Dear New Shrink,

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I am becoming increasing nervous because I not only have a feeling but also have been secretly told that my boyfriend is about to propose to me.

I am very attracted to and involved with him and am not even sure why I am so nervous. But I have this thought that haunts me, “how is it that you know when you have found your right partner?” For me it is a very serious commitment and while I love him how can I be sure that he is the one that is truly right for me? How do I know that he is that one special one that I should spend my whole life with?



Dear Serious,

This is a very important issue and question so I am happy for you that you know so too.

With divorce rates so high, it behooves you to ask yourself the right questions and think deeply about your choices.

Unfortunately, love is not enough. We often are very attracted to someone and even believe we are in love, but falling out of it comes far too easily if you don’t have all the right ingredients.

There are a few secrets to making sure you have the right partner. First of all, there is what I refer to as the three Cs: 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. I also highly recommend 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 but something that is equally important to both of you. It might be religion, or something political, it might be fighting for the right to bare arms or it could be saving the environment. Having that one thing that you both share and are passionate about can see you through the rough times.

Next, make sure your partner is someone with character that you like, admire and respect. This 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 going forward. So in making your decision, pay close attention to how your potential partner treats other people. How does he 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 think you will change it later. Communication does not mean getting the other to do what you want. It means truly being able to listen, and to possess an openness that enables you to discuss your differences. You should be able to 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. The secret of staying in love is communication.

There is a saying that you don’t really know that you have a relationship until you get through your first argument. Being able to fight and fight fairly is critical to an ongoing healthy relationship. So open up and see what is there, if you haven’t done so already. But remember to always fight fair.

Don’t get me wrong, these are hard things to do, but they should be your goal and if you work at it you will have a healthy, strong relationship that withstands all the seasons and the storms and inherent conflict of a relationship.

Lastly, be still and listen to your heart. Trust your intuition. If it is not right or if it is too soon, your boyfriend should understand because it is in his best interest as well. If you cannot manage this, you may have good reason for your anxiety.

Honesty does truly set us free. They say you will know when you find the right one. I think this is true if you are open, honest and trust your feelings.

Good luck!

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at or send your anonymous questions and responses to Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.

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