. . . I know my sweetheart would amaze me with their sensitivity. When in fact, how your lover acts in the reality of the situation may run contrary to what you’ve envisioned.
These seven events may even be relationship predictors.
1. Losing a loved one . . . yes, pets count
When someone you love dies, it takes your wind and reduces you to a scrap of yourself. You are vulnerable, wondering, pensive, worried. You need reassurance and turn to your partner in this naked, stripped-to-the-core stage. The last concern you want to have is how am I presenting myself? You are you, in all your red-faced, weepy glory, in your anger, and in sharing your opinion that life is unfair. You need an oak during this time, an unquestionable tower who wants you to lean, who reaches through the space between your two bodies with their heart, traversing the unspoken. It’s a defining time, where the reaction of your other can make or break you both, so intense and important is this event. It’s indicative of who your partner is. . .selfish, accepting, nonjudgmental, supportive.
2. Raising a living being together
At our core, we are feeling humans. Every voluntary action we take is rooted in emotion. Does your significant other (SO) nurture, are they playful, do they push themselves to let minor annoyances go? Do they welcome this tiny being, be it your human child, or a fur-baby? These moments reveal to us what’s at the heart of intention. Is this person inherently kind and self-aware, or are they controlling and fearful? When you discover the truth, it may not be your ideal. If your partner seems uncomfortable, it might be because failing in this area is not acceptable to them and the fear of failure makes them uptight. Talk to your mate and soothe their mind by telling them how wonderful and needed they are to you and your mini being. They are wanted and appreciated. Of course, any abusers must be shown the door.
3. Living together
My SO and I began as players in a long-distance relationship. I fantasized about living with him, imagining he would perform perfectly, as if in a film. He would be clean. Our house would smell of lemons and love, our goals easily attained and we would agree on everything. Ah, romance, the key in infatuation, a hijacker taking us into fathomless depths of love. Romance allows us to fool ourselves. What we know now, is a huge part of participating in a tenable relationship is centered in compatibility. Can you handle the decisions this person makes, or doesn’t make? When you get to the point in your relationship when infatuation morphs into the deliberate choice to remain with your love each successive day, you will choose your partner over and over again because you can live with them, their weird foibles and idiosyncratic natures. Or you may not choose them if you find you can’t tolerate who they really are. When you do accept, when you put both of your interests first (without keeping score of who is hanging what picture, displaying what art, picking out the sofa, etc.) then you’ll find you can and want to live together because this is where you realize your comfort.
4. Handling money matters together
Spoiler alert: you are going to disagree. You are going to bang heads over money earmarked for a garage remodel, or a new deck. You are going to tussle over what to do when you have unexpected surpluses, save, spend, a little of both? Make sure you develop a system for your finances, whether it’s a separate account for household expenses, ten accounts, or one joint account. Get very clear about where the money from each of you will go and stick by what you say. Don’t acquiesce to keep the peace. State your concerns calmly, but be prepared to negotiate on issues that are more important to your partner than to you — as long as these wants are not detrimental to the relationship. Don’t force, or pressure your SO to share an account. When you recognize there are many ways to handle this intricate subject, you have a higher percentage of figuring it out as a team.
5. Being Unemployed
No matter the circumstances, life without the predictable structure of a job brings out all sorts of buried emotions. You both become afraid, forecasting into the future about different scenarios, possibly exaggerated nightmares of poverty appear. Fear is a powerful instigator, pulling you into negative and angry responses.This situation is ideal for defenses to surface and verbal attacks upon each other to ensue. The partner without the job may regard themselves as a failure; they will do their best to endure the pressure of fulfilling their financial obligations, but will feel squeezed, then possibly resentful at being put in the position in the first place. They may rebel or grow existential. (Why do any of us have to work?) And they may lash out at you. Understand the fuel behind the fire, soothe as you share concerns. Offer to help them find employment they are interested in, and listen to their fears in a supportive environment you create. If you are the one seeking employment, try to loosen the vice a crank. You are not failing, it’s a curve in the road, but as long as you continue to try, you’re golden. Remove the stigma of any perceived failure, or the idea that your partner views you as less. Unless they voice this opinion, know the failure label is one you paste on yourself.
6. Significant illness
It is designed to separate the patient and their partner physically and mentally. As a person heals, they must do so solo: resting, quiet moments where the mind can find peace. In the interim, your partner fidgets and fusses, praying to solve the question of how they can do enough. But it’s tricky to be there, allowing your partner the serenity to heal, while standing by helpless. Unwanted and alarming thoughts trumpet in the minds of the mates: What does this mean that she is sick? How will this affect my life as the well one? Whomever is healthy secretly hates themselves for even going there, but a significant illness will take you to those ugly places, whether you bought a ticket, or not. In the mind of the sufferer, lurks these questions: Do I have the right to keep him here? We only get one life, who am I to change his? The ponderings are designed to rip the seams of unity apart. When you get honest about feeling the icky and instinctual urges (the survival concerns) you can move past them and back into togetherness.
This is when you shucked instead of jived for the incremental events that when taken in aggregate, can topple the two of you. You have to move sooner than you would like necessitating a stay in a hotel for several months with your three kids. Financial inconveniences nearly drain you and make the money belt tight, tight, tight. Your kids are sick one after the other . . . all winter long. You know this picture . . . life. Balancing truth against expectations and selecting a partner who possesses the ability to bounce back against the unexpected can go a long way toward crafting longevity. We can plan all we want, but life is a loose outline of where we are trying to go and what we think will happen. Until you have lived with the urgent need to complete a major repair on your home, a mother-in-law moving in, a business partner jumping ship, or any of the other million happenstances ready to pounce, you don’t know your partner as well as you think. If you haven’t yet gone through these events, it doesn’t belittle your relationship or discredit your feelings. What is does mean, however, is that a deeper, more meaningful connection is waiting for the two of you.
This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.