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Evan,

How would I know if my doubts about my boyfriend and my future with him are a search for perfection or are reasons for legitimate concerns? I’ve read the “Marry him!” book and I agree that a man’s limitations are simply human flaws we all have… but then, I would come across  articles saying I should not ignore my doubts and having doubts is a predictor of a high divorce rate.

I did a very honest evaluation of my boyfriend’s pluses and minuses (we’ve been together for close to 2 years) and I STILL don’t know if I should be with him in a long run. He has great qualities: he is a man of integrity, he is loving, affectionate, devoted, generous in his heart and with his actions, honest. However, I’m afraid that the things that irritate me (his mood swings, insecurities, social ineptness and trust issues) will be the ones to break us apart in the future. How do you know what are the deal breakers?

—Stephani

Stephani,

I can’t tell you what YOU should do.

I don’t know you. I don’t know your boyfriend. I don’t know how happy you are. I don’t know about your communication, values and conflict resolution.

Chemistry can’t redeem a broken relationship; all it can do is provide fuel (in the form of attraction) that irrationally erases your doubts, even when those doubts should be there.

So all I’ll say to you is that your boyfriend of two years is the KIND of man you should consider marrying: loving, affectionate, devoted, generous, honest.

But just because someone is all of those things doesn’t mean you necessarily marry him. Marriage isn’t simply about loyalty and stability. It’s about a personal connection as well.

And that’s something that gets lost when people cite “Marry Him” and misinterpret my “character over chemistry” mantra.

So let me keep it really simple for you:

You can have all the chemistry, passion and common interests in the world and it doesn’t matter if: you fight all the time, you don’t feel the same about monogamy or children, you have wildly different views on money or religion, or if one party lacks in character and is willing to lie, cheat, steal, or defy the other party instead of compromising and communicating.

This is what I mean by choosing values over chemistry.

Chemistry can’t redeem a broken relationship; all it can do is provide fuel (in the form of attraction) that irrationally erases your doubts, even when those doubts should be there.

On the other hand, you don’t marry a nice, honest guy SIMPLY because he’s nice and honest. You’d better make each other laugh, enjoy each other’s company and work hard to please each other in bed.

This very basic personal chemistry is a MUST — and frankly, I don’t know how people suffer for two years with boyfriends who don’t make them laugh, whose company they don’t enjoy, who give them absolutely NO spark in bed.

NO ONE TOLD YOU TO DATE THIS GUY FOR SO LONG!

Why on earth you’d marry him is beyond me.

As for the article you cited:

It’s a little misleading. And you’ve honestly misinterpreted its findings to suit your narrative.

First of all, the study was done on couples whose average age was 27 for men and 25 for women. What does that tell you?

It tells me that the research was done on kids with less than five years of life experience, who are not established in their career, who have not necessarily dated or slept around much, who don’t know much of anything about life. Doubt me?

How much did you know about life at 25? Compare that to 30. 35. 40.

Fact: 75% of marriages where both parties are under 25 end in divorce. It should be no surprise. These are mostly kids playing house and hoping to get it right. Sometimes they do. More often, they don’t.

Choices are rarely black and white. Relationships are ALL grey.

Next, there’s nothing surprising about this study, except for the framing of the information.

“People who have doubts are more likely to get divorced” is a headline like “Clouds are really good predictors of rain.” Duh.

What that headline ignores is this:

1. 6 percent of couples got divorced when NEITHER husband nor wife had doubts. Just goes to show how much you “just know” when you’re signing on the dotted line for life.

2. There was a 10% divorce rate when only men had doubts, an 18% divorce rate when only women had doubts, and a 20% divorce rate when both had doubts.

Put another way:

3. There was a 90% success rate when men had doubts, an 82% success rate when women had doubts, and an 80% success rate even when BOTH parties had doubts about their relationship.

Sorry, y’all, but smart people, mature people, and critical thinkers are all going to have reasonable doubts about such a profound and weighty decision.

Choices are rarely black and white. Relationships are ALL grey.

And if you’re not thinking in grey — if you DON’T have any doubts, I’d submit to you that you’re probably not thinking very clearly.

So I can’t tell you what to do, Stephani, but you must know that having doubts is not a sign, per se, that the relationship is broken.

It means you have a lot of information to process before making such a decision, and that you’re going to have to trust your brain and your gut in determining whether what’s lasted for 2 years should also last forever.

For me, I didn’t know it was “right”, but I did know that I had an amazing 16 months with my girlfriend and that I’d be pretty stupid if I gave that up for the pursuit of something better.

Good luck, and please, let us know what you decide.