For weeks and even months you’ve been starry eyed, permanently bed-bound (in the right way), flushed with your body’s ‘love-buzz’ chemicals – and you most likely haven’t even cared to ask if this might be the one. Love is blind.
Welcome back to reality! The phenylethylamine (PEA) is starting to fade. He or she is still ‘perfect’. Love will conquer all. And you’re both still on your best behaviour: real life, human faults haven’t yet been exposed. Besides which, the sexual chemistry remains just fine.
As the months pass, you are about to start seeing each other more and more as you really are. The ‘relationship’, as it is increasingly is, is going to be a little less love-struck, more and more between two real people who have real jobs, real interests, real friends, real political views, real ambitions… Are you going to get on?
It’s time to ask: how compatible are you? Are your two lives going to fit with each other’s – or are there just not enough ways in which you match?
You don’t want to hear this yet? Read on.
Love can cross many divides, but spare a thought for where you are both coming from in life, which will hugely influence pretty much everything there is that we think of as personality or character. If one of you is from a highly privileged background and the other isn’t quite from the right side of the tracks, you can expect issues – which may or may not be resolved.
Check the religious beliefs you’ve inherited. Check your political views. Check your educational attainments. You’ve got three degrees and she dropped out of high school at sixteen? There’s possible boredom pending there. If your tastes are decidedly comfortable – high-minded and civilised – while he’s at his happiest ogling the sheer choice of lagers at the local pub, well, when the sexual excess wanes… (Check the accent. Could it possibly ever grate?)
Of course, we’re not saying that couples must come from the same sort of background. Social class is fluid – though certainly not yet obsolete. People grow and change. We are not our parents. We are saying that if there are significant differences, you need to take extra care to check that you really do have a lot in common and that, no matter what parents and friends might say, you are going to get along and grow together, not apart.
You might not have noticed yet that his income’s a pittance and he hardly seems inclined to make more. You might have just assumed that her goal to make partnership will drift quietly into the background when you get engaged. You certainly don’t think you could ever become truly irritated if you’re the one pushing your (shared) finances ahead and picking up more than half the bills. Such are the first three months to half a year of relationships.
Talk it through. Check where you both are now in your careers and where you want and plan to be in the future. You don’t have to have the same career goals – you can agree to have very different careers mapped out – but your plans do need to fit in with each other’s. If you’re both happy that he’ll be house-husband and she’s going to be MD, that’s fine. If your plans are going to pull you apart, then that isn’t.
People in relationships need different interests. You each need to keep your own individual life if the relationship is going to keep feeling alive. That said, if you hardly seem to share any interests, then you’re not going to have much to say to or do with each other – or, indeed, much reason to stick around, apart from sex.
Make a list of your most important interests and of your partner’s. ‘Interests’ here could be anything from preferred ways of idling through a day off, through favourite sports or arts, to desired ways of spending a holiday – even just what you’d most like to watch on TV, or if TV’s banned.
How much do you share already? Which of your partner’s interests might you like to share? Which are they going to be doing alone? Does it look like there might be a workable balance or if very little indeed is shared? (This, in itself, would suggest you’re very different as people.)
You’ll secretly know already how much you’ve been faking up that new-found enthusiasm for the symphonies of Mahler or stodgy old English cuisine. Many’s the doting lover who’s discovered the inner football fan in him or taken up going to church because, well, the sex was hot. Just make sure it’s reciprocal – and that there is enough genuinely shared not to land you in isolated silence in the long-run.
The sex should already be fabulous. If it’s feeling a bit routine already – as opposed to becoming a little less frenetic and steadily more loving and intimate – take emergency measures now to get it back on track or start saving for your first affair.
How sexually compatible are you? Do your sex drives more or less match? Are you more as less as adventurous when having sex? Is sex more or less equally important to both of you? Is there anything you’re not doing in bed (or wherever) but very much want to – and are afraid to ask because you know what they’ll probably say?
Once you’re past the first few months of a relationship, you’ll start to return to your personal sexual level – and then is the time to judge if, with a little, inevitable compromise, your libidos and sexual interests are going to fit together fine, or if you’ll be frustrated.
Age differences can matter a great deal in relationships. Greater age generally means greater knowledge, a greater range of experience to draw on – and a greater number of things you’ve done already, such that you don’t need to go there and do them again. It will often also mean a higher income and – for reasons of experience and income combined – more power. Younger partners may try to act older and actively want to be mentored by the elder. The older partner may feel obliged to reclaim his or her youth and party the night away, when they’d far rather be having dinner.
A significant age-gap can make for a working relationship. It can be great. Do ask, though, if there is a significant difference in age, whether your lifestyles, aims and ambitions will peacefully co-exist – and continue to do so – in the medium and long-term. Talk about where you are and where you’re going in life – and be aware that the younger you are, the more those possible futures are liable to change.
How much are you putting into this relationship? And how much is your partner? Do you bend over backwards to get things right while they take your efforts for granted? How often do you find yourself re-scheduling your week to fit in with their plans? How often do you say ‘yes’ when you’d rather say ‘no’?
If there’s a significant imbalance – and this is on a day to day basis – one of you is being the co-dependent doormat and the other is lazily, selfishly taking the ride. How to tell if this is case? Step outside the relationship. Imagine you’re one of your friends and you’re looking in at their relationship. Are you happy for your friend about what they’re getting?
Remember: once they’re past childhood, people don’t usually change all that much. (You think your partner’s changed? Nope. You’re just seeing them differently, more realistically, warts ‘n’ all.) If your partner isn’t putting much into the relationship, it’s basically inevitable they won’t start doing so when, in future months and years, the relationship, if it is to continue to thrive, will start needing work.
Here’s hoping your compatibility checks out – and that you’re in a position to run through the tests again in six months time.