Sunday, February 22, 2009

What do courting partners need to know about each other?

How smart is your dating and courtship process?
If you're interested in finding a life's partner, I'm going to assume you're dating or courting with this question in mind. So, how smart is your dating or courtship process? Smart Romance is all about getting the really important information--no guesswork--through experiences as a team that are fun, rewarding, and intensely practical.

So, what is the "really important information?" What are the things we all want and need to know about the person we're dating and about our relationship before we make a commitment that might spell "painful surprise" in the distant future? Let me suggest a helpful concept that I'll continue discussing through future blogs.

Life Skills
At least average competence at a variety of basic skills makes for a significantly more stable and happier long-term relationship. "Life skills" are made up of disciplines and attitudes we cultivate on the way toward adulthood. As we get good at them we use them to make us successful at the routine tasks involved in daily living. For example, making and maintaining valuable friendships is one life skill. Some people are better at this than other people, but we all need to develop an average level of competence at this. We want people we can depend on to be "in our corner" for us when we need them--and we want to show we can be there for them, too.
  • How good are you at making and maintaining valuable friendships? How do you know?
  • How good is your partner at making and maintaining valuable friendships?
  • Do you make enduring enough connections with your friends that you can depend on their availability--and you're there for them--when the need arises?
You probably think you're pretty good at this life skill. I've found it's best to have more than your own personal opinion when it comes to measuring your own skills. We all have blind spots since we generally have a pretty high estimation of our abilities. So, I highly recommend you ask the people who are around you, your family and friends and colleagues, what they think of your ability to make and maintain enduring friendships. Ask each of them, "How would you rate my level of competency at making and maintaining enduring friendships on a scale from 0 to 10?"
I think you'll find this a valuable experience. Test yourself.

Can you think of some other important life skills? Stay tuned...There's more coming.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lower your chance of divorce!

Smarter Romance is all about lowering your chance for divorce. Whether you've never married before and you're in a pre-marital relationship now, or, you've been married before, want to be married again, but don't want to make a second appearance in divorce court, you can dramatically decrease your likelihood for divorce. (Right now it's just a little less than 50-50!)

As we all probably know, already married partners have been the focus of most marriage research and interventions. Obviously, if there's a problem with that it may be discovered in an after-the-fact realization that such-and-such a couple shouldn't have married in the first place. Painfully, like so many other people, they've come face-to-face with the old Pennsylvania Dutch adage, "Too soon old; too late smart," or more contemporarily, "Hindsight is always 20-20."

So what do men and women have to do to avoid this kind of situation? Asking this question another way, how can we make more informed--"better"--marriage choices?

In broadest terms, in order to make a more informed choice requires two important considerations. First, it requires courting couples to think differently about their dating and courtship experiences. Second, it requires the addition of some new ingredients to those processes that will uncover a new kind of information.

So, in keeping with my previous promise to pose some important questions, here's the next one.

Question No. 2

How are you preparing yourself (right now, today, this week) to find the "right" partner for you?

Some discussion:
Have you considered what you really need to know about your potential marriage partner? What might give you confidence that the two of you can successfully face the daily challenges of a shared life? Make yourself a simple list of the things you believe would help you make a shared life doable and satisfying.

For example, you might consider how these word prompts trigger thoughts about your list: Shared space, shared time, shared money, in-law relationships (i.e., parental, brothers and sisters, etc), work habits, hobbies, time use after work, religious commitments and fervency, emotional availability (or not), emotional stability (or not), playfulness (or not), sensuality, apparent sexual responsiveness, shared interests, educational goals, career goals and timetable, interest in children (or not), step-children, spending-money habits, personal style, friends old and new, pets/animals (or not), living quarters, where to live, climate and geographic preferences.

If or as you use these prompts, some of them will probably trigger you to think about what your potential partner's preferences or interests or disciplines may be like. Remember, you have little or no control over what those preferences, etc., may ultimately be like. However, you do have control over your own! How well do you really know yourself? So, can you see how it might make great sense to carefully consider how you work--to really get to know yourself well? This knowledge is every bit as important, if not more so, than what's going on for your "him or her" partner. If you don't know yourself (but think you do), you're likely to be hard pressed to figure out if you and your partner really are long-term compatible, or if you've just initially convinced yourself (or yourselves!) that you are. Hmmm. Believe me, it's all too easy to make this mistake.

Next time

Toward a Smarter Romance

Over the next several weeks I'll pose some practical questions. The questions are general, overlapping, and don't necessarily have a rank or chronological order to them--although you'll observe that some do. How you answer each one may prove to be intensely practical for you. Each question will be accompanied with a brief discussion.

Every person looking for a life's partner needs to know how and/or where to get the answers to these questions. The answers will fit generally one person--you. (The "how and/or where" is the stuff or Smarter Romance.) Every person in a serious courtship should be actively involved in the process of answering them. How and where a person gets the answers will inform his or her dating and courtship experiences with the person he or she is with. It's the active, intentional effort a person commits to answering these questions that will fuel one's courtship down the super highway of Smarter Romance.

Here's a helpful suggestion: If you are presently involved in a relationship, it may help if you edit the questions (I'll be posing) by inserting your name--or the personal pronoun "I"--and your partner's name into it. Consider this example:
Q: What are you doing to prepare for the time-management challenges you are likely to encounter working with your business partner?
Edited: What am I doing (right now) to prepare myself for the time-management challenges I expect to face working with Steven Johnson-Smith?

So, here we go. Enjoy.

Question No. 1
What are you doing (right now) or what have you already done (in the recent past) to assure yourself that you will have a durable and satisfying marital relationship? Record your answer and be very specific.

Turn around three times then throw a stone

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to throw rocks. I took great pride in having a sharp shooter's "dead-eye" and a sling for a right arm. But if I picked up a stone and then blindfolded myself, turned myself around three times, and threw the stone in what I believed was the direction of the target, I was probably going to miss it. My best intentions to hit the target were only that--best of intentions.

Someone has said, "Love makes the world go around." Well, if love makes the world go around romance must be right behind it in second place. If we use the metaphor of car travel, might I suggest that love is the engine in the car speeding down the super highway of romance.

Whether we're talking about slinging a stone at a target or speeding down the super highway of romance, the direction we're going has everything to do with whether we ever get to our intended destination. A map--a plan--will always insure our confidence and reward our expectations that we've gone the right direction. Smarter Romance is ultimately about exactly those two things: shared confidence and rewarded expectations!

If you believe there's a marital relationship in your future, I believe you'll find your experience with this blog both practical and rewarding. Enjoy.