Relationship Help: How to Clarify Your Relationship Needs

Often the most useful relationship help and marriage advice come from individuals and couples who share their personal stories: The relationship triumphs and challenges that are universal to us all.

Here is one such story.

Couple Spotlight: Meet Shelly

Shelly is preparing to remarry (congratulations!) and she wants to share something in particular about her dating journey—even if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, I believe Shelly’s dating story can be of help to you.

When she first married Shelly was young (twenty-one) and the marriage ended after three years. Now at forty-three she feels wiser and emotionally ready for her second marriage. Before she met her husband-to-be, Shelly worked with a “dating coach” and describes the following:

“I’ve learned it can’t just be about chemistry. I’ve been there and done that. So the coach I worked with had me make a list of my values…the things that are really important to me. This may sound easy, but it took a great deal of work. Then I had to make a list of what my ‘ideal’ partner would look like.”

Describing her ideal partner helped clarify any unrealistic expectations she might bring into the relationship (e.g., my partner will always understand my point of view).

Shelly had never thought about relationships in this way. Like many of us, she assumed you just fall in love and simply succumb to the mysteries of attraction– without being mindful of what we want from our spouse or partner.

So she began making lists:

  • A list of “must haves” (traits and values her partner must have…”non-negotiables,” if you will);
  • A list of “would like to have” (traits and values she’d like her partner to have);
  • And a list of “absolutely cannot live with” (traits and values that would be deal-breakers for her).

She worked on becoming mindful of these lists so that she could feel empowered about the choices she made about choosing a life-partner. “This was invaluable. Honestly, if I didn’t do this I would have ended up with a guy I was attracted to but one that was totally wrong for me.”

Even if you’re already in a committed, long-term relationship, creating these kinds of lists can help you and your spouse/partner become more attuned to each other’s needs (which is essential for effective communication).  Then the next step would be for you and your spouse/partner to share these lists in an effort to help deepen mutual understanding and empathy.

Are you ready to make your own list?

Thanks and until next time,

Rich Nicastro, Ph.D.

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