It's easy when we're first attracted to someone, to let ourselves imagine them as that perfect person we'd always hoped we'd meet one day. Growing up in a culture where love is over-idealized in movies, fairytales and music, it's no surprise that we often let our imaginations eclipse the reality - that love is only one important ingredient in a successful relationship. Our emotional backgrounds, our culture, and our personal expectations all play a large part in the success of our relationships, whether we care to admit it or not. So what can we do to make sure our relationship is headed where we want it to go, and that we don't get too attached prior to finding out our differences are insurmountable?
The 5 Important Discussions
1. Marriage. All too often, we hear horror stories from women who "stick it out" in a relationship for years, all the while waiting for their partner to pop "the question".
If marriage is something that's important to you, make sure you discuss it with your partner. Do you have a "plan" as to when you expect and and want to be married by? Does it match your partner's life plan? If find your needs for this type of commitment are different, then a compromise must be discussed, or a good hard look must be made about the relationship's future. This is not something you need to bring up right away, but if it's something you find yourself thinking about and factoring into your future, you need to have that conversation before you set yourself up for disappointment.
2. Kids. Although peoples' views can change in respect to wanting children, most adults have a pretty good idea as to whether they see themselves as parents or not. This is not something that's best left for discussion too far in the future - it's a critical lifestyle choice that will alter the path or your life immensely. Attitudes like, "They'll change their mind about it later" are selfish and destructive. If children are an important goal for your future, make sure you're with someone who feels exactly the same way. Having kids with someone who didn't really want them in the first place only hurts the children in the long-run.
3. Money. What is your relationship to money? Are you a spender or a saver, and what is your partner? They say money is the number one topic of argument between couples, so make sure you're on the same page when it comes to finances. Make sure you have common goals as to where your money will go, and that you agree on your long-term plan and short-term spending habits. If one of you is a shopaholic, the other frugal, and neither is willing to compromise, you're simply setting yourself up for countless unsolved arguments.
4. Work. How much of your life is taken up by work - are you a workaholic and does your partner realize this? Are you extremely ambitious? People often make the mistake of wanting and expecting their partners to be just like them in terms of drive and ambition. Would you look down upon a partner who couldn't match your ambition? Would you be happy being with a partner who's "status" in terms of career did not match your own? This of course is tied into money, and how much you want or expect to make in your lifetime. Thinking that your ambition will "rub off" on your partner and that you can change them is again setting you both up for disappointment.
5. Location. This is often tied into work. Where do you and your partner see yourself living? Certain jobs and life situations demand relocation, which can be extremely stressful on a relationship, especially when there are children involved. Is it important to you to stay close to your family, or would you be willing to pick and and move if your partner asked you to? It's easy to say, "Yes - I'd follow them anywhere!" when you're still in the honeymoon phase of a relationship, but some serious thought is required to prepare for this possibility.