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When a dating attraction becomes a relationship deal breaker
Relationship deal breakers don't usually get much attention. They are discussed and written about from time to time, and dating and relationship professionals who highlight their importance when working with individuals and couples who are contemplating marriage or married and struggling with an issue they never saw coming. The worst kept secret about deal breakers found in marriage is that they are often a by-product of what had attracted a spouse to their partner in the first place. This is why they may be hard to see during dating and courtship and why there is a need to find ways to both identify and examine one's attractions before making that big commitment, as not all attractions are healthy ones. The following guidelines can help singles to make the right relationship choices for them.
Make note of those initial attractions
Simply stated, this means making conscious choices regarding who you date, become intimate with, and move towards greater commitment with. Each of these requires you to ask yourself if this is the right step to take with this person at this time; and each of these questions can be informed by identifying what qualities and characteristics this person possesses that would line up well with what you are looking for in a potential partner and relationship.
Ask yourself why you find that quality so attractive
Once you have identified those qualities that most appeal to you; ask yourself why they are important and what they would bring to a relationship, long-term partnership, and/or marriage. It's important to tease out reasons that may have more to do with something you are running away from (past relationship issue or problem), an unmet need or emptiness that only you can meet for yourself, and/or an assumption that your life will be a certain way because this other person possesses this. Many people have chosen a partner based on one or more of these and somewhere down the road found out that their attraction should have instead been a red flag.
Consider any downsides your attraction may have in a long-term relationship
This closely follows the one above in that once you can spot an attraction that may be coming from an unhealthy place, it's important to envision the many ways it could negatively impact a long-term relationship. For instance, if you are attracted to a man because he is strong and assertive and therefore very different from your weak and passive ex--you may be taking on someone who lacks kindness, empathy, who has no tolerance for "weakness," and/or whose behavior can boarder on emotional neglect or abuse. You wouldn't necessarily see these if you were basking in the glow of finding someone strong who would be an in-charge kind of guy, who would have strong opinions, take the lead and take charge of every situation. The old saying, "be careful what you wish for" applies to a scenario like this one.
Reflect on how the relationship might look in 10 years
Again, this one piggybacks on the last one. You will take those potential downsides and envision living with them, through "better or worse, through richer or poorer, in sickness and in health." What will it be like when you are struggling and seeking a shoulder to lean on and a supportive ear and you are basically told to "man (or woman) up?" Your passive but caring ex may begin to look a lot better than Mr. Strong and Silent does. What about when you loved how outgoing he or she was, but now that you are married with a family, they still want to spend a lot time with friends rather than at home with you and the kids. Perhaps they continue to be very outgoing and friendly towards attractive members of the opposite sex that they insist they are only good friends with and this is why they chat and text so often. I think you probably get the picture here.
Life is filled with irony. This is especially so when it comes to love and attraction. Moving into commitment based on assumptions and/or with unrealistic expectations is a major stumbling block for couples after the honeymoon is over. Don't let yourself become a statistic; know your attractions and make sure they are what you want to believe they are.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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