Question: How can I tell if I’m in a good relationship?

Answer:  Is the relationship moving me toward a secure, fulfilling, and long future in which I can be myself? Am I happy? Can I be myself? Am I feeling loved and on purpose? Am I doing what I enjoy and believe I can stretch further with my goals and dreams with my partner?

A good relationship makes you happy, fulfilled and appreciated, and on a path of personal growth. A lasting relationship is based on mutually giving nurturing, solid, and positive feedback from your significant other. It is when you connect with someone who values you and appreciates you even in the ups and downs, and you get through these challenges, that you can both say, “I choose you.”

One of the best ways to decide if you are in a good relationship is to do the “I AM” test. A lasting relationship moves you through the difficult t times, and rewards you in the up times. Do you have nurturing, solid and positive feedback from your partner? Do you understand each other?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Am I happy?                           Am I secure?                             Am I being my best self?

Am I understood?                Am I being myself?                 Am I sharing my goals?

Am I loved?                            Am I bored?                               Am I listening to my partner?

Am I confident?                    Am I being listened to?          Am I experiencing “US” fun?

Am I fulfilled?                        Am I valued?                             Am I empowered?

A fulfilling relationship lets you be you, and encourages you to be you.

Many clients come to me because their I AM list is self-sabotaging, and they push potential partners away.

Some of my client’s I Ams are: are not always that positive for they say they have a tendency to procrastinate, show up late, over think problems, over worry, communicate their feelings poorly, and the like.

To develop or keep a relationship you want, then look at your I Ams. Are they helping you or hindering you? The more you know your weaknesses and want to improve them, the easier it is to attract a healthy, happy, and lasting relationship. Also, the easier it is to feel confident in knowing what you want and communicating these needs to your partner. You come across as authentic.

You can update your choices.  For instance if you’re generally late, you can decide to be on time. Or, if you have a tendency debate or force your opinions on others, you can learn to listen and accept other people’s opinions as equally valuable (and maybe learn something valuable.). Or, if you have a tendency to be overly accommodating, you can decide to ask for what you want and choose your needs over being bullied. Sometimes you need to step back to evaluate this process, to see if you are moving in a direction that supports you and doesn’t hinder you. Sometimes it is wiser to walk away from a difficult relationship rather than try to keep it together.

I do believe in the concept that there is “someone” for every person out there. You are not alone in this world. You can find a person to emotionally, mentally, spiritually and securely grow with. A relationship is never perfect because there will always be unexpected ups and downs, but how you get through these times is what makes a relationship grow deeper, more intimate, trusting, and rich with memorable experiences and memories. In essence, you continuously grow together and become closer over the years. If this is not your experience currently, and the process of your relationship continually hits multiple emotional, financial, spiritual, or self-growth obstacles creating distance or resentment, then you may not be in a supportive relationship. (Read my “Simplifying Successful Relationships, The intimacy and Dating scale” article.)

Here’s an example.

Michelle and Bill.

Michelle had a desire to be over accommodating in her family upbringing. Therefore she had a tendency to act like a door mat in her relationships.

Her high school sweetheart was domineering, but they also had a lot in common and got along well. Michelle had an on/off relationship with Bill for fifteen years. Every time they broke up it was because Michelle felt like she was losing her sense of self, or that Bill was being overly controlling of her time, money, and outside friendships.

I helped her in our consulting sessions to learn that each time he was too overbearing she had a right to stand up to Bill. She also had a right to walk away from the relationship and take care of her needs. Michelle’s I Am list changed from, “I AM overly giving” to “I can stand up for what I want and ask for what’s most important to me.”

Michelle began to get stronger and stronger in holding her identity and asking for what she wanted and deserved out of the relationship. While Bill at first accused her of being selfish and self-centered, with time he realized he was the person who was sabotaging their relationship.

Bill learned to listen and be more compassionate in Michelle’s desire to express her talents in painting, jewelry making, and other creative arts. Instead of being jealous she was going to trade shows taking time away from being together, he became supportive and helped her with marketing, advertising, and sales. The two began growing closer without disagreements and Bill not feeling that he needed Michelle’s constant attention.

The more Bill allowed Michelle to express her I Ams as a creative, fun, outgoing, and intuitive personality, the happier Bill became in their relationship. He started adding these qualities to his life. From being overly analytical and stuck in his ways, Bill opened up to new ideas and liked himself better. Also, his new I Am become I choose for us to be happy.  Today, they are happily married, supporting each other with mutual friends, interests, and activities.

Question: Is here a difference in dating in your 20’s versus your 50’s?

The answer is YES and NO.

Dating is dating. That is getting to know another person, being your real self, setting boundaries, sharing goals, and building a level of communication mentally, intellectually, spiritually, monetarily, and often with friends, family, and children. The process of dating is the same in our 20’s as in our 50’s, in that you want to be authentic, choose wisely, and find someone who genuinely cares, loves, and respects you.

I work with individuals who are celebrating their 40th and 50th wedding anniversaries who are obviously in love. They met in their 20’s and are mutually committed to each other. They know they can’t do better.

The difference in dating in your 20’s versus your 50’s is that often when you reach your 40’s and above, you know yourself better. You have had numerous experiences of what does and doesn’t work in a relationship and ways to successfully handle the ups and downs. Likely you are more apt to be up front with your goals and desires on a first date, rather than trying to impress a possible partner.

It is important to not become cynical if things have not gone well in one or more previous relationships. Often in our 20’s we can feel starry eyed and fall in love too soon. And, often we hear that young relationships can be more focused on intimacy than actually getting to know one another. In one’s 20’s the concept of old age, dying and death is virtually impossible to understand. In one’s 50’s the concerns of retirement and a secure future is often a priority.

Here are some interesting stories I would like to share:

One of my clients, Gerri, had been married six times and was considering getting married once more, but was reluctant. Every husband had died. One in the war. Two in unexpected accidents. Two in health issues. And the most recent husband passed from old age. Gerri was now in her seventies. Every man she had loved. Gerri said, “I think I’m too old to marry again. He is fifteen years my senior and I am not certain I want to lose another husband before I die.” I encouraged her to follow the path of marriage. She did so and says it was a wise decision and looks forward to this new relationship of husband and wife. What was her secret to finding loving and caring relationships? Gerri suggests: Be yourself. Don’t judge too harshly on first impressions. Know that love comes to you when you are open to it. Never become bitter, hard, or cynical when things seem to take a turn for the worst.”

When I was speaking at the Hyatt Retired Residence in Monterey to an audience of staff and residents, one gentleman, Rob, was ninety-nine and engaged to a seventy-nine woman he had met there. My topic was on lasting relationships and how this works. He said, “I finally realized that at ninety-nine I’m still young. While I feel like I’m robbing the cradle, love found me when I didn’t think of myself as being old or holding onto a relationship from the past. I still love my previous wife, but I am allowing myself to invite the new wonderful woman into my life.” We talked about that even at older ages, love can be just as passionate as when we are in our twenties, if you find the right person, and you are being your authentic self.

Terri is in her thirties and has been dating her high school sweet heart for the past 9 years. They are not married yet, but talking about moving in together. Terri says that in college she met a lot of interesting potential partners but she couldn’t get over her high school sweetie. After she graduated she found out he was still single. They went out and clicked as they had before. She notes, “While he is a bit more playful and fun than me, it works. I’m focusing on building my own business in real estate, and he’s a disc jockey for a local club. But because I have had enough experiences in dating, I see his personality balances mine and we help each other be our best selves.”

Ritchie met his wife when he was sixteen. Living in South Dakota his mom had married young. He and Sandy had their first child two years later. Now they have three kids. And while financially they live simply, Ritchie says “We have a great family and everyone loves each other. I never went to college nor did Sandy or my parents. I like what I do and I think family is what really helps out in supporting young love.” Today, Ritchie is thirty-five.

Dating is a process. But key is to be yourself and know who you are. Can you communicate well? Can you ask for your personal rights and give back equally with someone who understands you. Do you have a lot in common? Can you imagine growing “old” with this person?

Whether you are in your 20’s or 50’s, successful dating is created by you.

Share your thoughts!