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Is “Just for Today” the New Forever?

You can navigate the often-arduous path of maintaining a quality relationship.

I have been working with couples for more than 40 years, helping them navigate the often-arduous path of creating and maintaining quality relationships.

Until very recently, in the history of successful committed partnerships, long-term commitments were seen as the gold standard of relationship seekers. Those who made that promise made forever promises: To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death.

That contract did not allow for the possibility of what-ifs, unpredictable crises, potential transformations, societal upheavals, media influencers, or a plethora of newer, more exciting, or compatible partners showing up later. It was just assumed that a vow would be forever enough to overcome all possible future challenges that would render it archaic.

The reality is very different. In the Western world, half of marriages end in divorce. A higher percentage of new couples do not even make it to the one-year mark. About two years into a committed relationship, most couples have to decide whether to go forward or end things.

The truth is that most commitments to a forever relationship, made sincerely in the moments of love’s passion, just don’t pan out the way they were supposed to. I ask my patients, “Why, then, should you make those promises?” They tell me earnestly that love without commitment, even at the moment, feels shallow and unfulfilling. The promise of forever is the only compelling, secure space that allows people to fully reveal their deepest vulnerabilities and open their hearts to each other.

But if the odds are against that happening, is there another way to love fully as if it will last forever, without the need to promise it will actually happen?

There has to be.

Imagine, for the moment, that you are on a train in a foreign country, anonymous and free. You meet someone in a random compartment who seems approachable and interesting. You only have two hours and will probably not see that person again. Do you just nod and stay separate, or do you open yourself to a limited-in-time connection as if you were going to be together forever?

You decide on the latter choice and strike up what turns out to be an amazing conversation. Both of you are willing to risk being totally authentic and honest with a stranger. Why are you suddenly able to do that? There are no guarantees and no potentially painful endings. Watching yourself vulnerably risk everything without any predictable long-term rewards, you suddenly realize how differently you normally act in new relationships, burying your true self out of fear of loss.

Could every relationship start that way without worrying about an uncertain future? Could people fully open up and enjoy each other without the need for a guaranteed future? And if there were no forever promises, would forever be more likely?

Who would you need to become to make that possible? How can you enter relationships to make that more likely? Go through the following 10 questions alone or with a partner, and ask yourself if you can.

1. Can you be genuinely interested in knowing another without simultaneously “vetting” them to see if they qualify for long-term investment? People are works in progress. You only get current snapshots, not moving pictures. There is always more to come.

2. Do you feel free to tell someone your relationship assets and liabilities with self-compassion and humor? You are also a work in progress. What are you currently proud of yourself, and what are you working to change?

3. Can you talk about your broken dreams and hopes for the future, not as sob stories but as a history well-earned with memories that help shape a different direction? It is a gift to see yourself through the eyes of another without feeling defined or entrapped by that vision.

4. Can you offer interest, consolation, and comfort without giving advice, preaching, or over-identifying? True empathy and genuine sympathy are gifts to someone going through a hard time. Learn just to listen.

5. Can you fall in love with the joy of knowing someone deeply without the need to own, for security, or a promise for something more? Entering any new relationship, insecure or needy, will push you to seek security over genuine interest in another.

6. Can you say goodbye without regret if it doesn’t continue? If you live fully and authentically within the moments you share with another, you won’t ever feel you’ve wasted your time.

7. Can you live a momentary adventure just for the knowledge of learning more about yourself? Everyone has a different perspective on life and has the power to share their experience with you. Are you interested?

8. Can you embrace the goal of leaving another feeling better about themselves even if you no longer need to know them more? Never tell another person what is wrong with them when you intend to leave them. To invalidate and dismiss is not a good ending for anyone.

9. If the other person is inappropriately boundary-violating, rude, or doesn’t listen, can you gracefully disconnect without judgment? Genuinely thanking someone for their time while letting them know you need to move on is a graceful relationship skill.

10. Can you be your best self even if the other person is not someone you’d continue to know? You will get better at anything you practice, even if it is a poor way to be. Intend to practice everything you like about yourself so that, if you have to disconnect, you will look back and like who you were.

Choose Dr. Randi Gunther a Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor who truly understands the complexities of human connection.

Reach out to Dr. Randi today and take the first step toward a brighter, more fulfilling future together.

Dr. Gunther is available by Zoom or Facetime


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