How to Test Your Relationship

Dating is a wonderful, addictive thing. With your significant other or person of interest, you go on dates. Dates seem to be the modules that make up our “dating” lives – seems obvious, doesn’t it? We go out to dinner, theme parks, hikes, walks on the beach, movies so on and so forth…all enjoyable activities.

When do couples actually face troubles and end up fighting?

  • Lack of communication & miscommunication
  • Drama with friends or family
  • Pressure from one person on another (job, school, responsibilities)
  • Personality mismatch

The last one – personality mismatch – surfaces often only in challenging situations that don’t necessarily touch the everyday living experiences of the modern couple. It’s easy to float along as a couple because they’re prone to positive experiences. It’s easy to fall in the trap of not really evaluating your S.O. as a legitimate person you want to spend 1, 3, 5 years with – and for some cases, a lifetime with.

Psychologists and economists have a term called “switching costs.” Sometimes, so much investment has been made in a relationship that it seems much easier to stay – despite obvious mismatches – than to consider an alternative. The worst reason to stay with someone is because you’ve already been with them for so long. The best reason is to that you’ve thoroughly thought about their match with you and you love them.

So the question is, how do you go about finding a decent match? I think part of the solution lies in problem solving together. Do activities that force the both of you to work together and solve a problem. Take on a project together. Often times, the first project that a couple take on together is their wedding…and at that point the switching costs are too great. Many times a couple, through the nerve-wracking process of planning a wedding, end up realizing that they don’t work well in high stress / important situations with their fiancé. Planning a wedding demands decision making, organizing and planning, involving other people, spending money, managing both sides of the family, and more. All these things should take occur well in advance of a wedding.

Here are some of the ways to test your relationship in positive ways – the main indicator success is not an event that was pulled off well, but how you learned and grew together as a team

  • Travel – international travel can be a life-changing experience. This seemingly amazing experience will bring hardcore challenges to people. First, you’re thrown in a foreign environment and may not speak the language, so just the simple fact of getting from point A to point B may be a logistical nightmare. You may discover that your partner would rather check off items off a list and go see all the famous tourist spots, whereas you’re more carefree and want to roam the city – you have to compromise on how to spend your time together. You’ll also discover spending habits, whether your partner will want to stick to a budget or prioritize new experiences first. Many of these things can also be experienced through domestic travel, which may be a good starting point.
  • Volunteer – volunteering is not only good for the community, but gives you a chance to see how self motivated or passionate a person is about helping others. It makes sense how couples who met at church and regularly go to church events & mission trips together experience a much lower rate of divorce. When you’re getting dirty building houses and wearing unflattering clothes (and for girls no makeup), that is an amazing side to someone you won’t get to see on a regular basis.
  • Camping/Backpacking – Camping takes skills. Even for an experienced camper going out with an inexperienced significant other, the latter is expected to help out. It’s hard to just sit back and relax when you’re out in the wild. Backpacking can be physically strenuous, unclean, eerily quiet…and fun. Spending a weekend or more without the amenities of modern civilization can be a revelation to your relationship.
  • Entrepreneurship – it’s rare that couples can start a company together and survive. This is probably the closest thing there is to having a baby besides having a real baby.
  • Throwing an event – whether it’s a dinner party at your house or getting a dozen friends up to the slopes for a weekend, throwing an event means you’re sharing the responsibility of the outcome of an event together.
  • Taking Class together – Taking classes, gives you a chance to see how your partner deals with learning, challenges and potential embarrassment from not doing something well. In classes, you have to be okay with your significant other talking and connecting with other (potentially attractive) people, especially if it’s a fitness class.

Think about your current partner. If any of the above activities just seem dreadful to you, that may be telling of the relationship. If you’re excited and ready to kick ass together, you just might have a legendary relationship in the making.

The point of all of the above is not to test your relationship for testing’s sake, but to discover other dimensions of your partner, and your relationship, that go beyond the nice dinner date. These activities are all extremely helpful in discovering your partner’s personality. Understanding how your partner is an introvert or extrovert, or a mix of both. Seeing how your partner makes decisions under stressful situations. Notice how easy or tough it is to compromise on an issue with your partner. The point of all this is to expand your understanding of your partner beyond date material, but to see how they choose to operate through life and struggles.

When you get married and have kids, you guys are forced to constantly solve problems: when to pick up the kids, where to have a family vacation, how to manage finances together and on and on. Things do get serious and you get married, all those other dimensions will arise – and we better be prepared for them.

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