Every evolving romance encounters critical choices along the way. Here are some to be aware of…
In Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the heroine comes to a fork in the road one day and sees a Cheshire cat in a nearby tree. “Which road do I take?” she asks. “Where do you want to go?” the cat responds. Alice answers, “I don’t know.” “Then it doesn’t matter,” the cat tells her.
Can’t argue with wisdom like that! Unlike Alice, men and women in dating relationships will come to several crucial forks in the road and it does matter which one they choose. Romantic partnerships encounter choices that determine whether or not they should continue on together. It’s helpful, then, for the individuals involved to be aware of decisions that will arise and make them clearly and deliberately. These will likely include:
Decision 1: Is There Enough Potential to Proceed? The early phase of a dating relationship is all about getting acquainted, sizing each other up, and assessing unique qualities. The whole point is to determine if you want to keep going out together and see what happens. Sometimes the answer comes immediately; other times it takes several dates. Sometimes the answer is negative: “I can’t see any reason to go out again.” Other times the answer is resoundingly positive: “Yes, let’s see where this relationship goes.”
Decision 2: Are We Serious Enough to be Exclusive? Eventually, partners will need to determine if they are going to move from “going out informally” to “dating exclusively.” It’s a solid step forward when the man and woman say, “I don’t want to date anyone else—only you.”
Decision 3: How Far Is Too Far Physically? Standards about sexuality range from very conservative to very liberal. The important thing is for you as an individual, and both of you as a couple, to determine your own limits for physical expression and intimacy. For many couples, too much too soon only complicates matters.
Decision 4: Are We Compatible Where It Counts? Do you and your partner have differing core values that would be difficult or impossible to reconcile? Do you have much different views on core issues such as spirituality, finances, gender roles, child raising, family obligations, and so on? Differences often create early attraction, but similarities almost always sustain enduring relationships.
Decision 5: Are We Willing and Able to Overcome Big Challenges? Nearly every relationship that moves from casual to committed encounters potential roadblocks, which could jeopardize the partnership. These might include: living a long distance apart, differing career paths, disapproving family members, the presence of children from a previous relationship, and so on. When such challenges become apparent, couples must decide whether they want to work through them or simply give up and move on.
Decision 6: Do We Have What It Takes to Get Married and Stay Married? This, of course, is the biggest decision of all. Even though you’ve successfully made all of the preceding decisions, don’t assume this one is a foregone conclusion. The keys to this decision are identifying the qualities you must have in a partner, and then having the courage to honestly evaluate if those qualities all exist. If they do exist, you’re blessed indeed to be able to make a positive, life-changing decision.
When you come to important choices on the road to lifelong love, face them straight on, with sharp focus and clear thinking.