Do your homework before the wedding

Story by Barton Goldsmith
(Scripps Howard News Service)
Fri, Apr 27, 2012
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Mark Twain said that “love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”

Twain makes a good point. But I don’t think it takes quite so long these days. For example, if you meet online, most of the time you know a great deal about someone else before you even meet in person. Of course, you have to hope he or she has been honest in disclosing personal details. Yes, this does take some due diligence, but isn’t that what dating is all about?

I usually find that people who are disappointed in those they forge a relationship with either didn’t ask enough questions or didn’t really listen to the answers. When people tell you about themselves and their behavior — for instance, admitting to having a quick temper — listen!

Many people fail to notice or they simply ignore the red flags, or warning signs. If you see one, it’s supposed to stop you in your tracks. Unfortunately, most of us refuse to stop when it comes to romantic love.

When love has got you in its grasp, no flag or warning from a friend will stop you from going full speed ahead. Even if you suspect that opening your heart may result in getting it broken, you will do it anyway because the lure of love is so powerful.

Thinking that you will change a person once you are in a relationship is, unfortunately, mere fantasy. People do improve, but only if they want to. Relying on someone to come to his or her senses isn’t a good bet.

You are better off dating longer and seeing how someone chooses to grow rather than wishing and hoping, or trying to force someone to make the changes you desire. The rule of thumb here is not to get engaged for at least six months, and to wait another year before getting married. It will be worth it. If you don’t think so, just ask someone you know who is in the process of a breakup.

A book by Monica Leahy, “1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married,” is a wonderful read for anyone on the path to matrimony. The title alone says something important: If you don’t ask enough questions, you may find yourself wondering how you got yourself into such a mess and how to get out of it.

Finding the right person to love is something to take very seriously. Relationships don’t just work themselves out; you have to work on them. When you think you have found someone worth sharing the rest of your life with, you should do your homework before settling down.

Those who take their time generally end up with better relationships, less chaos, more love to share and a stronger commitment. This is one of the biggest steps you will ever take. You need to do everything you can to ensure that you don’t stumble and fall.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of “100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence — Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too” (Career Press, 2010).

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