Today's article is an outgrowth of a conversation I had with Dr. Barbara Fontana for a podcast for the Suffolk County Psychological Association. You can hear the podcast at http://scpa.podOmatic.com. After doing the interview, I realized that there were aspects about relationships that we had not discussed and I thought it was important to offer the pointers and suggestions I have given my own patients over the years.
In my experience, I have found there are five big issues that cause problems in relationships. These are the major issues that could interfere with the longevity of any relationship. Here are my pick for the five issues that cause the majority of problems in relationships- not in any specific order:
1) Differences in sex drives.
2) Outside family members intruding on the relationship.
3) Religious differences.
4) Economic differences.
5) Different perceptions on how to parent the children.
My list may not be the most exhaustive and there are others out there. For example, The Americans for Divorce Reform's list of issues that cause problems in marriages is different and larger, but there is some overlap with my own list. Here is their list:
1) Communication problems.
2 Financial problems.
3) A lack of commitment.
4) A change in priorities.
6) Failed expectations or unmet needs.
7) Addictions and substance abuse.
8) Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
9) Lack of conflict resolution skills.
In light of these lists, I believe it is important to do your homework. Explore the following areas:
Find out if the person you are interested in has ever had substance problems or any other addictions. If these problems had been in the past, there is a somewhat higher probability they may reappear in the future.
I know that it seems obvious, but consider if someone has had a criminal past. If they did, find out what their crime was. Depending on what they did, it may tell you if they have an inability to follow rules, or they believe the rules don't apply to them. Could their crime tell you that they could have the ability to violate other people's needs without thinking? Could you be next?
Too many job changes in a short period of time could be a sign of a problem. Be suspicious if they blame all of their bosses. I find it highly unlikely that every boss they have ever had was a fiend. If they have been changing jobs constantly, it might indicate that they are not financially stable enough to support a family for the long term, or they have trouble with authority figures, or even just getting along with others.
I would be suspicious if when talking about their past relationships they claim that every other individual they went out was responsible for the breakup, or that they were always monsters and terrible people. It may suggest that they do not take responsibility for their own unfavorable behavior that may have led to, or contributed to, the prior breakups.
See how they were raised his children. If they came from a verbally or physically abusive family, it may reflect on how they choose to parent their own children.
Make sure religious beliefs are similar to yours. If you have significant different religious values it may create problems in the decision on how to raise your own children.
Observe how they handle money. Are they able to part with their money or are they unable to hold onto their money. Different values and finances can create problems. Find someone with similar values of handling money.
Check out their family history, or as many generations about which you can obtain information. Find out if anyone in their immediate family was alcoholic, had major mental illnesses, or had been in jail. The reality is when you marry a person or are in a long-term relationship their family and family problems come with them.
Keep those pointers in mind when looking for a potential lifelong spouse or partner. You need to do your homework and find out about their past, their family, and their needs. Ask questions and observe. Do not think you will change the person into someone else.