How Do I Know I am in Love—and with the Right Person?

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D, MSS

Many men and women of all ages are postponing marriage because of their fears of choosing the wrong person and making a lifelong mistake. Since most important decisions in life are made with incomplete information, choosing the wrong partner is always a possibility. People can hide their worst behavior—from themselves as well as their partners. Here are some relationship tips and relationship and marriage advice about how to know you are in love and whether the person is right for you. But remember, this relationship advice is only a guide, and, although using it cannot guarantee happiness, it can increase your chances of choosing wisely.

  1. You are both over 21. When one or both partners are under the age of 21, the chance of divorce or unhappiness increases. However, there are couples who met in high school or earlier and have long-term, mutually satisfying relationships!
  2. Before you get married, you have dated for around two years. The brain’s “love chemical” of oxytocin and the brain’s dopamine levels are elevated when you feel you are in love. This elevation can last up to about two years. No wonder marriages fail frequently after two years! Wait until you are no longer in “brain la-la land” and see what your relationship is like.
  3. You have been with your partner through good times and bad. See if he or she is still in love with you and needs and wants you during ups and downs. A person might cling to someone supportive during down times and then want a different kind of relationship when times improve—or vice a versa. Get to know your partner’s coping skills—or lack of them!
  4. Falling in love during “normal enough” life experiences is a “cleaner start.” Ideally, you and your partner should know yourself, establish a career identity, have lived on your own and have a good relationship with family members—or have made inner peace with them. Falling in love during only rough times can increase poor choices of partners. For example, the death of a parent or other important caregiver can propel a person to hasten love and commitment—sometimes to the wrong person.
  5. In general, the total number of years you have been dating before getting married is around 3-5 years. Of course, there are exceptions such as finishing school, living far apart, illness, mourning or armed forces commitments. However, during the course of “normal-enough” life events, the longer the dating or living together without commitment, the greater the chance of relationship unhappiness.
  6. You feel good about yourself and how you act in the relationship, and you feel good about your partner. Marital research shows that partners who respect each other tend to have happier marriages. A good relationship should bring out the best in both of you.
  7. Neither one of you frequently uses criticism, sarcasm, heated arguments, nagging or withholding love, affection and approval as main communications styles. Criticism and withholding positive relationship actions are often predictors of marital unhappiness, according to long-term research. Loving relationships bring out the best in each other, and partners want to help each other.
  8. Neither one of you uses physical, verbal or sexual abuse. Do not tolerate physical violence or sexual abuse.
  9. You both share key values and interests, passion and commitment to each other, sense of humor, have good problem-solving skills and “complete each other” through some complimentary characteristics. Studies in long-term marriages where both partners report happiness emphasize the importance of these aspects. You don’t have to share all interests or all values, but you should know what’s most important to you. For example, it’s best to settle issues about religion, children and lifestyle before you get married.
  10. Don’t get married with problems, in the hopes of resolving them later. It’s best to solve major issues before you get engaged.

If you and your partner don’t have all the positive sides of the things on this list, don‘t despair—you can still find long-term happiness.

*** For Women Only: If you would like to be part of Dr. Wish’s research for her next book on women’s love relationships and get one hour of FREE counseling, go to her website and click in the Research box in the upper right and take the online research survey. Be sure to include you contact information and the word SELFGROWTH so that Dr. Wish can contact you.

Author's Bio: 

LeslieBeth Wish is a Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker and author who is nationally recognized for her contributions to women, love, relationships, family, career, workplace, and organizations.

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