By Roger Nygard, Author, and Filmmaker
WILL LOVE MAKE YOU HAPPY?
Is there a special person the Universe has determined is the perfect match for you? Have you ever asked, how do I know if I have a soulmate? Why is it so hard to find true love?
When I interviewed matchmaker Marni Kagan for my relationship book and documentary THE TRUTH ABOUT MARRIAGE, she said is not a fan of the soulmate ideal, calling it “…a detrimental concept that hurts people if they think that way.” Author Joy Chen believes, “Love is about two people becoming soulmates over time.” I like that approach. Choose well, and when you become life mates, you will also grow into soulmates; love is something that gets stronger through a lifetime of shared experiences. But how do you know if you’ve found true love?
When I asked my grandmother (at the tender age of 100) if my grandfather said he loved her when they got married, she surprised me by saying they never discussed love. More important for her was couple compatibility, because, in her words, “You have to get along in order to live together.”
If you want to know if you have found a soulmate, where should you start?
START HERE: IDENTIFY CORE VALUES IN A RELATIONSHIP
People who are dating begin by comparing shared interests like preferred foods, favorite sports, sleep patterns, and so on. But the more you come together on the more important core values in a relationship, the stronger your couple compatibility will be.
Examples of core values in a relationship are:
- How do you (and your partner) define the word integrity?
- What is the right thing to do in any given situation?
- What are your rules to live by?
These beliefs are your core values, governed by feelings about religion, politics, family, achievement, education, tradition, responsibility, growth, fitness, a sense of fairness….
Core life values generally don’t change very much after age twenty-six. You can disagree on favorite restaurants, but to assess couple compatibility, both you and your partner need to match your identified core values as early in the relationship as possible to prevent fundamental problems down the line.
When I interviewed Stephanie Coontz (Author of Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage), she put it this way, “You ought to get indignant about the same things. If there is something you have contempt for, it may be cute during the infatuation stage, but pretty soon you will be rolling your eyes and very angry at how much you disagree.”
Co-parenting expert Rachel Hope (author of Family by Choice: Platonic Partnered Parenting) stresses that you absolutely need to consider core values in a relationship when you pick a life partner, and you should turn down the people who do not match:
“A competent counselor can get love-intoxicated people sober enough to talk through the basic core values. These are areas where people do not find compromise easily. They might do it for a little while, but they will resent it, and eventually, it will erode the relationship. You can be complementary in your personality and interests, but you have to be almost identical in core values.”
HOW TO TALK ABOUT DIFFICULT THINGS IN A RELATIONSHIP
Talking about core values in a relationship can feel daunting. It’s normal to worry that your partner may be put off if you raise these issues.
Marriage therapist Bonnie Eaker Weil (Make Up, Don’t Break Up: Finding and Keeping Love for Singles and Couples) says marriage and relationships require proficiencies that must be learned. We are not born with an automatic ability to navigate modern relationships. And the best way to approach this is with a little help:
“Have therapy before marriage, to see what your unfinished business is from childhood. Couples need to look at their wounds and share their wounds with their partners. The first year is the hardest. Everything we did in our childhood hits us in the face. Even if you lived together for four years first, it won’t bother you until you get into marriage.”
HOW CAN YOU DISCUSS CORE ISSUES?
I’m not surprised that we are still frustrated and struggling with managing unrealistic expectations in relationships and marriages that are promoted by our culture: our religions, the media, lawmakers, friends, relatives, co-workers….
In a related blog post here, The Truth about Marriage: Your Book to Read Before Getting Married, I discussed using a simple “Are You Ready to Get Married Quiz,” located in the appendix of my book, which helps couples prioritize their needs and future personal goals. That’s one way–a way that can be a fun thing to do together–where you can start to find out if your core relationship values are in sync enough to make your union work over the long haul.
If you’d like to learn more relationship tips, check out the links below for the funny documentary The Truth about Marriage and The Truth about Marriage relationship book by Roger Nygard. Both provide invaluable tips to help you figure out how to find the right relationship and keep it healthy, happy, and vibrant.