Not too long ago, I watched a video featuring relationship coach Stephan Labossiere. The topic was "A Lot of Women Will Run from Being with a Great Man" (indeed!) and his initial point was this: "A lot of times when you see these relationships be dysfunctional and people say that love just didn't win? No, it's because love was never there…love isn't what was driving your relationship, so that's why it failed."
"Love can conquer all, it really can, but it has to be real…people aren't operating in love. They are operating in infatuation, they are operating in fear…there are women who say they want that great man, but don't think they deserve that great man."
To me, when two people make the decision to have the title "boyfriend and girlfriend", a big part of the purpose of that time in the relationship is to see if love—rather than infatuation, fear or even just the obsession with being in some type of relationship rather than none at all—is really there.
At the same time, the reason why so many break-ups tend to be so brutal (to the point of sometimes being just as traumatizing as a divorce) is because folks assume that just because someone is great to date, they automatically are wonderful to marry. NOPE.
Listen, if the word "boyfriend" was a synonym for husband, there would be no need for the word in the first place. A dating relationship is very different from a marriage (just ask anyone who's married!). And as I'm about to share with you, it can be very easy to have a boyfriend who is all-of-that-and-then-some who would totally suck as your partner for life.
How is that even possible? You'd be surprised.
His Values Don’t Line up with Yours
When you're dating someone, while it would be cool if you both were on the same page when it came to things like religion, politics and family, it doesn't have to be a deal breaker if you're not. If anything, not seeing things that same way can make for some riveting conversation and debates.
But when you're married, sharing core values is pretty important. What are both of your views on money? What are both of your expectations when it comes to needs in a relationship? Do both of you value intimacy the same way? What are both of your personal goals? How do you both want to use your gifts and talents? Does family matter a lot or a little? Are you both civil rights-minded and community service-oriented or not? Is God the top priority in both of your lives?
Be careful. These things may not seem like a big deal now, but a whole lot of people are in divorce court over not being able to get on the same wavelength when it comes to core value issues.
He Has Poor Boundaries with Family and FriendsGiphy
This. One. Right. Here. Shoot, even the Bible says that people should "leave and cleave" once they get married (Genesis 2:18-25), yet it's insane how many men are mama's boys and how many women still expect their daddy to buy them stuff (or financially bail them out of things).
When someone is just your boyfriend, you might not even know that half of his income goes to taking care of his immature and totally toxic family members. Then you marry the guy and your own heat isn't on because he's still making his family a bigger priority than his marriage.
While I'm not saying that you should automatically dismiss a man for having poor family (and friend) boundaries, I do recommend that you pay attention to how he moves when it comes to them. Oh, and that you gift him with the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life. If he doesn't set limits now, you'll both live to regret it…later.
He Doesn’t Plan Ahead
Ask most relationship experts and they'll tell you that a clear sign of a commitment-phobe is he doesn't like to plan ahead. I'm pretty sure you can see where I'm going with this point, right? If you're dating someone who breaks out into hives at the very thought of setting a date more than three days in advance, you might want to look further into why that's such a problem for him. Unless he has the kind of profession that makes it difficult to stick to a schedule, it really shouldn't be that big of a deal.
Although a man who doesn't plan may seem all sexy and spontaneous when you're dating 1) if he doesn't plan dates, I'm not so sure he has plans for your relationship and 2) if he's not in the habit of being a planner, if you do somehow end up married to him, you're setting yourself up to always be in an unpredictable headspace right along with him.
How are we gonna pay the mortgage? No plan.
Are we going to your parents or mine this Christmas? No plan.
I'm ready to leave your no-planning-butt. Now what? Still, no plan.
He Isn’t Proactively Supportive of Your Goals
If I could name one thing that I don't think single people think about nearly enough when it comes to choosing a spouse, it would be underestimating how important it is to have someone who sees you as a life partner and team member; someone who is truly interested in what your purpose in life is and personal goals and aspirations are.
If you've always wanted to be a book author, it might be hard to detect if your boyfriend cares one way or another because, unless you live with him, you can separate your writing time from the time you spend with him. But if you and this same guy don't discuss your vision and desires for your life before saying "I do", you could discover that, not only is he not the most supportive cat on the planet, his expectations may actually compete with what you want to do when it comes to time and resources.
Pay attention now to how much (or little) your boyfriend proactively rallies around your life plans. If he isn't doing it much now, you're setting yourself up for a real let-down if you think that somehow he's going to miraculously change once you become his wife.
His Lifestyle Is TOTALLY DIFFERENT Than Yours
You like to travel. He's a homebody. He works out religiously. You can't recall the last time you set foot inside of a gym. You're vegan. He's a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. You're eco-friendly. He thinks recycling is being tedious. He's mad frugal with cash. You've got $200 in your savings account. He goes to church three days a week. You're more into lay activities at home. He likes the country. You're a city girl.
The cool thing about dating someone who has a totally different lifestyle than you is they can help to expand your perspective on things. But if you marry someone with these same lifestyle variances and neither of you are open to compromise, the same differences that were such a turn-on can become the very things that make both of you uncomfortable and resentful, just months into your union.
Hey, I'm not saying that opposites don't attract. I'm simply saying that you need more than attraction to make a marriage work. You need some symmetry and harmony up in there too.
If you were to ask me right now to provide you with a list of five things that I wish I had required in my past relationship, chile, consistency would be mentioned twice! One of my favorite definitions of the word is "constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form, etc." When a man is consistent, he makes you feel like you can trust him. Like he's got a strong sense of character and integrity. Like his word truly is his bond.
When you're only dating someone, you might not interact with him enough to know how consistent (or inconsistent) he is about things—things like paying bills, showing up to events on time or remembering things that you mentioned were important to you. Or, if he does drop the ball, you might not think it's that big of a deal.
Ask any wife whose husband puts them on the roller coaster ride of inconsistency and they'll tell you to not overlook this blaring red flag. It's hard to sleep well at night when you don't know if a man is gonna do what he said—or not.
He Doesn’t Bring Up Marriage. Like at All. EVER.
Le sigh. As hard as it may be to hear—and I know about this point better than most—some men make great boyfriends and bad husbands because they never intended to become more than a boyfriend. Although they like the idea of being in an exclusive relationship, what they want to avoid is the legalities of having an actual spouse. To them, that feels too locked in and permanent.
A while back, I penned a piece about the fact that if a man is truly husband material, he's gonna be someone who desires to be married. Not in maybe-someday-like-15-years-up kind of way. I mean the "It is a priority to find my wife and commit to her in the next couple of years" kind of way.
If you've been seeing someone for several months now and he hasn't said a single solitary word about marriage, it could be because he enjoys being no more than your boyfriend. If you're cool with that, cool. If not, don't feel the least bit guilty or pushy for asking him if—as Boris Kodjoe's character in Brown Sugar so cornily rapped—marriage is on his menu.
If he gives you a blank stare or tries to change the subject, the answer is probably "no". If you stay and then dish out ultimatums up the road, he very well could marry you, but if he wasn't ready (and a man can only get truly ready on his own), well, the title for this piece could end up being quite fitting—and super infuriating too.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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