Q: How do you know if your guy is “good enough” for you to marry? How do you know whether your longing to be with other guys is just a “seven year itch” or a sign that your heart belongs elsewhere? How do you determine what you really need in a relationship?

A: Wow! What excellent questions. Think I’ll take them one at a time:

1) How do you know if your guy is good enough to marry?

The key here is the phrase “good enough.” So many people have problems with this, so I wonder if you do too.

If you know that you yourself are good enough – and that includes knowing that you are far, far from perfect and always will be – then you probably have a good idea about what “good enough” means and you can apply that standard to your man.

If you know you have internal struggles regularly about whether you are good enough yourself, and if you know that you keep picking on yourself for not being perfect in various ways, then you don’t understand what “good enough” means, and you can’t possibly apply that standard to your man. (If you have these issues, I’d suggest therapy.)

2) How do you know whether your longing to be with other guys is a sign your heart belongs elsewhere?

The world “longing” bothers me here. If you only notice that other people are attractive and you’d enjoy being with them, that’s something that lasts all your life and nothing to be concerned about. But if you keep being dissatisfied and you almost continuously ask yourself if you want to be with someone else, then you probably do.

3) How do you determine what you really need in a relationship?

Whenever we get what we want we feel immediate relief (which lasts a very short amount of time, seconds or minutes), and then we feel a generalized sense of satisfaction (which can last for hours or days).

Because of this, I’d suggest that you need to ask yourself if you EVER notice relief and satisfaction in any phase of your life. Many people never do. They are usually people who were cajoled by their parents in to achieving more and more and more, so they never felt they were good enough for any length of time when they were kids.

As bizarre as it may sound, you can begin to realize what relief feels like every time you go to the bathroom! You do feel physical relief as soon as you feel finished in there. That physical sensation of “enough” or “being finished” is the same set of physical sensations that you feel whenever you feel relief of any kind. That’s the kind of feeling you want after you’ve been with your man, and you need to be able to imagine reasonably that if you and he stay pretty much the same as you are now you will probably be able to feel that way most of days after you are married.

There’s something I keep thinking about that doesn’t relate directly to your three questions. I keep wondering which stage your relationship is in….

If you have only been together for less than a year, you should still be at “the in love stage.” This is a time when both of you usually feel like you want to be together every second, and you think about each other in an “idealized” kind of way (“he’s so perfect!”, etc.). If you are in the first few months of the relationship and you never feel this way about him, I don’t think it’s very likely that you will be good for each other over the long haul.

If, on the other hand, you did have that intense “in love stage” some time ago and now you are further along in the relationship, you may be in the “lifestyles stage.” This is where you work out things like who will live where, whether you will marry, whether you will have kids some day, how you each get along with the other person’s family, and other lifestyle issues. This is a turbulent period. One day you feel great about each other but the next day, when there’s a difference of agreement about one of these things, you can feel pretty discouraged and think that this isn’t the person for you. If you are in this second stage I’d suggest that you look back over the last few months to see if you only wondered about things when one of these issues was being discussed. If so, the relationship itself may be very strong and you and he only need to do some decision-making and compromising to keep your love on track.

There are two later stages in relationships, but they probably aren’t relevant here so I won’t go into them today.

I hope my words on this page help you and your partner think this through.

If you need further help, remember that there are lots of therapists who work with couples every day on issues like yours.

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