Ask Kirsten: Where are the butterflies? (Five ways to know if your relationship is marriage material.)

Dear Kirsten,

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. He is starting to talk about marriage. I truly love him and we have a pretty good relationship, but honestly, I’m not sure if he is “the one.” I don’t feel that soul-mate connection that I think you are supposed to feel with a life partner. How do I decide if I should marry him?

Sincerely, Ms. Indecisive

Well hello, Ms. Indecisive,

First of all, let me say that I don’t think there is just one person out there for you. At the risk of sounding jaded, there are probably loads of potential mates floating around the universe who could be a good match. That being said, the universe has connected you with your boyfriend, and it sounds like you two have a great thing going, so let’s explore that in more detail.

Some folks fall madly in love. Other people are more cautious and practical.

I find that people land in one of two camps when selecting a spouse. Some folks fall madly in love, decide that they’ve found their life partner/soul mate and never question their fate moving forward. Other people are more cautious and practical, like you. They spend time analyzing and weighing the pros and cons of their relationship. It doesn’t necessarily mean that their relationship isn’t good marriage material – they just don’t hear any angels singing or birds chirping, Disney-style, and wonder if they are missing something.

Disney flicks aside, here are five questions to help you decide if your man truly is your Prince Charming:

1) Is there (or was there ever) a spark in your relationship? If you’ve been together for a few years, things might not be quite as steamy as when you initially fell in love. That’s normal and okay. Nevertheless, we want there to be some steam. If you don’t have chemistry early on in your relationship, it will be really hard to manufacture it later on.

2) Do you share any passions or interests? Even if your personalities are quite opposite, it is important that the two of you enjoy doing some activities together. This can be anything: bowling league, political campaigns, watching art house movies, exercising, or traveling. Shared passions will prevent you from drifting off in opposite directions later in life.

3) How do you handle conflict? All couples experience conflict. In fact, some fighting can be a sign of a healthy relationship depending on how you resolve your differences. The red flags to look out for are: name-calling, shutting down all together or violence. These are indicators that the relationship is on shaky ground and that you either need to get professional help or get out.

4) Would you say that you and your boyfriend are close friends, or even best friends? Friendship truly is the foundation of a great relationship. I always ask my clients if they chitchat with each other on a daily basis or have a blast on long road trips together. These would be signs that you really enjoy each other’s company, which is going to pay dividends later on.

5) Do you have similar life goals? This one speaks for itself. If you and your boyfriend are headed in the same general direction, you will naturally find yourself in alignment after years or even decades of being together.

After answering these questions, I hope have a clearer idea of whether your man is your “one and only.” Don’t fret if you don’t feel the clarity and passion that Noah and Allie demonstrate in “The Notebook” – your boyfriend isn’t Ryan Gosling and your life is not a movie. Nevertheless, your man might just be the best and “right-est” partner for you.

Sincerely, Kirsten

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Ask Kirsten on As One Loves is published as a community service with the intention of addressing reader-submitted questions about relationship issues. Written by Kirsten Brunner, MA, LPC, a licensed professional counselor, this column is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or actual psychotherapy. Always seek the advice of a licensed mental health professional, without delay and in person, regarding questions you may have about any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard other professional advice because of something you have read on Reader-submitted questions are anonymous to protect the questioner’s identity, chosen by the As One Loves team, and may be edited for spelling, grammar, clarity, and length.

Have you been in this situation? Or did you know immediately? How long did it take you to realize your partner was the one for you?

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