When I write about issues that affect singles, I often discuss the importance of being around happy couples. By spending time with couples who actually like each other and treat each other well, you are watching other men and women model how to make a relationship work. What’s more, these couples provide living proof that good relationships exist. Hanging out with happy couples helps give your faith a boost, especially when you start to question when –and if – a happy relationship will materialize for you. When spending time with couples, take a few minutes at some point to ask a few questions about their relationship experience.
“Looking back, was your partner the type you imagined yourself ending up with?”
Couples have a lot of interesting stories about what they imagined when each of them was single. Often, members of successful long-term relationships report that the person they ended up with wasn’t the type they originally envisioned. Perhaps he was a bit older or she dressed differently;perhaps he was nerdier or she was more social.
Happy couples often find that they end up settling down with someone who has a passion or hobby they never would have imagined in their partner: a motorcyclist, a musician, or someone who plays a particular sport. Ask happy couples you know about whether the type of person they ended up with fit the type they had envisioned for themselves, and you will get some interesting answers.
“Were there arguments or significant conflicts in the first few months of dating?”
If you ask only one or two of my suggested questions, make this question one of them. Ask a happy couple you know whether there were days or nights with feelings of confusion, sadness or anger; ask whether there were any tears shed in the first month or two, or whether each member of the couple had significant insecurity about whether the dating relationship would last. Listening carefully to their answers – and the answers will skew heavily toward one end of the yes/no spectrum – and think about how much patience you have in relationships for emotional drama and conflict.
“When you were single, what was the main thing you were looking for in someone?”
As a psychologist, I believe few things are as valuable as feedback from those you trust. Even if you might not love feeling vulnerable, open yourself up to others’ feedback because we can learn from others. Ask someone in a happy, long-term couple what traits they were looking for most when they were dating and choosing among prospective partners. The likelihood is that he or she was prioritizing the traits or characteristics that matter most because good relationships don’t just “happen” or appear magically. The way to a good relationship is through good romantic decisions.By interviewing someone who knows how to exist in a good relationship, you are getting data from someone who knows how to make good romantic decisions. You can use this information to influence your own romantic investments.
“Did you ever worry you might not find someone?”
Being single, as a rule, doesn’t have to be awful, but there are some undeniably awful things about it. For one, it’s inevitable to question from time to time whether there is actually someone out there for you. When you have no proof, it can be easy to lose faith. Asking people in happy, long-term relationships whether they, too, ever had this feeling may yield surprising results. You may be surprised to find how many people in happy couples felt the same doubts you may feel now.
Ask for One Nugget of Advice
While you’re asking questions, include one that speaks to specific advice. Ask a question along these lines: “If you gave single people one piece of relationship advice, what would it be?” “Could you tell me the one thing I should look for in a partner above all else?” “What is one of the main mistakes you think singles make when they make their dating decisions?”
Spending time with successful long-term couples is a winning strategy for singles. Happy couples can inspire us to keep the faith in relationships, and they model how to make a successful relationship work. Having such couples close can be helpful, and asking them for advice and wisdom can provide you with data you can use in your own dating life. Make a commitment to ask at least two or three of these questions, and you will find that the exercise helps you become wiser and more aware.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.