THE BLOG
09/23/2013 04:19 pm ET | Updated Nov 23, 2013

What I Learned About Dating From Mom and Dad

One fine day in 1963 two people whom I adore went on a date, and shortly thereafter they just knew they'd eventually marry each other. Fifty years later, they are indeed happily married and I am proud to call them my loving parents. Like them, sometimes you "just know" you've found the right person and that's followed by a thoughtful, practical and organic approach towards getting to know each other and planning a life together.

Today though, dating isn't so simple and many times people complicate it unnecessarily. Rather than following their hearts, they are influenced by societal expectations and their friends' opinions. All too often people compare themselves to others who are married or partnered and set timelines for themselves. For example, I hear so often from my clients: "My friends are all getting married." Or, "I have to meet the man of my dreams this year, be engaged within a year, married within two and have kids within three." This urgency reeks of desperation and is about as appealing to potential partners as ordering cold cuts at the deli. That said, people should forget the fact that their friends are either married or engaged. They aren't part of their relationship. Nor is there a life script that says you need to adhere to societal norms or rush to get married just because others have done so. Remember, it's far better to be happily single than unhappily married.

Here's what to do:

  • If you're in love with someone and talking next steps, then move away from the idea of a fairy-tale wedding and focus on marriage and a life together.

  • Think about the pros and cons of marriage.
  • If you're struggling to convince yourself or your partner that you're doing the right thing, then marriage probably isn't happening.
  • Address issues beyond love: things that are major parts of life such as goals, to have kids or not, geographic preference for settling, religion, careers and finances. These are the things that bring couples to see me for counseling much more than a lack of love. All too often, I hear from couples, "I love him but we're just not on the same page when it comes to... "
  • Other things to keep in mind: If there's volatility while dating, that likely will continue in the marriage. Peoples' personalities and temperaments usually don't change just because there's a marriage certificate.
  • Finally, if you feel you can't live without your significant other and you can live with him or her, you have your answer. If you truly feel that you're each other's best friend, then you're in great shape. This stands the tests of time -- gray hair and wrinkles not withstanding.
  • For more tips on love, dating, relationships and other life lessons learned from Mom and Dad, check out my new book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

    For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.

    For more on emotional wellness, click here.