Remember basics while searching for your lifelong mate

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(Part five of six)

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Finding “The One,” or rather Mr./Ms. Right, often is the subject of best-selling novels, the newest movie, or the most talked-about songs. It is a topic of conversation at almost any age.

Most know they aren’t likely to meet someone and ride into the sunset to a happily-ever-after.

Worth the effort.

Choosing, rather than finding, a life partner can be well worth the time and effort invested in the process. But, the line between a date and a relationship can be difficult to identify.

Relationships usually evolve, said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, a family systems specialist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

For example, couples who enjoy each other’s company may want to ask themselves questions like:

* Can we talk easily?

* Do I feel close to …?

* Do I feel comfortable sharing my innermost thoughts, feelings and fears?

* Are we building shared memories – or a history – together?

As a couple’s relationship matures, they usually begin discussing their future. The couple may want to ask themselves if they want to continue at the current pace, if they want to increase their commitment, or if they want to consider marriage.

Important questions.

If marriage is a consideration, Olsen suggests the couple ask themselves these questions:

* Do we like each other as people?

* Are we improving our communications skills for marriage?

* Do we resolve conflict in a constructive way?

* Do we have realistic expectations about marriage?

* Do we agree on religious and ethical issues?

* Do we balance couple and individual leisure time?

On average, a couple is engaged 12-16 months. During this time, premarital counseling or education is important, Olsen said.

Preparation for marriage.

“We prepare ourselves for everything else in life. We prepare for the job market, but we don’t prepare for marital relationship,” said Olsen.

She identified some of the key psychological issues that may be addressed prior to marriage: anxiety about marriage; sense of losing freedom; gaining more responsibility; learning to accept spouse’s faults; and handling the relationship after the newness wears off.

Other key issues that should be discussed during the engagement are the expectations for the marriage, Olsen said.

Key issues.

Immediate and long-term goals, finances, distribution of household tasks and having children are some of the expectations that should be considered.

“The more you realize your partner’s expectations, the more you learn how to work on a resolution of the possible conflict,” Olsen said.

Discussing expectations for and concerns about marriage also may help decrease pre-wedding jitters. Once it is time to plan the wedding, couples need to concentrate less on the pomp and circumstance and more on the purpose for the wedding, Olsen said.

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