By Jos Duncan | This post was originally published on medium.com
People fall in and out of love everyday. Rocky relationships often lead to marriage, children, divorce, or simply staying in dead relationship far too long. Once love is lost, people may develop a fear of love because they associate feelings of vulnerability with falling into a ‘sunken place’ of emotions and a complicated life course with someone who may not ultimately be the one.
I like to think that love works best when it’s not fallen into but built, observed, and allowed to blossom into a healthy and sustainable relationship where lovers are their best selves. Asking these questions will help you to avoid sappy, short-lived love with someone who’s just not good for you.
- What will you require when “in love?”
One of the key factors associated with falling in love is feeling safe. We all have a presentational character that we wear to move through the world. This character negotiates relationships in our places of work, and in environments where people have no obligation to care for us or our well being. The character is an armor that protects us from our vulnerabilities and fears so that we can thrive. When falling in love, we let our hair down and the armor starts to fade away. While this feels good, sometimes there’s a whole mess beneath that armor. Childhood issues, feelings of neglect, fears, and insecurities are waiting to be coddled. When people fall in love, they will change. People require attention that comforts their insecurities and caters to their needs. Learn your issues and what you’ll require before you shed your armor. It’s not okay to fall in love and expect your partner to fix your mommy or daddy issues just because you have the feels.
2. Does the person enhance my vision for my life?
You were on a life-mission. You had dreams and goals. Then you met your person and started to spend all of your time eating out, on the phone, and on dates with them. Now, you’re falling in love. Hold the breaks. That person is probably saying all of the right things and telling you how awesome you are but if your work slows down and you find yourself putting your goals and dreams on the back burner for ‘Netflix and chill’ dates, you probably shouldn’t let yourself fall in love with them. You’ll look up a year later asking yourself “what have I been doing with my life?” You’ll have to get yourself out of a love-bubble and figure out how to start again.
A healthy love propels you forth. You’re starting that business, finishing that book, your love even bought you a paint set because you got into that. Love should amplify your qualities and your vision for your life.
3. Am I a better version of myself?
If the person you’re falling in love with curses people out while driving, talks down to grocery store workers, and judges people with bad-weaves, it won’t be long before you too, become petty. It’s human nature to take on qualities and attitudes of the people closest to us. Your partner will occupy parts of your social and emotional space that influence the way you think about life, love, and goodness. If they’re bitter, you’ll become bitter too. If they don’t like going out, you’ll become a homebody sooner than you can imagine. So, evaluate whether you’re more kind, if your values are in tact with what you believe, and if you like the person you’re becoming as you spend time with your new boo.
4. Are there “red” flags?
There is an elephant in the room and you’re falling in love around it. They’re married. They have bad credit. They don’t speak to their parents or get along with their family. They have a kid and/or children on the way. You know the red flags when you see and hear them. Your new love may be talking about the situation as if it’s a small thing that won’t affect you but it will. Do not fall in love with them. If you really think they’re worth the journey, walk very carefully.
5. Are they taking medication?
Mental health is important and some people take medication to remain well. However, there may be periods of time when your love is not taking medication and you may realize you’ve fallen in love with someone who is actually a completely different person than they presented themselves to be when they were in a healthy state. Give yourself time to get to know them and make sure you can handle loving someone with and without their medication.
6. Are they self-medicating?
If the person you’re falling in love is a lush, doing drugs, or always in an altered state, be careful. Sure, they are sometimes the life of the party and the most charming one in the room but if they’re self-medicating on a daily basis, they are dealing with deep issues that you can’t fix. You may be having the time of your life with them, especially if drinking, smoking, and doing drugs is what you two do together. At some point, life will require sobriety of you both and you may find that you have fallen in love with a partner who you don’t even know and don’t actually even like.
7. Are they emotionally available?
Whether it’s childhood trauma, failed loves, mistrust, skepticism, or a legitimate desire to remain emotionally safe, some people just aren’t emotionally available. They are not interested in being “in love” and are in the relationship with you to have a good time. They will think you’re cool and may even tell you they love you but you will always feel a distance. Don’t fall in love with someone who simply doesn’t have the capacity to love you back.
8. How do they handle problems?
They are amazing. There are no red flags. They treat you well and they’re dependable. Then, life happened. A problem occurred. One of you made a mistake, lost a job, your roof collapsed, your car got towed, and you’re both overwhelmed. How does your love handle this? Do they retreat? Are they a runner who will disappear into the night, never to return again? Do they play the victim and place blame on everyone from their boss to the dog, to the meter attendant? Do they leave you left to clean up the pieces or do they take steps to fix the problem with a level mind? It’s surprising to see how many otherwise ideal people fall apart in the face of a bad day or a rough week. Before you fall in love, make sure you’ve seen them deal with a little bit of life.
9. Is the person a supplement to your committed relationship? (In plain words: Are they a side jawn?)
Relationships on the side can be magical. Your secret rendezvous adds fuel to your fire and you feel like you should just leave your committed relationship for the side person who takes you out, makes you laugh, and gives you butterflies and good loving. Of course, your main love can’t compete with the part-time love. Your main love requires work. They’re thinking of the hard stuff that love is made of and that doesn’t always feel like a walk in the park. If you happen to fall in love with your side relationship, you’ll likely discover they are a far worse life partner for you. Falling in love with a supplement is like making a meal of the condiments on a sandwich. Yes, it makes life feel and taste good but without the meat, there probably won’t be much to the relationship if you try to advance it.
10. How do both of you define love?
Your definition of love and their definition of love might be completely different. If you haven’t heard of the 5 love languages, check it out here and take the test for free. It will help you gain a sense of your love values. You should also talk to your partner about how they learned to love and what examples of love. Did they learn to love through sacrifice and martyrdom or through inspiration and encouragement? How do they define healthy love? Taking the time to talk through each others’ definition of love can save you from falling in love with someone who will not value the kind of love you have to offer.
11. Have I asked myself all of the above questions?
The questions are for you and your partner. Even if you ask all of these questions, you may still find yourself sliding into love without sensibility or good reason. It’s ok. That’s just how love works.
Jos Duncan is the founder and chief storyteller for Love Now Media. Save the date for our upcoming series of storytelling workshops and events 11 Days of Love Stories. You can support Love Now Media’s work here.