Have you ever had someone surprise you? You thought you knew the person well, but then s/he surprises you in response to a difficult situation. The truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know… until you see how a person reacts in an adverse situation.

We have all had friendships that go on for 5, 10, even 20 years, and all of a sudden that person shows you a side that you had never seen before. Why would it be any different with a partner?

People have tried to come up with all these rules of thumbs in dating, for example: 1) wait at least a year before you can say you really know someone; 2) wait until you meet all of your partner’s family and friends; 3) wait until you have lived together for some time; or 4) wait until you have your first fight. While all of these are good pieces of advice, they still cannot take into account all the variables that life will throw at you.

We all age, some just do it better than others. And over time, we all encounter challenges with our careers, family obligations, health or finances. How we face these difficulties is not easily predicted.

Some people bury their heads in the sand when confronted with problems. Some become angry or defensive, with a high tendency to blame everyone else but themselves. There are those who just seek to numb the pain, without addressing the real issue. Others, focus like a laser and want to tackle the situation head on.

As you get old or sick, maybe suffer some setbacks in your career or finances, lose a loved one or simply change your perspective on what your goals and objectives are in life, you need to keep checking in with your partner to see whether you remain on the same page, and if you are not, honestly ask yourself: is this is a deal breaker?

After handling divorces for over two decades, I would have thought that I would no longer be surprised by people, and yet just about every week I hear a new story that reminds me just how unpredictable people can be when faced with a scary situation that is completely outside of their control.

So when your partner responds in a way that makes you question your judgment, try not to be too hard on yourself. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know– but you can be crystal clear about what is acceptable behavior to you and what is not. Only you can decide what is right for you.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.