I. You see if they are worth your time by running them through the first checklist:
1. Take them to see family and friends. If they (and your dog) like them, go to step two. (Since when you are in love, you’;re stupid, you trust your family/friends to look out for you.)
2. Take them to a pizza place. See how they treat the server. (Once you become their servant, this is how they will treat you.)
3. See how they deal with it when you say, ‘;No.’; (If they run over the little ‘;no’;s’;, they will run over the big ones.)
4. Can they laugh at them selves in a healthy way? (If so, they can see mistakes and fix them; if not, they will get defensive and refuse change.)
II. Second, the process of ‘;getting to know you’; begins. To start this process, you share a little about yourself and invite them to do the same. You deepen this sharing until they cannot match the depth you’;re willing to go. This is the limit of ‘;intimacy’; or depth this relationship offers. (If you share a little bit and they share their whole sordid life’;s history, that’;s an invitation to rescue them from their pain — run screaming the other way.)
The sharing part of this process will necessarily overlap with Step I and Step III. The procedure is fairly simple.
You share some minor secret or detail about yourself and see how it’s received. The ideal is that it’s heard and understood without judgment, ridicule, or some attempt to fix you.
If all goes well, you invite a similar disclosure and do the same (active listen and understand).
Then you go a bit deeper and invite similar disclosures. You keep at it until the other person can’t go with you to an even deeper self-disclosure. This, then, is the current depth limit of the relationship. If that’s a satisfying depth, then go to Step III.
III. Now that you’;ve established the depth of this relationship, the next thing is to develop two things: 1) a bullet-proof conflict resolution package; and 2) negotiate to make sure each person’;s needs are going to be met. This might require the help of a counselor, but until this is established, the cornerstone for a healthy relationship is not set.
Two ‘packages’ form the cornerstone for the healthy relationship, as noted above: conflict resolution and getting one’s needs met from a place of enlightened self-interest (you scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours). However, we can synopsize these into one phrase: Honesty and courtesy. So, when in doubt act and speak from honesty and courtesy and things go much better.
Conflict resolution is an extension of Step II sharing. When there’s a problem, you start by understanding the other’s point-of-view, and they must understand yours. Once that’s accomplished, you find the common ground. Then you brainstorm a solution based on the common ground. Once you have a plan, you test it for a week or two, and come back to evaluate if it’s working or not.
Meeting each others’ needs means that you offer the other person a list on how to meet yours; and vice versa. Snags in coming up with an agenda for meeting each other’s needs you would problem-solve with the conflict resolution process.
One of my brothers claims that he’s been married, raised four kids, and entered retirement by one simple strategy: Take a walk with your spouse every day. It’s free; it’s good exercise; and you can work out the issues that need working out.
I like his strategy, but, as I said in the synopsis, working out the particulars of how to resolve conflict might require professional help. That would be money wel