Lesson 4 of 7 - optimize your relationships

Courtship Question:

 Are We Committing
 for the Right Reasons?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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    The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/relate/mates/reasons.htm

    Updated  02-08-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

This worksheet is for courting couples without kids from prior unions. If either of you have prior kids, use this Lesson-7 worksheet.

      This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 4 - optimize your relationships. The series exists because sociologists estimate almost half of U.S. marriages fail legally. Untold millions more fail psychologically, but stop short of legal divorce. Implication - most couples unintentionally pick the wrong partner, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time.

      This brief YouTube clip previews key points in this and related articles. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this Web site. I've reduced that to seven:

      The wrong people to commit to are psychologically wounded, unaware,  and in denial of this. Wrong reasons to commit include ending loneliness and anxiety, rescuing, legitimizing sex, proving something to someone, revenge, codependence, and other unhealthy motives. The wrong time is before both mates reduce their wounds and gain the knowledge in this course. Does this make sense to you? 

      Unrecovering survivors of low-nurturance childhoods ("Grown Wounded Children") are at special risk of making unwise commitment choices because of excessive neediness and reality distortions. As you'll see here, the decision to commit to a primary relationship is motivated by many different needs. They range from high to low priority for each partner.

      This worksheet assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1-4 Parts 1 and 2

  • common courtship danger signs,

  • these Q&A items on dating and marriage, and...

  • this brief research report on the risks of premature cohabiting

      This worksheet offers a place to thoughtfully assess your and your partner’s conscious reasons for considering commitment to each other. Unconscious motives, which may stem from unmet childhood needs, may be even more important. For thought-provoking ideas on the unconscious reasons we pick our partner/s - over and over - see "Keeping the Love You Find" by Dr. Harville Hendrix.

      This is one of five worksheets for courting partners without prior children. The best time to use them is (a) after working for some months on Lessons 1-4 here, and (b) before exchanging commitment vows. If you’re already committed, try to recall the time you decided to do that. Imagine your inner and outer life circumstances then as vividly as you can. Otherwise, fill out this worksheet to clarify why you want to commit to your alluring partner now.

      Based on my clinical experience with over 1,000 average partners and couples since 1981, I propose that there are "right" commitment ("marriage") motives that promote long-term partnership satisfaction and stability. The ultimate judges here are you, your partner, and time!

      Reflect on why you're reading this article. Authorize yourself to invest all the time you need here. Choosing a life partner is one of the most complex, impactful decisions you'll ever make - specially if you conceive children. Consider reviewing your results together with any clergy or other informed counselors you trust and respect. Widespread divorce implies that love alone is NOT enough in choosing a mate...


      Decide if your true Self is about to use this worksheet. If not, you risk a well-meaning false self skewing your answers.

      Allocate 30" or so of undistracted time for this learning exercise, and adopt the open, interested "mind of a student." Anything you learn here is useful!

      Print this page and scan all 40 items below to see if these marriage motives each make sense to you. If any item doesn’t, re-word it so that it fits better;

      Then meditate, and write a "P" or "1" in the "Me" brackets (  ) for each item that feels like a primary reason you are considering commitment to your partner and their family. Put an "S" or "2" for secondary reasons. If you’re unsure about any item, put "?". Take time to meditate thoroughly on each item. Rushing through this assessment suggests a false-self's impatience, and is not in your long-term best interest!

      When you finish with your reasons, stretch, take a break, and then redo the worksheet guesstimating your partner's reasons: mark "P" or "S" in the brackets [  ].

      If you change your mind on earlier entries, reflect on why you're seeing things differently. Wonder if a different subself has taken control...  

      Consider jotting down or tape-recording key thoughts, feelings, and awarenesses as you proceed. The process of filling out these five "wise-choice" worksheets is as instructive as your answers.

          "Scoring" is described at the end. Peeking there will raise the chance you'll skew your answers and reduce the value of this worksheet for you...


Rank-order all your reasons (1st, 2nd, 3rd,…); and/or...

Star or hilight any items that seem extra important, and note why. Do this as you go or after you finish.

Coach yourself to avoid answering what you should, and answer what is. Otherwise you’ll mislead yourself, and put you and any dependents at risk of unhappiness and eventual divorce trauma. This is a chance to learn about yourselves!

Read each item out ;loud before rating it.

Ask your partner to fill out a copy of this worksheet separately, vs. side by side. Then come together at a non-distracted time and discuss your results thoroughly as fellow explorers. Reluctance or ambivalence to do this, or feeling significant anxiety about it, strongly suggests a false self is controlling one or both of you...


  I want to commit to you to...

Me / You

    (  )  [  ]   1)  finally feel normal; and stop feeling socially awkward as a single adult in a couples’ world.

    (  )  [  ]   2)  expand and enhance my life’s daily experiences by sharing them with a trusted, emotionally healthy, beloved partner.

    (  )  [  ]   3)  reduce my fear of growing old alone.

    (  )  [  ]   4)  conceive and/or nurture one or more kids together "before it’s too late."

    (  )  [  ]   5)  live with a beloved adult who steadily makes me feel special and primary: i.e. who (usually) sees me as the most prized and important person in their life.

    (  )  [  ]   6)  have another adult help me daily with my home, finances, and chores;

    (  )  [  ]   7)  feel more secure / less anxious - i.e. safer.

    (  )  [  ]   8)  often feel heard, deeply understood, and accepted by a beloved and respected adult partner.

    (  )  [  ]   9)  gain the approval or acceptance of someone really important to me (other than my partner); (Who? __________________________ )

    (  )  [  ]  10)  rescue an appealing, deserving, or wounded adult;

    Me / You

          ...and I want to commit so I can...

    (  )  [  ]  11)  live with a beloved adult I can freely give to, and be received by.

    (  )  [  ]  12)  live with an adult who consistently respects and validates me, and helps me feel good about myself.

    (  )  [  ]  13)  (a) become more promotable at work, and/or to (b) become more acceptable to my kin, friends, neighbors, and/or my church community.

    (  )  [  ]  14)  live with an adult I can often feel sexually desired by, excited by, and satisfied with, without guilt, shame, or anxiety.

    (  )  [  ]  15)  prove _______________________________________

    to (whom?) ____________________________________

    (  )  [  ]  16)  often feel really known, appreciated, and enjoyed, by a beloved live-in adult.

    (  )  [  ]  17)  avoid feeling old and unattractive, and demonstrate my vigor and appeal.

    (  )  [  ]  18)  live with an interesting adult companion who often stimulates me intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and expands my world.  

    (  )  [  ]  19)  finally become "whole" and balanced.

    (  )  [  ]  20)  fulfill God’s plan for me.

    Me / You

          ...and I want to commit in order to...

    (  )  [  ]  21)  end my boredom, and have an exciting adventure!

    (  )  [  ]  22)  live with a loving adult who (often) wants to comfort, accept, and support me when I’m worried, scared, discouraged, confused, or ashamed.

    (  )  [  ]  23)  live with an adult who steadily wants to encourage me to grow freely as a unique person with special, valuable abilities, and to help them do the same.

    (  )  [  ]  24)  feel consistently needed by, and useful and impactful (important) to, a beloved, special adult I live with.

    (  )  [  ]  25)  "instantly" gain the family I (you) have always needed and longed for.

    (  )  [  ]  26)  get revenge on someone who has really wounded and mistreated me, you, or a key loved-one.

    (  )  [  ]  27)  finally end or avoid the stressful singles / dating scene.

    (  )  [  ]  28)  finally end my (your) loneliness.

    (  )  [  ]  29)  avoid the emptiness and hassle of living alone.

    (  )  [  ]  30)  gain the resources to move away from here (or to ________________ ).

          ...and I want to commit in order to...

    (  )  [  ]  31)  lower or end my (your) major financial or emotional anxieties or fears.

    (  )  [  ]  32)  avoid God’s wrath, and end my (your) shame from living sinfully.

    (  )  [  ]  33) "do the right thing" because of our unplanned child conception.

    (  )  [  ]  34)  get a parent, ex mate, or other key person off my (your) back.

    (  )  [  ]  35)  move into a better / safer home and/or neighborhood.

    (  )  [  ]  36)  end courtship commuting and phone-calling expense and hassles.

    (  )  [  ]  37)  end the frustration from our approach-avoid relationship, once and for all.

    (  )  [  ]  38)  make up for all the pain I’ve (you’ve) endured.

    (  )  [  ]  39)  relieve others' worrying about me (or you).

    (  )  [  ]  40)  (any other reasons for committing...)



+ + +

      Breathe well, and note your feelings and thoughts now without judgment. Pay special attention to sources of discomfort or "numbness": they're key signposts. Consider journaling about what's going on  inside you now. Option: review your results a later to see if your answers change. Did you know of all these possible conscious and unconscious needs ("motivations") that shape the choice to commit to a primary partner?

      Use this worksheet to spark your awareness, not as an absolute reference. Tailor it as needed to best fit you and your situation. These wise-choice worksheets are not meant to replace your common sense or your getting qualified professional help where appropriate.

Right now, I feel ....

and I need to....

  "Scoring" This Worksheet

      Each reason above which includes italicized phrases is often a divorce-prone (unwise) primary reason to commit. Review where you put your "P"s or "1"s, and where you guesstimated your partner’s "P's," and note any pattern that emerges: Note also that these are all conscious reasons you're considering marriage. There are probably others you're not yet aware of.

Of all ___ items that I marked as "P" or "1" for me, ___ had no italics. Divide the second number by the first, and multiply by 100. Enter the result here:

I estimate that ___ % of my conscious primary reasons for committing to marry now favor long-term marital success.

Of all the ____ items I marked as "P" (or "1") for my partner, ___ had no italics. Divide the second number by the first, and multiply by 100. Enter the result here:

I estimate that ____ % of my partner’s conscious primary reasons for committing to marry now favor long-term marital success.

      If either of you have 50% or more italicized "P" or "1" marriage-reasons, seriously reconsider why you want to exchange vows now. You and/or your partner probably each inherited psychological wounds, and are in normal protective denial of that.

      If so, without a period of personal wound-recovery before committing, you and any dependent kids are likely to divorce psychologically or legally. Recall Dr. Hendrix’s seasoned proposal that the main reasons we choose to marry are unconscious. If that’s true, then the items you just "scored" may not be the real reasons you’re drawn to each other.

available Spring 2003      The key is whether your true Self (capital "S") filled out the worksheet or ''someone else'' did. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to review these danger signs. Then invest in your future and health by getting and discussing the guide-book Stepfamily Courtship. Most of the content applies to any couple..

 Next - explore these other wise-choice worksheets with your partner...:

      After discussing all these worksheets, if you partners decide you're ready enough, set the date, and celebrate!  When you come back from your honeymoon (if any), keep working at these vital self-improvement Lessons.

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