by Tina Tessina
1. What is your definition of commitment?
You and your partner define your relationship. Know what your relationship means to each of you, to avoid repeating past mistakes, getting stuck in uncomfortable roles, or fighting about what your commitment is. Talk about what you mean by relationship, commitment, love, and faithfulness. You’ll be amazed by what you learn.
2. Have you discussed finances?
Money is a big generator of problems, arguments, and resentment in long-term relationships. Don’t assume money should be pooled. For many couples, separating the money makes things run smoother; you don’t wind up struggling for control of who pays or whose income determines your lifestyle. Different financial habits (one likes to save, the other spends more, or doesn’t keep track) can generate fights. Whether you split expenses evenly, or on a percentage basis, learn to talk about money in a businesslike manner.
3. What about household responsibilities?
Drastically different decorating styles, neatness, and organization levels can become sources of argument, as can housekeeping and chores. Different tastes may require creativity and negotiation to decorate a shared home that makes both of you comfortable. Negotiate before moving into your partner’s established home. You may have trouble feeling as if you “belong” in a home previously established by your partner, unless you participate together in reorganizing and redecorating it.
4. How close are you to family or friends?
If one of you has a lot of family or friends, and the other does not, or if you both have big families, find out what those relationships mean. Where will you spend holidays? If there are family members who have problems, such as financial stress, addiction or mental illness, how much will that impact your relationship?
5. How do you handle anger and other emotions?
We all get upset from time to time. If you are usually good at diffusing each other’s anger and being supportive through times of grief or pain, your emotional bond will deepen as time goes on. If your tendency is to react to each other and make the situation more volatile and destructive, you need to correct that problem before you live together.
6. How do you show love to each other?
Talking about which actions and words mean love to you may be surprising. Discussing how you give and receive love will improve your relationship, and help you understand what makes each of you feel loved, and how to express love effectively.
7. How well did you discuss these very questions?
These questions are excellent tests of your ability to define and work out problems. Constructive discussion that leads to a mutually satisfactory solution means you know how to solve problems in your relationship. If you fight, get counseling before going further.
Dr. Tina Tessina, PhD http://www.tinatessina.com is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Her newest books are Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and The Commuter Marriage. She publishes “Happiness Tips from Tina”, an e-mail newsletter, and the “Dr. Romance Blog” http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/ and has hosted “The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious” a weekly hour long radio show. Online, she is “Dr. Romance” with columns at ThirdAge.com, Divorce360.com, Healthapalooza.com, and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC news. Follow her @tinatessina or www.facebook.com/tinatessina.