As April showers give way to May flowers, our collective mood is on the upswing with the approach of summer. In this most optimistic time of year many who are in relationships may be pondering if the moment is right for taking steps towards the next level of commitment. The decision of selecting a life partner is truly one of the most important choices you will ever make. Since break ups are painful and divorce is agonizing, before bending down on one knee or accepting a ring, here are some qualities to help gauge the caliber of the person you are dating, so the decision of whether or not to move on to the next level will be done with eyes wide open.
• How they treat others: The way that we speak to strangers, co-workers, friends and family is the tone that we will inevitably take with our spouse once the courtship phase recedes. Is your partner engaging and kind overall, or are they more gruff and dismissive? Do they treat those around them with dignity and respect or are they more condescending in their manner? One can never under value the importance of integrity and compassion.
• How do they speak about their previous partners? It is a given that more often than not, there is lingering friction between exes, but usually there are two sides to every story and no one person is ever right. In your day to day relationship is there a constant stream of negativity focusing on previous loves that takes up time and space in your interactions, or has perspective created a more civil approach to dealing with the past? Pay attention if your mate cannot let stale animosity fade away.
• Family and Peers: Does the person that you are with have connections with their family and friends? It is important to maintain a support group. You do not need to be best buddies with parents, siblings or colleagues, but there should be an ability to keep ties with the significant people in your life. If one does not want to spend quality time with either family or friends, that is a red flag. Is it that your partner has tried to form bonds and was not successful, or perhaps could it be that family and friends do not want to be with them?
• Priorities: It is one thing to be dating and quite another to be a primary fixture in somebody's life. If a couple is in love there are no if ands or buts about being one another's number one. The duo should want to spend as much time together as possible and include each other in all important life cycle events on both sides. If there is any hesitation or excuses for major holidays, long weekends or extended family events then there is a problem. People who want you in their lives will put you there.
• Finances: Both parties need to be respectful of the other's financial situation. One of the top reasons why couples split is differences regarding money. Be informed and honest from the beginning as to the lifestyle that each of you is looking for and the reality of what you can afford together. Discussions about where to live, how many kids you hope to have in your future and single versus double income households should be brought to light right out of the gate, not after the "I do's".
• Have fun. Laughing and enjoying one another's company is the key to the foundation of any relationship. Take time to hold hands, express how much you care, plan intimate getaways and simply appreciate quality time together.
Romance is exciting and the thought of a proposal in a memorable setting is what so many dream of. Before taking this huge step, first and foremost, be true to yourself and to the best of your ability, be certain that the special someone you are dating is indeed the one. As the adrenaline of passion settles in, make sure that the love you share has the ingredients needed to make the forever package of a best friend, soulmate and lover.