The Four Pillars Of Dating And Relationships

Four PillarsWe have all heard the horror stories from all of the dates gone so wrong. We have most likely experienced some of those horror stories ourselves. For example, being set up by friends who just “know” the right person for you. Or sitting across the table just staring at each other, with not a lot to say. Or the date “suddenly” gets a call and “has” to take off and apologizes.

Where do we learn about dating? Our friends? Our family members? Just from our own experiences? If you are a “conscious” person who is always learning about yourself and making the appropriate and necessary changes along the way, that’s great. For the majority of people, dating is a process of often really bad experiences. Did you ever wake up one day and ask yourself when did this person change for the worse? How could I not have seen the signs?

Over the years I have developed the Four Pillars — four ways to help avoid these horrible experiences. Remember, these concepts are not taught in school. So we often have to painfully learn as we go, at best. I believe in marriage and that it can work with the right knowledge. I believe the divorce rate is so high because we don’t know how to pick “the right one”, and because we don’t know how to have a healthy relationship when we do find the right one. As if this is not bad enough, many if not most people divorce and then repeat the same negative patterns in the new relationship or marriage.

Another reason for failed relationships is that often our self-esteem is not in place in a healthy, accurate manner. This is not a good thing. We attract about the same degree of self-esteem in the other person. So if you find you keep attracting unhealthy people you need to take a look at how you really see yourself inside. You can take a look at the previous blogs related to self-esteem to begin to gather some information on this topic. There are also some good references offered.


I will briefly describe each pillar and in weeks to follow will go into greater depth for each pillar. By Pillars I mean areas or categories of life actions that affect our dating and relationships. Understand these pillars and you will become more aware of when you bump into them and what to do about them.


People often stay in a relationship because of an agenda. An agenda is a belief that something needs to be a certain way for us to be “OK”. For example, one agenda is, “I must be married by 30 yrs of age”. When we have an agenda it will often get in the way of the more beneficial decisions we would normally make.

PILLAR TWO: Eyes Open and Willing to See

I cannot tell you the number of people who have told me that they never saw the unhealthy qualities in the marriage or relationship until way down the line. We are talking sometimes “years”. They often report that the behavior “just showed up one day out of the blue.” The behavior was there all the time, but was ignored. “Love is blind” is not a helpful mantra when it conceals warning signs.

PILLAR THREE: Concepts and Skills

Learn the concepts and skills that will help you navigate through a relationship (and life in general). Examples are: How to have difficult conversations in a relationship. Or how to determine healthy behavior from unhealthy ways. Without knowledge of these skills and concepts it can feel like navigating in the dark, not knowing what you are bumping into.


Watch for the behaviors to be consistent for at least 6 months. It is very difficult to hide your true qualities for more than 6 months without being a sociopath, and for sure no longer than one year. And you would have to be a really skilled sociopath on top of that for those unhealthy qualities to remain “hidden”. Watch for consistent behavior in the relationship. This holds true for negative as well as positive behaviors. There may be a underlying reason for a person to temporarily exhibit negative qualities. We all make mistakes – but there is a difference between occasional “mistakes” and an overall theme of repeated negative behavior. Conversely, occasional “good” behavior does not negate an overall theme of unhealthy behavior.

Action Items:

  1. Begin to think about the past relationships you have had. Do any of the pillars ring true for you so far?
  2. In looking back, do you think you had an agenda going on?
  3. Can you recognize possible Must Haves or Deal-Breakers in past relationships that you did not see until it was too late?


About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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