A lack of clarity is one of the surest signs of a relationship destined for failure.
When a couple isn’t in agreement on these three relational cornerstones…
- What they are
- Where they are going
- How they plan on getting where they are going
…things tend to fall apart very quickly.
Without a mutually agreed-upon vision and collaborative effort from both parties, navigating a relationship feels like being lost at sea with no idea where land is, and worse, no knowledge of how to get there even if you knew where to go.
The most successful relationships–the ones that last a long time and draw silent admiration from those of us with just average relationships–are built on a foundation of intentionality and relentless communication.
While not every successful relationship needs to have the same answers for the what, where, and how questions, having a clear answer, and one that both parties agree upon, makes all the difference in determining the quality and longevity of the relationship.
Over my ten-plus years as a men’s relationship coach, I’ve learned that the success of a relationship is not dependent on the chemistry of the couple, nor the money they make. Nor is it reliant on how compatible their interests are or how well they get on with each other’s families.
While all of these certainly affect the long-term happiness of a relationship, they are all immensely overshadowed by the most important facet of any relationship…
Without intentionality, a relationship can appear perfect in every outward way but still fail. With intentionality, and not one-sided intentionality, but joint intentionality, even a relationship with every odd stacked against it has great potential to succeed.
What is Clarity in a Relationship?
The self-help and self-improvement industries have a tendency to throw around terms without defining them. Clarity, ironically, holds one of the most unclear definitions of all.
So, let’s define it. What really is clarity in a relationship?
Clarity is collaborative intentionality in a relationship. Both parties agree on what they are, where they are going, and how they plan on getting there.
Clarity is communication’s constant companion. Without communication, and furthermore, open communication, clarity falls by the wayside and a relationship is thrust into darkness.
A union that lacks clarity can be characterized by the following…
- Differing expectations: a couple has different ideas of what the purpose of their union is. You may be in this arrangement for emotional support and companionship while she is focused on finding a husband who can support her financially.
- Unaligned goals: you and your partner have different goals for the future but you never openly talk about them. I’ve seen it time and time again in my time as a men’s coach: he wants kids, she doesn’t. He is fine with a bit of adventure and financial instability in the initial years of the relationship, she wants to settle down. He’s religious, she isn’t.
- Lack of definition: a relationship never reaches a clear definition. If you let the “what are we?” question go too long unanswered, different ideas will form about the relationship. She may be looking for a situationship and you may be ready for a long-term commitment.
Clarity or no clarity is the difference between a long-lasting relationship and a relationship bound for inevitable collapse.
If your relationship doesn’t have clarity now, the good news is it isn’t over. It’s time to turn things around.
Communication: Clarity’s Ever-Present Companion
It’s time for men to own up to the fact that most of us suck at communicating. When it comes to vulnerably conveying our feelings and expressing our wishes within our relationships, most of us are about as useful as a rock.
For men, this inability to communicate usually manifests itself in one of two ways, both extremely detrimental to a relationship:
- A man doesn’t know how to identify his feelings, so when the time comes to express what he feels, his words don’t align with his true feelings.
- A man knows how to identify his feelings, but when the time comes to open up, whether it be due to a fear of vulnerability or a twisted view of masculinity, he is unable to.
This leaves most of the heavy lifting in terms of emotional connection to the woman because when a man can’t communicate effectively and honestly, romantic feelings go unexpressed, women feel unappreciated, and potential problems in the relationship go undiscussed.
To find clarity in your relationship, you have to first take responsibility upon yourself as a man to become a better communicator.
Your woman wants to know what you’re thinking and feeling. She wants to know that you love her and that you know where your relationship is going.
Clarity through communication is one of the keys to maintaining a consistent relationship.
There is no such thing as over-communication in a relationship.
How to Ask for Clarity in a Relationship (7 Questions)
One of the golden rules of dating is…
Left alone, relationships don’t progress on their own.
Relationships are fires whose fuel is intentionality backed by action. If you aren’t actively working to keep your relationship together, it’ll fall apart before you have a chance to realize what’s happening.
The following are the best questions to ask when looking for clarity in a relationship.
1. What are we?
The “what are we?” question is what I like to call clarity of commitment. This is often the first question of clarity that should ever be asked.
Imagine this hypothetical situation (though it may not be so hypothetical for many men):
You met a girl a few months ago. You hit it off right away and went on a few dates to get to know each other. After only a couple of weeks, you started spending literally every second of your spare time with each other. You’ve both met a few of your friends and to you, it seems like things are getting pretty serious. You start to assume that the two of you are a couple.
Then, suddenly, she starts withdrawing. You don’t know whether it was something you said or something you did, but you need answers, so you finally ask…what are we?
She sighs and tells you that she isn’t looking for anything serious and she is only willing to continue what you have if you understand that.
This is an incredibly common situation that arises when no one asks the “what are we?” question until it’s too late.
If you hope to turn a casual relationship into a committed relationship, this question needs to be asked.
Throughout my years of coaching and dating, I’ve learned the hard way that if this question isn’t asked and answered early on, different answers develop in both partner’s minds and when the big question does come, it’s too late and the relationship ends.
The question will come, it’s your job to make sure it comes when neither of you is in too deep.
2. What are we hoping for in the future?
The “where are we going?” question is what I refer to as clarity of direction. Not only have you defined yourself as together, but you know where you’re going as well.
Clarity of direction is knowing that you and the person you’re with are on the same page in terms of where you are headed as a couple.
Under this question, all of the following should be answered:
- Are we dating for marriage?
- Do we want children?
- Is this a closed or open relationship?
- Are we planning on moving in together at some point?
- What are we each looking to gain from this relationship?
If your answers to these questions don’t align, it ain’t a good sign.
3. When do you feel our relationship is at its weakest?
This one hits hard and it takes some serious balls to answer it truthfully.
If you’re tempted to twist your answer a bit or even avoid the question altogether, just know that finding the answer to this question has proven to be the key for so many couples in turning their train wreck of a relationship into something worth fighting for.
As a man, showing the willingness to ask your woman this question and listening earnestly to the answer she gives can be a game-changer in the relationship. Not only will it help you gain clarity, but it’ll show your woman that you’re there for the good and bad in the relationship.
Intentionality is about progress–moving forward. If you aren’t willing to ask these hard-hitting questions, building relationships will be a slow process.
When both partners know what the other considers the weakest point in the relationship, whether these views align or not, they can look to move forward together.
4. When do you feel our relationship is at its strongest?
Clarity isn’t only about shedding light on the negatives of your relationship.
One of the best ways to reinforce your relationship is by acknowledging your strong points. Ask your partner when she feels most secure in your relationship and pay close attention to her answer.
Within this answer is contained the key to a long future together.
When you are both in agreement on what is strength and what is weakness in your relationship, you’ll have a much easier time finding the answer to question number two: what are we hoping for in the future?
5. Is our sex life what you want it to be?
Let’s face it, sex isn’t always the same.
Good sex in a relationship relies on a few key things aligning: emotional intimacy, relational satisfaction, and physical health.
If one of these three is off, the sex just feels okay. I don’t need to tell you as a man that just okay sex won’t cut it in a relationship. Intimacy has many cornerstones, but satisfying sex is definitely up there.
Within a relationship, there is often hesitation when it comes to directly discussing matters that feel more emotional than verbal…like sex.
It can feel awkward or forced to ask your woman her opinion of your guy’s sex life. The more you openly discuss these things, however, the easier time you’ll have connecting when it comes to the doing of the deed.
When questions like these go unasked, hidden feelings or wishes can turn into silent grudges. Silent grudges lead to resentment and resentment destroys relationships faster than anything.
6. What would you change in our relationship?
Every relationship has room for improvement, but without intentionality, this improvement never comes to fruition.
There is no better way to gain clarity in your relationship than asking your partner what she would like to change about your relationship.
When you ask this question, you are essentially laying yourself at her feet–assuring her that you are eager to change if it means the two of you can be closer.
Regardless of her answer and whether or not you feel the same, giving her the platform to voice such a vulnerable thought will bring the two of you closer.
7. What do you see as the biggest potential problems in our relationship down the road?
Relationships are one of the few avenues of life where we turn a blind eye to potential dangers. Why? Because these dangers are rarely comfortable to acknowledge.
The truth is…
Nothing is worse than foreseeing the struggle that eventually ends your relationship.
Often, however, you do see it coming. But like the topic of sex, potential relationship-enders just aren’t really topics that anyone wants to openly discuss.
No one wants to spring the question: “What is the biggest potential problem for us down the road?”
It’s uncomfortable–too vulnerable. It acknowledges the truth that you may not be together forever and forces the two of you to open up to each other in a potentially damaging way.
Instead, this question is left to plague the mind and leave both of you wondering. By spending time addressing this question repeatedly throughout your relationship, you give yourselves the time to prepare and offset the danger.
What makes a good relationship?
Time spent together? Sex? Kindness? Similar goals?
All of these things make relationships, but what makes a “good” relationship?
Not just time together, but INTENTIONAL time together. Not just sex, but INTENTIONAL sex. Intentionality is what sets apart mediocre relationships from the ones we see in movies and dream about in real life.
Clarity is collaborative intentionality in a relationship–agreeing upon not only what you are together, but where you want to go and how you plan on getting there.
Without open communication, there is no clarity. Without asking the hard questions and being willing to discuss the negatives of your relationship, there is no clarity. True clarity is knowing how the other feels not because they show you in their actions or their angry glances, but because you have frequent discussions about every aspect of your relationship.
If your relationship is struggling and you are looking for more clarity, it may be time to reach out. If you’re tired of receiving all your relationship advice from family members or divorced friends, I have something for you.
Here at knowledge for men, I have put together a program for men just like you. With the help of the best men’s coaches on the planet, I am setting out to change the world of men–to rewrite the script, flip modern masculinity on its head, and help men learn to be men again.
If you are looking to learn how to feel…to learn how to express…and to finally find a woman worth your while, we have what you need.
It all depends on you, though–you and your ability to act intentionally.