You have been dating for four months. In the beginning, you thought that he was Mr. Wonderful. You thought she was Ms. Right. You felt excited, alive, electric, and you were on top of the world. You went to really cool places for dates and it was everything that you always thought romance was supposed to be. You shared so many interests and all of her little quirks and idiosyncracies meshed with yours. You hate mayonnaise and so does she. You think Mick Jagger is a washed up has been and she can stand the Rolling Stones. You have a nuclear-powereed snore but she sleeps on her left side and she's deaf in her right ear. How cool is that?!
Then . . . a few little things began to bother you. You were irritated about how she would order the most expensive thing on the menu but not eat half of it. You wanted to throw up when he blew his nose while you were eating. If you were at the mall, she insisted on looking in every shoe store even though she already owns 452 pair of shoes. Football season came and he turned into a couch potato for 10-12 hours every Saturday afternoon and evening.
Should you call it quits? Your partner hasn't cheated on you, most of the time the relationship feels good, and you have dated enough losers to know that this one is a cut above the others. So . . . should you break up? If not, what do you do? Something needs to change.
1. Why are you dating? Not "why are you dating this person," just "why are you dating?" Are you dating because you are looking for a partner to settle down with in a long term relationship/marriage? Are you dating just because you don't want to be alone on Friday and Saturday nights? Are you dating because you need a sexual partner? If you are not looking for a long term relationship, changing partners will not be as traumatic and you don't have the emotional investment of someone looking for a spouse. For this Take, I will assume that you are looking to find the other half of the future Mr. and Mrs. You.
2. How long have you been dating? If you have only been dating for three weeks and you are already asking this question, the answer seems rather obvious. When you find someone with whom you are compatible, the honeymoon phase will invariably end . . . but not after three weeks. This is not The One for you. If you have been dating for at least three or four months, you have an investment in this person and you should not be so quick to discard this opportunity.
3. Have you identified the specific problems? If she orders the most expensive thing on the menu but doesn't eat half of it, what's really bothering you? Is it the $22.95 that you spent for the lobster thermidor of something else? Do you think she is using you, spending your money for entertainment purposes? Do you think she is being insensitive to the fact that you only earn $400/week and she tries to get you to spend $200 on a date? Of course, if he blew his nose while you were eating, that's a disgusting thing to do, but . . . has he ever been taught that it is a rude thing to do, is he simply doing whatever is most convenient without any regard for others, does he frequently embarrass you in public? Do you really care if she buys another pair of shoes or do you resent the fact that she seems to waste your time? Does his interest in football get you upset because you want to do other things on Saturday or does it remind you of your high school boyfriend, the star quarterback who you caught doing it doggy style with your best friend?
You need to be honest with yourself about what the real problems are. There is no sense in spending time addressing issues if your best efforts still won't resolve the real issues.
4. Are these the kind of problems which can be resolved? Not all problems are susceptible to intervention and change. Not all differences can be tolerated.
I am a man with a professional degree. I don't think that makes me a better person than a girl with a high school diploma, but it does make us different. She may be very intelligent but uneducated but perhaps she is just normal intelligence and will always feel uncomfortable being around my professional friends. My ex-wife had a 2 year degree from a local community college. She was embarrassed when she went to social functions with me and was asked where she went to college. I wasn't embarrassed about her, but she felt self-conscious and eventually stopped attending events with me. That didn't break our marriage . . . but it was one more conflict that we had to face. And it was a conflict that could not readily be resolved. (I encouraged her to return to school and get her bachelor's degree. She did so but dropped out after 4 weeks.)
If you are bothered because she keeps texting an ex-boyfriend . . . maybe that problem can be resolved, but probably not. But many problems can be resolved.
Maybe, when he was a child, his family blew their noses when they were eating. Maybe it's simply a matter of making a request and telling him how important it is to you, telling him how you want to throw up everyting you've ever eaten when you hear him blasting green snot out of his schnozzola. This is something that can be resolved. Get up and go to the bathroom to do something that gross.
Tell her that you only earn $400 per week and you can't afford $200 dates. She may suggest that you stay in, order a pizza, and watch something on Netflix. Maybe she simply didn't understand your personal economics.
5. Have you discussed the problems with your partner? At this point, you might be thinking, "This sounds like a lot of work!" Bingo, you've got it right! Relationships are work. If you think that a good relationship just happens . . . you will be looking for the remainder of your life and never find that unicorn. My grandmother always said, "A good relationship is the toughest job you'll ever have," and she was right. You don't HAVE TO do all of this work, but don't expect to have a good relationship if you don't. The rewards justify the effort.
So . . . have you discussed these issues with Ms. Sort of Wonderful or Mr. Kinda Right? That's right, discussed the issues. That doesn't mean sending them a text message. You need to have a give and take discussion that doesn't begin with a formal reading of the charges against the accused. The idea of the discussion is not to determine who is at fault but to look for solutions. Don't put your partner on the defensive. Just tell them 'this is what's bugging me and I'd like to see if we can find some solutions, because that would make our time together so much more enjoyable for me.' And ask them what kind of things you are doing that bothers them. Don't make the discussion one-sided.
6. How did your partner repond to the discussion? Some people do not have the capacity to step back, look at themselves, and admit to faults. Their only response is to deny the problems or blame you for the difficulties. If this describes your partner, they are not your future. A lifetime together requires sensitivity to each other's needs and a willingness to compromise for the sake of domestic tranquility. If your partner can't do that now . . . don't count on them ever being any different than they are now.
If your partner is willing to make the effort to work on solutions in a constructive fashion, they have maturity and a sense of loyalty to you. Those are both excellent indicators of the prospects for making this relationship work, but you must still ask:
7. If you can resolve the problems that you have identified, does this person have the potential to be a good mate for you? It is possible to meet someone who is nice, fun to date, entertaining, sexually appealing, and who would be a horrible mate for you. Do you trust and respect this person? Would they be a good parent for your children, especially if they were left alone to raise them (e.g., you die?) Will you be proud to introduce them to your family? Will they be responsible to you and your family?
If you decide to break up, make it a constructive break up. Read myTake on how to break up:
and myTake on how to survive a break up and move forward with your life:
If you decide to stay together, re-dedicate yourself to making your relationship work and make sure that your partner has the same attitude. Good luck!