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A real relationship

What lies ahead for us?

If only we had a crystal ball and could see into the future of a new relationship ... But as we all know, life's not like that. No one has all the answers and many relationships break down. Sometimes it becomes clear within weeks that there is not enough to keep two people together, while other couples can carry on for years. There will always be differences between two people, but sometimes potential 'killer' issues can be spotted right at the beginning.

What lies ahead for us?

What lies ahead for us?

If only we had a crystal ball and could see into the future of a new relationship ... But as we all know, life's not like that. No one has all the answers and many relationships break down. Sometimes it becomes clear within weeks that there is not enough to keep two people together, while other couples can carry on for years. There will always be differences between two people, but sometimes potential 'killer' issues can be spotted right at the beginning. By Paula Hall.

Getting beneath the surface

What counts in the end is true compatibility, but how can you know what someone is going to be like in the longer term? The initial spark of attraction is vital, and when we're just getting to know each other, it's only natural for us to be on our best behaviour ... We are less likely to get irritated or lose our temper; we make a lot of effort to be chatty, funny and interested -- and we certainly don't reveal our bad habits on a first date. It's not only our flaws that have a bearing on our chances of success. Problems can arise if there is a mismatch in terms of how outgoing or reserved we are, how we deal with conflict, our level of generosity, or our priorities when it comes to career, home life and family. Some of these characteristics might become apparent straight away, but you need to dig deeper to gauge someone's emotional stability, their desire for a commitment and their ability to sustain a relationship.

How does it feel?

When you're getting close to someone at the beginning of a relationship, you should listen to what your heart is really telling you. Your potential partner may well be good-looking, well-dressed, intelligent, polite and successful, but all these things matter very little if they have a horrific temper and become insanely jealous and possessive. It's interesting to look at what it is that we do find attractive in other people -- and why. No matter how confident we are, we all have our own insecurities. It quite often happens that people who have similar insecurities are attracted to one another, and this can cause tensions. Some of us trust what our feelings are telling us about someone. Those of us who are not quite as intuitive should watch out for the signs which reveal a person's deeper emotional state and their potential to form a healthy relationship.

Spotting the signs

The key lies in the way someone talks about the people closest to them, especially parents, siblings and past relationships. No matter how much trauma someone has been through, if they can still talk openly and coherently and make sense of things -- not seeing difficult issues in black and white, and not idealising or damning -- then the chances are that they are an emotionally stable and mature adult. And by looking at our own relationship patterns, both past and present and including our dealings with close friends and family, all of us can gain insight into what has or hasn't worked. If we tend to be attracted to insecure people, then this might tell us something about ourselves. You can never guarantee the lasting success of a relationship, but it's worth trying to go in with your eyes open.

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