Want to win in relationships? Here are a few tips. One thing you should know is that I am not an expert. I learn new things about dating, relationships, and marriage everyday. These are just a few of the many things I’ve learned and hopefully these will help some of you have richer relationships. Note: these are tips, not rules.
I write with the view of a successful relationship being one that can “go the distance,” the “distance” meaning getting married. I discourage any relationships that don’t have this perspective in mind.
1. Only pursue and maintain a relationship with someone that you can marry
Keep in mind, dating and maintaining a relationship are completely different things. I can go on 10 dates with someone without them being my girlfriend. However, I think after about the 4th or 5th date you probably need to define the relationship.
I am not saying you have to know that he or she is the one before you get into a relationship. I am simply saying you should be able to see them as potentially being someone you would want to spend your life with. There is no acceptable reason to be in a relationship with someone who you don’t think you will be with forever. Otherwise, you are with them for the wrong reasons. Some of these reasons may look like; you don’t like being alone so you are always with someone, you need sex so it is important to always have someone around, you like to have fun and its better when there is someone with you…etc. All of these things are apart of healthy growing relationships but they should not be the staple that holds things together. If you get a girlfriend because you need to have sex, you are doing it wrong. If you get a boyfriend because you need to feel loved and beautiful, you are doing it wrong. Stay away from people who are just filling a spot in your heart.
If they aren’t marriage material, leave them alone.
It’s easy to say “I only want to be with someone who I can see myself with,” but its a lot harder to pick them. The next tip for picking successful relationships is
2. How you pick
Some people have no idea what they are looking for. We are either too strict or to loose in our picking. We want someone skinnier but not too skinny. Someone with good morals but someone who still likes to have fun. Someone who will talk to me but will listen to me. But, in these things we haven’t really narrowed down the search.
Make a list of qualities you would like to see in your lover. Depending on your list, there will most likely never be anyone who meets every qualification, and they don’t have to. The list is for you to know and understand who you are and what you are looking for. This is a great thing to have when you meet someone with potential and will prevent you from making irrational judgements.Too often we get caught up in the emotions of having something new and exciting, and we tend to ignore or compromise in areas that are really important to us. The list helps remind us what we are looking for as well as keeps us from acting solely on emotion.
Here are a couple really important things to consider when looking for a relationship.
3. Where you look
Would you go hunting elephants in the mountains of Northern California? If you actually wanted to kill one you wouldn’t because there are no elephants there. You may find some deer, mountain lions, bobcats, and if you are really lucky you might find a moose. But you won’t find what you were originally looking for.
The same goes for dating. If you are looking for a nice, Christian man, ideally you wouldn’t find him in a strip club (at least I hope not). But that one seems obvious. Let me give you a trickier example. I enjoy watching UFC. Every 6 months or so there will be a big fight so me and my friends will get together and go to a bar to watch the fight. I rarely drink but I do enjoy hanging out with the bro’s every now and then. If I met a girl at BarWest grill in downtown Sacramento, this isn’t really a location that highlights the character of who I am, what my life looks like, or the kind of person I am looking for. Now, I am not saying I am too good for someone or that I could never find my dream girl in a place that I rarely go to, but meeting in a place like this doesn’t really highlight who I am. I am much more likely to find someone I am compatible with at church or volunteering for a nonprofit organization than at a bar on a Saturday night. Again, it is not because I am “better” but because those events better calibrate with who I am. The same goes for someone who attends church for an event. If I showed up to church for the first time to watch my nephew get baptized and I notice that the worship leader for the church is smoking hot, trying to kindle a relationship here misinterprets who I really am, what my life looks like, and the kind of person I am looking for.
This is not a rule! You can find love anywhere if you look for it! This is a tip to help you in your love-quest!
4. Are they attractive
This seems to be everybody’s favorite. Everybody wants someone attractive and its important to pick someone that you are attracted to, otherwise you will always be telling yourself that you settled for something less. If you are going into a relationship with the mindset “I am settling for less,” it won’t be long before you get what you really deserve, to be alone. You need to be attracted to them.
Buyer Beware! Someone’s appearance is only a small piece of how attractive they are. Beauty is more than what you put on in the morning. If you picked someone solely based on what they look like, eventually you will decide that you are no longer attracted to them. Some of the most physically attractive women I have ever met have had horrible personalities and it makes me not interested in them at all because that is not attractive. Another thing to keep in mind, if you pursue somebody just because of what they look like, when their physical beauty begins to fade away, in your eyes, so will their attractiveness. It’s important to look past the eye candy and see the beauty of each person’s heart because 40 years from now, the beauty of their heart may be the only thing they have going for them.
Here is a little piece of how I view the future woman in my life.
5. Are they spiritual
What do you believe in? I am a Protestant Christian. With that being said, I will only date other Christians. This is not because I’m self-righteous or think Christians are better than everyone else. This is simply because my faith is so important to me that I can’t share my life with someone who doesn’t align with my spirituality. If you are an atheist, date only other atheists. The highest divorce rate among types of people in the U.S. is those who have different spiritual beliefs, meaning a Muslim and a Christian or a Catholic and an Atheist. This is because in the beginning it wasn’t a big deal but overtime it begins to tear marriages apart.
Decide how important it is to you. A lot of people believe in God but aren’t apart of any religious fellowship or organization. Get to know the people you are dating to see if they are similar in belief. Problems don’t go away as relationships grow, they slowly make their way to the surface in the relationship. Also, if you’re a conservative Christian as I am, your lover will be the number one person to keep you accountable to the things you say you believe and do. It is important to have someone who is similar in your belief structure so they can help you grow.
6. What do they believe
What are your morals? What are your views on the big ethical issues? How do you view abortion? Same-sex marriage? Gender roles? How do you handle issues? When do you have sex? What are your thoughts on raising children? Will you have kids?
Some of these probably won’t be deal breakers for you while others just might. But if you and your lover don’t agree on anything, that is going to be a problem. You have to know what is really important to you. For me, when do I have sex is much more important than who does the cooking and cleaning because I can adapt one, I refuse to adapt the other.
Now, I realize that no-one on the planet talks about all of their philosophies, morals, or spiritual convictions on the first couple dates. You don’t have to know everything about the person before you enter into a relationship with them, but you should be having conversations that matter throughout the process. I would make a list of the things that you are absolutely not willing to negotiate on and make sure those make the topic of discussion before you make any serious commitment to the relationship.
Here are some of the non-negotiables I look at before ever making a relationship serious:
Is the person a seeking-Christian?
What are their views on sex?
Do they want children?
How do they feel about me being a pastor?
It is possible to get answers to these questions without coming on too strong, just be smart in your conversation. I wouldn’t even go on a date with a person unless I knew in advance that they were a Christian. This isn’t because I’m close minded or because I only date people from within my special club, but this is because my faith is so important to me that I can’t imagine sharing life with someone who doesn’t feel the same way, so I don’t waste each others time.
7. Money is important
We always say things like “money isn’t everything” and “I would rather have love than money,” both of which I think are true. However, I think we underestimate the weight that money bears in our lives.
Did you know the number one cause of divorce is over money? That. Is. A. Fact. Ouch! With that being said, you should probably bring money to the discussion table before you ever consider putting a ring on it. I’m not married so I can’t speak into the lives of handling money when you are married, but I can say that it is important to talk about it in advance.
8. Talk Talk Talk
This is the hardest one for me. Girls like to talk. I like to talk too, but I don’t like to talk about my heart or my feelings or any of that “soft” stuff. But guess what, the relationship isn’t all about me. Sometimes guys, we got to shut-up and listen and sometimes we got to man-up and start letting it out. That’s how girls connect with us. Again, it is important to have conversations that matter. It is important to talk about real issues, what each others hearts are feeling, and what are our dreams.
I’m a firm believer in over-communicating. Sometimes it gets me in trouble but I think it is best to say everything I feel and let everything out on the table than keep secrets hidden within your heart. TALK! TALK! TALK!
If I was only going to give one tip, this one would be it.
9. It is not about me!
As much as I want everything in the world to revolve around me, it doesn’t. And neither does my relationship. It is about them. Being in love is not seeing what you can get from the other person but seeing what you can give to them.
Sometimes I process in the form of equations so if you’re like me, maybe this will help.
Me focused on serving her + her focused on serving me = Both of our needs met
If both of our sole focus is not ourselves but on the other person, then we will find that both of our needs are being met. What tends to happen in failing relationships is I am focused on myself and my lover is focused on serving me. So, I am happy and loving the relationship but my lover is slowly deteriorating because their needs aren’t being met. It’s not about me! Ever! Its not about what you can get, its about what you can give.
10a. The grass is not greener on the other side.
If you have ever been in a relationship for an extended period of time you’ll understand what I mean. There may be people that you are attracted to other than the person you are with. There may be more beautiful women and there may be certain guy’s who do a really good job at showing their women love. There may be people who are nicer or sweeter and people who make you ask yourself the question “I wonder what life would be like with them?” There is always going to be someone who appears better.
But let me just tell you, the grass is not greener on the other side.
10b. The grass is not greener on the other side, it is greener where you water it.
It is easy to walk out my front door and complain that my yard isn’t as nice as the one next store. I can sit and bicker and complain all I want, but that is not going to make my yard look any better. If only I understood that my yard could look like that too, I just need to take care of it. Our relationships are the same way.
There is always going to be someone else who is more __________ or a better ________. But that is not really what love is. Love is being willing to share your life with them despite their dry spots in the yard. Instead of packing up and moving to another yard every time you are dissatisfied, you water it. You care for them. You learn to see the beauty in their faults. You learn to put up with things that annoy you. You learn how to be satisfied with one person. No one is perfect, and neither is love. If you spend all of your time, passion, and effort taking care of your yard, you will have the best yard on the block. The same goes for your relationship!Again, I’m no expert and I don’t claim to be. Feel free to embrace these ideas or disagree. At the end of the day, I just want us all to win!