True Love or Something Else?

I love Spring. When I look back to my school days, I can remember the days getting warmer, lingering evenings, budding blossoms, fragrant flowers, and hanging out with my friends. In high school it was the after school sports which held my attention, and in particular, the boys. I was looking for LOVE. We all were, or so it seemed. Although inept at relationships, we did our best to make them happen.

We all know that relationships are important. Just listen to the lyrics of songs from any generation, watch a little TV, or interview a therapist. The common theme for much of what we see and hear is about romance, love, and heartbreak. But what kind of relationships are successful? How do we go about getting ourselves into a successful life partnership?

With our divorce rate hovering around 57%, perhaps how we approach the process of seeking a life partner needs examination. In our culture, we tend to go from falling in love to making a commitment. We skip steps. If we want a successful life partnership then we need to work a plan of conscious and intentional steps toward commitment. To do this there are five stages to go through.

The first stage is determining your relationship readiness, where you get clear about: who you are; what you want out of life; what your requirements, needs, and wants are in a relationship; and your relationship plan. Many people bypass this step; however, it is the most important stage of all and sets the foundation for a successful life partnership.

Next is the attraction stage where you learn how to scout, sort, screen, and test. Scouting is the process of figuring out how and where to find the kind of people you want to meet. Sorting is a way of quickly determining if you want to spend more time with a person. Screening is a course of action to determine if this person meets your requirements or not. And testing is where you seek experience and knowledge to determine that you think your requirements would be met before you decide to be exclusive and enter a pre-commitment period where testing continues.

The third step is the pre-commitment stage and is important in the process of becoming committed. This is where one or both are asking questions such as: "Is this the right relationship for me?" "Is this the one?" "Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?" Activities in this stage are to continue to collect information and knowledge about this person and see if you experience your requirements and needs being met.

Fourth, is the pre-marital or mutually exclusive stage where the preparation for entering into a commitment becomes public. Plans for a wedding or commitment ceremony are made and shared with family and friends. In this stage it is still important to keep asking, "Am I doing the right thing?" The couple needs to continue to identify issues, learn effective communication skills, and to develop action plans to address issues and areas of conflict.

And finally, after successfully negotiating the four previous stages comes the commitment. In this stage, you both participate in making a commitment to each other and the relationship and doing what it takes to make it work. The commitment is what will get you through the tough times.

So, if you are looking for love and want a life partner, take the time to build your foundation and work your way through the stages. These stages will provide you with an effective structure and a method for finding someone who is right for you. Trust that finding true love can happen for you!

Eilise Ward