J Lenora is a friend and trainer in the Tampa/Orlando area in Florida. This blog was published in WQ Magazine.
I am having the occasion to speak more and more about relationships and what is really important in them. My advice to anyone thinking about getting into a serious romantic relationship is that while opposites may attract, there are some opposites which will quickly degenerate into major problems. On a few certain issues, your approaches need to be, if not identical, at least compatible with your partner or you are setting both you and your significant other up for a never-ending series of frustrations, resentments, and potential arguments. Some may seem obvious; others more subtle, but all can create major rifts in a relationship.
(1) WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MONEY?
A lot is said about how money divides people and studies repeatedly indicate that money is the #1 reason couples fight. There is much that can be said but to me, this issue really boils down to one simple question: What do you think the purpose of money is? Everything about money, from your budgeting approach (or not) to your expenditures to your savings record flows from this question. There are four main answers:
(1) Money is primarily for immediate sustenance needs.
(2) Money is to provide present and future security.
(3) Money is to bring maximum (moral) good and pleasure to you, those you love, and to those God places in your path.
(4) Money is to be used primarily to assist good moral causes.
(2) HOW DO YOU VIEW EXERCISE? Is it a necessity or a luxury?
Some people view exercise as a needed component of their ability to function adequately and therefore have no problem leaving chores to go to the gym. Others feel that exercise is a luxury, almost “play time” to them so they feel that their “work,” whether that be professional or house work needs to be done before they feel free to go exercise. When you and your mate disagree on exercise, one will feel that you are too uptight and the other will feel abandoned and that the exercising-mate is irresponsible.
(3) HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT IS RIGHT OR WRONG?
People who approach ethics from different starting points often find it very difficult not only to find a common conclusion but even understand what each other is saying. Their arguments seem irrelevant. For example, those who take a fundamentalist or absolutist approach and look to a source outside themselves may frustrate others with their apparent rigidness while relativists frustrate others by their seeming flexibility and ability to justify any action.
(4) HOW DO YOU PREFER YOUR FREE TIME: open and relaxed or planned activities?
We all reverence our non-working time, but if you are not spending that precious time in the way you prefer, it will be extremely disconcerting and even angering since you will feel “cheated” out of that reprieve. Some people adore restful, non-structured time off where it is a good thing to say at the end of the day, “I loafed around, didn’t do anything.” Others cannot stand that and feel refreshed and relaxed when every moment of their non-work time is filled with activities.
(5) DOES QUALITY TIME MEAN ONLY TWO PEOPLE?
We all understand the importance of “quality time” in which couples can connect on deep psychological and emotional levels, but some of us feel that can be done in a group of friends and others discount such group activities in favor of strictly one-on-one time. Couples with different definitions of quality time can be frustrated by the “isolation” or the “crowd” they perceive is being pressed upon them.
(6) WHAT IS YOUR LEVEL OF SPIRITUAL INTEREST?
It is helpful if both members of a relationship share a common religious or metaphysical approach to life. There are, however, examples, of couples of different faiths coexisting quite happily and couples who share the exact same faith seeming very far apart from one another emotionally. The difference is not only in the specific tenets of what each partner believes, but their interest level. To someone deeply committed to the spiritual realm of life and who sees great value and significance in spending time contemplating such things, a partner with a less robust interest level can seem shallow, while the other mate complains of an obsession and begins to resent the amount of time and importance placed on such things. I have grown to believe that the Bible’s admonition of “be ye not unequally yoked” pertains not merely to believing the same spiritual things but having the same degree of passion for those things.
(7) WHAT IS THE MAJOR WAY YOU FEEL LOVED?
The best book I have ever seen on this topic is The Five Love Languages. You can feel very unloved with someone who loves you dearly but is expressing that affection in ways which are not valuable to you. The easiest relationship would probably be with someone who shares your preferred method of showing love, but it is certainly possible to adapt your style to someone else’s as long as you are both open and honest about your approach. The book The Five Love Languages describes the way we perceived love in these ways:
(1) words of affirmation
(2) acts of service
(4) physical touching
(5) quality time
While all of these may be pleasurable, some of definitely more meaningful than others to us, and their lack of emphasis can cause misunderstandings and a sense of loss and void.
So, for those of you getting all emotional as Valentine’s Day approaches, let me gently ask you to take a reality check and ask yourself how your love interest would answer these seven questions and then ask yourself how you would answer them. If the answers are vastly different, caution is well advised.