"But love is blind, and lovers cannot see."
One of Shakespeare's immortal quotes. He couldn't have hit the nail of today's dating world on the head any harder if he'd been given a sledgehammer.
That's because in the 21st century, love doesn't really mean love. And when love doesn't mean love, it becomes even more blinding than before.
See, when someone says, "We're in love," what they really mean - whether they realize it or not is another story - that they're infatuated with each other. They feel electricity, they feel a buzz.
That electricity is exciting, it's captivating. I'm not denying its importance. But the hard truth is that it can also cast a smoke screen over the real issues in a relationship. And the fact is that no way can a genuinely happy, loving, dynamic, lifelong relationship develop if the basis consists of nothing but electricity. Life brings a lot of power outages with it, and if a relationship is to survive them, it had better have an emotional generator to give it power.
So how can you tell the difference between plain electricity and an emotional generator?
Ask yourself the four questions.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are just four questions that will help you analyze your relationship to see if it's based on a deeper, emotional connection or on air.
Okay. So, the first question is NOT "Do I love this person?" I repeat, DO NOT ask yourself this question. It will only confuse the issue. If you're thinking to yourself, "Why?" then reread the previous paragraph and come back.
Rather than ask, "Do I love this person?" the first question should be, "Do I admire and respect this person?" Note, we said admire and respect, not impressed. Being impressed means, I'm impressed with her car, with his job, with her looks, with his build. Those are not things that reflect any kind of deep emotional connection.
If you feel that you do admire and respect the person you're dating, then think about exactly what it is that makes you feel that way. Is it a specific characteristic they possess - kindness, generosity, patience? Is it a certain mode of behavior - the way they interact with people, for instance? Be as honest and specific as you can, because respect and admiration form the basic emotional connection that people have with each other.
The next thing to ask yourself is, Do I trust this person? In other words, do you feel that you can rely on them? Do you trust their judgment? Do they keep their word? A corollary of this would be, are they responsible?
The third question is, Do I feel safe? Do you feel emotionally and physically safe with this person? Stated differently, do you trust them with yourself? Can you be vulnerable and open with them; can you express yourself freely, without fear of rejection?
And the final question is, Do I feel calm and at peace with this person? Everybody (I hope) has at least one good friend with whom they just feel relaxed and calm. In its ideal state, marriage is the closest friendship you will ever have, so you definitely want to have that same feeling with your spouse.
Now, answering these questions might take time. If at this point you're still not sure of some of the answers, don't panic. Just keep evaluating the relationship until you understand what you really feel. Obviously, if the relationship has a real future then all of the answers will be "yes." And if the answer to even one of them is "no," then it's time to take another look at the relationship, and maybe even to call it quits.
Now, you may be wondering why it is so important to get all of these questions right just now. After all, at this point you're only dating. You're not married yet.
The reason this is so important is that the way you feel with this person now is the way you're going to feel with them after you're married. If you don't feel safe with them now, you won't feel safe later on. If you can't trust them now, you won't be able to trust them once you're married. And the last thing you want or need is to be married to someone whom you don't respect, cannot trust, and with whom you feel unsafe and uneasy.
So put in the effort. Ask yourself the four questions. If you need to, find someone reliable who can walk you through them - that might make it easier for you to really be in touch with your feelings.
But do it. Your life happiness depends on it.
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