Ever since I started dating my current partner, one of my family members periodically asks me “How serious are you with him?” My irked answer often amounts to: “Well, I probably won’t ever tell you if I’m serious with anyone I date because if we break up, the next time I feel like I’m in a ‘serious’ relationship you’ll blow it off as being another mistake.”
But how do you decide when you and your partner are ‘serious’? What does that even mean? In the context of my family member’s questioning, I can only assume they are really asking is: “Is this one the one? Are you going to marry this person?”
The only beings that can truly answer that question are Fate and Time Travellers. It seems so silly to demean a relationship between two people based on how ‘serious’ they are (and I’m still not entirely convinced it’s even worth asking such an ambiguous question). I don’t know if my partner and I are ‘serious’, but I know that my partner makes me feel happy, adventurous, intellectually-piqued, and appreciated. What more do I really need right now?
Coincidentally, I recently had a conversation with my partner’s father over breakfast where the topic of marriage came up. He started talking about it in the context of his own first marriage which had ultimately ended in a somewhat nasty divorce. From his perspective, there is a key timeline to follow in order to know whether or not you are going to get along with someone for the rest of your life:
- Get to know the person for six months before dating.
- Live with them for two years to see if your lifestyles align.
- Marry them after five years. By then, you’ve been exposed to one another’s flaws and will have gone through significant conflict together. If you’re still together after five years, you’re bound to have a successful relationship.
My partner and his entire family are all very logic-oriented people—They’re intelligent, calculating, and down-to-earth. I am those things as well, but not to the same extent. As such, I can understand the logic of setting up explicit timelines or milestones in a relationship, but I’m also a hopeless romantic who was more skeptical than anything of this logical love recipe. I don’t think time alone can predict a couple’s success. I also question the definition of that ‘successful relationship’. (On the other hand, my partner and I did start dating six months after we met… Hmm….)
In my eyes, the strongest predictor of a happy couple is communication. This refers to both verbal communication and emotional communication. Any type of relationship—be it romantic, platonic, familial, etc.—must grow from a place where all parties involved feel comfortable enough to say what’s on their mind. Communication must be open enough that you can comfortably challenge your own thoughts and feelings by putting them within the context of your partner’s.
So, Mom, no, I don’t know how serious I am with him nor how our relationship will turn out but isn’t that part of the mystery of life that makes it worth living?