By: Marty Nemko, Ph.D.
Despite the high breakup rate, many people want to be in a relationship. Some of the reason is volitional —They simply feel better in a couple. But other people are heavily driven by convention: It’s normative to be a couple.
Whether you’re currently in a relationship or not, here are some questions that may help you get clearer on what’s right for you, at least for now. If you worry that your answers won’t be fair-minded enough, put yourself in the shoes of the wisest person you know. What would s/he answer?
Do think about your current and previous relationships:
When you consider both the good and bad, does your track record suggest that you would be wiser to be in a relationship or be solo? Consider the sexual, the out-of-bed life, your partners’ strengths that you appreciated as well as the weaknesses you had to endure. Think about your discussions. How often were they constructive? How often did they devolve into fights that didn’t result in a positive resolution? To what extent do you feel the compromises were worth it?
If your answers to the previous questions suggest you’d be wise to be in a relationship, what if anything should you do differently? If you’d be looking for a new relationship rather than the one you’re in, should you hold out for a steadier person? A more adventurous one? Someone who is more sexual or less? Someone who wants kids or brings a child(ren) to the relationship? Who uses or doesn’t use mind-altering substances? Is there anything else that is, for you, a key factor in a good romantic partner?
When you’re in the relationship, whether your current long-standing one or a new one, what should you notice, good or bad, in the other person’s behavior? Compatible level of intelligence? Kindness vs. selfishness? Common sense? Pride in appearance? What else is important to you in a partner’s behavior?
What do you need to be careful about in your own behavior?
Does reviewing your answers to the preceding questions make you more eager to be in a new relationship? Stay in your existing one? Should you be pickier or less picky? Do any of your answers suggest what should be non-negotiable?
Do your answers suggest any changes you want to make in your behavior in a relationship: More giving or more selfish? More responsible or more cavalier? More processing of feelings or less? More patient or more demanding?
Or should you be solo, at least for now? If so, think about the periods in your life in which you weren’t in a significant romantic relationship. What did you like about it? What didn’t you? Do your answers make you want to do anything different: work harder or less hard? Make your home more attractive or spend less time and money on that? Spend more time at home or go out more? Be truly solo or make new friends or spend more time with existing ones, perhaps deepening the friendship? Fellow Psychology Today blogger Bella DePaolo writes authoritatively about singlehood.
Those are a lot of questions. And as when a physician has you fill out a long questionnaire knowing that usually no more than one or two are likely to be significant, is there one takeaway or maybe two that you actually want to commit to remembering or even acting on?