“There are plenty of fish in the sea.” While the point of this familiar idiom may be to mend a broken heart after a breakup, there is a pro and a con to taking the saying at face value and believing it’s true.
The pro knows that if one date isn’t cutting it, you can always “swipe left” and move on to the next catch of the day. The con is that in some instances, you may miss an opportunity for a long-term relationship— because maybe that fish you just threw back into the sea was worth keeping for the long haul.
It is absolutely necessary to understand the signs a relationship will last with your potential partner.
Fairytale fantasy vs. real-world romance – evaluating a new relationship
But how do you know whether a new relationship has long-term potential? Romanticstories often speak of an immediate, intuitive knowing. The movement from one date to lifelong soulmates happens almost overnight.
For many people, these romantic stories are fantasies, however. The reality is that connections often take time to happen, with 100 percent certainty. Gauging long-term potential may therefore take some time. It may require evaluating the relationship via a deliberate, slow, rational thought process.
Long term relationship builds over time, and it does not happen as quickly as fantasies suggest.
Make a list of your top ten values. These values can be based on character qualities such as honesty, integrity, loyalty, etc. Then, evaluate the other person according to whether they embody these values.
Come up with specific, concrete examples of when the person has demonstrated adherence to your top ten values. If you cannot come up with examples for at least half of those values, this person may not be long-term potential, or it may take more time getting to know this person to observe how their behaviors and attitudes match your list of values.
If this process of evaluating values for yourself or the other person is difficult to do objectively on your own, ask a family member, friend, or third party to assist. A psychotherapist can often be a good third party by providing a neutral and unbiased eye to help you vet values.
2. Evaluate family members
Ask yourself how well you get along with your potential partner’s immediate and extended family members. American society is based on a highly individualized love culture, meaning that when two people commit to one another, they usually do so as two individuals only. Considerations about family are, at best, secondary.
In other cultures, commitments are based on other factors beyond the two individuals. For example, In India, arranged marriages are based on how well the couple’s family members get along with and approve of each other. This is one of the signs he’s thinking long term relationship with you.
Though dating in America need not go to the same extreme (of relying on parents and family to pick a future spouse), there is real value in considering not just individual compatibility but family compatibility. Divorces in America and strained relationships often include conflicts with in-laws and family members.
Opposites certainly attract, providing the initial sparks that ignite the intensity and passion for dating relationships. However, the adage that opposites attract is not a strong foundation for a long-term relationship. It is important to find these areas of compatibility in lifestyle, beliefs, goals, and priorities.
In fact, there should be more areas of compatibility than areas of difference or disagreement.
Living a harmonious, daily life together requires more similarities than differences. Remember, too, that qualities that you may find novel and curious while dating opposites may grind on you later in the long term.
Watch this video to learn more about the psychology of compatibility.
4. Conflict resolution
Strong abilities to resolve conflicts in healthy ways indicate that a new relationship may have long-term potential. Spend enough time with each other to have a challenging conflict to see how well the problem gets resolved. You might ask questions like:
Is the problem ignored?
Does one unfairly blame the other for the problem?
Does the other person shirk from taking responsibility for their part in the situation?
Do they lose their temper, or are they abusive in the heat of the moment?
The answers to these questions can help you assess how healthy the other person is. Resolving conflicts can be hard, so people may need to improve at it. A keeper would be willing to meet in the middle in a compromise.
Long-term relationships require a strong ability to make and keep commitments. Consider the person’s relationship track record. Have they been able to commit to relationships, whether with past love interests, friends, or family members?
You can see how well the person follows through on projects or promises. They may have stayed at a job for many years or have had the patience to raise a child. Signs of the ability to commit can help gauge long-term potential.
All these signs that a relationship will last might determine your relationship’s future. You should take some professional help if you are too confused about it. However, if you both are willing to work on your relationship, things will improve.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Dr. Sachi J. Ananda, PhD, LMHC, MCAP, directs a treatment program for first responders at the national behavioral health provider FHE Health and is a resource for news outlets like USA Today on sex, relationship, trauma, and addiction issues.