Dear New Shrink,
I read your article on loneliness and got discouraged because I am lonely. I do have friends and I think that I do connect with them, but I do not have a love relationship. It seems like most of my friends do and actually, many of them are getting married soon or are already married.
Is something wrong with me? Can you tell me how to get into a relationship and keep it going?
I am sorry to hear that you are feeling discouraged. From your comments, I assume that you are a young person. Not everyone finds love at the same time or pace. Please don’t think that something is wrong just because you are not on some kind of schedule. And definitely do not try to force yourself into a relationship before the actual Mr. or Mrs. Right comes along. Unless you have some serious attachment issues, calm down, your time will come.
There are a few secrets to making sure you have the right partner. First off, there is what I refer to as the three C’s: common goals, character and communication. The first one seems obvious — common goals. It is clearly important to be on the same path, going in the same direction and having similar life plans. The more compatible you are the better because you will have conflict; all relationships do. It will be less if you have a lot in common and agree on your goals. It is also highly recommended that you have a transpersonal goal as it can hold you together during rough times. A transpersonal goal is one that transcends you, something not personal and something that is equally important to both of you. It might be religion, or something political; it might be saving the environment, or fighting for the right to bare arms. Having that one thing that you both share and are impassioned about can see you through rough times and actually, being involved with it now is a great way of meeting someone you will click with.
Next, selecting someone with a character you like, admire and respect is critical. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone you really do not like or respect, it is going to be quite difficult to get along. So in choosing, pay close attention to how your potential partner treats other people. How does he or she treat the help, waitress, valet or everyday strangers?
Lastly, everyone knows or at least hears about how important communication is to a relationship. If you can’t communicate during the beginning stages of a relationship, don’t rely on changing it later. Communication does not mean getting the other to do what you want. It means truly being able to listen, be empathic and to possess an openness that enables you to discuss your differences. You should be able to talk about, not scream, but talk about what you need and what you want from the relationship. You are not going to get everything you want but you hopefully will at least try to give each other the things that you both need.
A basic rules is “relationships require room for two” and this means allowing for each other’s needs and tolerating differences. If I can take care of me, my partner and the relationship, all at the same time, we are in good shape or at least I am. This is one indication of good mental health and it certainly is an aspect to keeping a relationship alive and well.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a hard thing to do but it should be your goal and if you work at it, you will have a healthy, strong relationship that withstands all the seasons and storms.
Money is the most frequent cause of conflict in marriages, so try to be clear and straightforward about his before you start a serious relationship.
And once you are in a serious relationship, count on conflict. It’s normal and natural if you find yourself fighting once a week or more. Take it as a warning sign that your relationship is in trouble and get help.
Our divorce rate is high but many good relationships could be saved if they got help early enough. Too many couples wait until it is too late. Many had something special and good but let it go until it was too late. Never let pride keep you from getting the help you need. Losing that someone you love is not worth it. Hope this helps. Good Luck!
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage/family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Send your anonymous questions or replies to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.