4 Essentials Before Starting A Relationship

“You attract the right things when you have a sense of who you are.” -Amy Poehler –

I love Amy Poehler for many reasons, and especially for this quote above. I would also clarify that the ‘right things’ include the ‘right-for-you’ people.

Relationships are impactful. When we experience toxic relationships they can damage us deeply, but on the flip-side, when in healthy relationships we can experience happiness to the nth degree. (Yes, even more happiness than being surrounded by puppies and having an endless supply of Pumpkin Spice lattes #basic).

What is essential though, is that you know yourself. No--not just what you like and don’t like, but on a deeper level than that.

You must have a true, defined sense of self so you can choose partners that allow you to best your best you.

1) IDENTIFY YOUR CORE VALUES AND LIVE BY THEM.

What are your core values ( i.e. "personal truth")?

Values act as a compass and guide you through life. They are a filter for how you view yourself and the world, what is most important to you, and they influence work, relationships, leisure time, how you handle conflict, etc.

Values help to determine what brings you joy, fulfillment, and helps you to form and maintain your unique, individual sense of self.

Although values may change in order of priority throughout your life, overall they remain consistent.

You have to be clear about your values so you can figure out if a potential partner will be able to truly support and encourage you to be true to yourself.

I always recommend to clients to take this free, but thorough online assessment: www.lifevaluesinventory.org.

If you are aimlessly drifting through life and don’t have a rough idea of what you want your life to be like in 1, 5, and 10 years from now, you may be more susceptible to entering or staying in an unhealthy relationship.

Besides being clear about your values, your current day and future plans have to reflect alignment of your values. You can't just talk the talk-- you must walk the walk.

Sometimes there are blockages with living according to our values (i.e. wanting to please others), but remember: you have to have an established sense of self, so you don’t lose yourself in a partner.

2) KNOW YOUR COMMUNICATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRUGGLES.

You've probably heard the adage that "communication is key", but do you really know that communication can be one of the biggest sources of stress in relationships?

 Better yet, do you know what keeps you from effectively communicating?

You must be able to recognize if you tend to be more passive, assertive, or aggressive, direct versus indirect, etc. and how that plays out when addressing problems in a relationship.

Do you need time to collect your thoughts or do you need to pause and breathe before your verbally explode on others? Or do you tend to avoid conflict altogether because you are afraid upsetting someone?

Do you know what your hot button 'issues' are and what triggers you to be angry or shut down? Emotional awareness goes hand-in-hand with communication and conflict resolution.

3)  FIGURE OUT YOUR ATTACHMENT STYLE (aka how you operate in relationships).

Based on your upbringing and personality, you will fall into one of 3 categories of attachment: anxious, avoidant, or secure.

I always recommend the book "Attached" by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller which is a digestable read, goes into the science of adult attachment, and gives you practical tips to find and sustain healthy relationships.

Here are quick descriptions of attachment styles:

Anxious people are often preoccupied or obsessed with their relationships and worry about their partner's ability to love them back.

Avoidant people equate true intimacy in a relationship with a loss of freedom and independence. They tend to create emotional distance in a relationship.

Secure people feel comfortable with authentic, intimate relationships and are willing to communicate effectively and lovingly.

Once you know your attachment style, you be aware of your vulnerabilities and strengths before entering or staying in an unhealthy relationship.

4) DETERMINE YOUR DEAL BREAKERS.

No relationship or partner is perfect, and the 'grass is greener' mindset is dangerous for relationships. Yet, having clear boundaries about what is okay and what is not okay in a partner/relationship is necessary.

What are your deal breakers? Be honest with yourself on paper. Aim for coming up with at least 5 - 10 deal breakers.

If financial security and stability are values of yours, but you have a partner who has a 'work to live' motto and who may spend beyond his/her means, you may be setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment.

The challenge can be that sometimes the head and the heart conflict due to a hope that a partner will change, and/or fear of being alone.

If keeping boundaries has been hard for you in the past, it may be wise to speak with a therapist or someone you trust to help you build confidence, stand your ground, or manage your loneliness while waiting for Mr./Mrs. Right (For You). There's no shame in admitting that being single can be really challenging at times.

Relationship guru Dr. John Gottman wisely says about relationships, “We repeat what we don’t repair.”

Now that you know the essentials before entering a relationship, it is my hopeful wish that you stay true to yourself and make sure to choose relationships that honor you as you so deserve!