In part 1 of this topic, I mentioned several basic principles to follow for healthy dating relationships. Part 2 will look at a few more, as well as, examining how to evaluate character. While some people are fortunate enough to fall in love with an acquaintance or a close friend (having some knowledge of their character before having a dating interest), millions of people in our culture are in the position of getting to know someone intimately with whom they have had little or no previous contact (e.g., blind date, online date, etc.).
I cannot stress enough the importance of following healthy dating guidelines when dating people we really don’t know. In extreme cases, we have all heard incidents of people, especially women, being victims of crimes, even murder, when they met someone who “seemed nice,” but obviously was emotionally disturbed. But even in far less drastic cases, the results are often lots of heartache, including messy breakups, especially divorce.
Character evaluation extends beyond someone’s favorite food or singing group. When getting to know a person, we should evaluate things such as:
How they spend their time, i.e., work, school, hobbies, social and family life, community or church involvement. A person who is involved in serving others will likely have the mindset of giving in a relationship.
What are their core beliefs and values? This would include beliefs about religion, family, gender roles, work, morality, etc.
How did they choose their career? This point goes beyond the usual question of simply “what do you do for a living?” The answer can give insight into their values and/or beliefs.
What are their relationships like with family, friends? Do they communicate well face to face or mostly by texting? Are they good at listening as well as talking? How do they treat others, in general? Are they courteous, respectful, and non-judgmental? Do they express gratitude, and admit wrongs or mistakes?
Do they have good boundaries? Do they contact you too much (smother) or not enough? Are they too disappointed if something doesn’t go their way?
Do they have any addictive behaviors around alcohol, gambling, pornography, spending, or something else?
Two very important points to remember about character evaluation are these: first, while we do learn about people by asking questions, we absolutely must watch their behavior over a period of time to really have confidence that they are what they present themselves to be. Too many people have regrets because they simply believed what someone told them about themselves! Second, the best way to objectively assess character is to do it when our heart has not yet opened to that person. That is why, as mentioned in part 1, it is best to take things slowly in the beginning, and have someone to talk to who challenges our thinking.
The last item is the issue of dating when either person has children. There’s a common rule that many people follow to not introduce their children to someone unless the relationship has become “serious.” This is a good rule of thumb. Another very important thing to look at is, are the children a top priority in the person’s life? Unfortunately, after divorce many people are so concerned about finding another relationship that they prioritize an intimate relationship over the well-being of their children.
Taking care in evaluating people in relationships may seem to some like all of the fun and spontaneity of getting to know someone is being removed. The truth is that doing the work to have healthy relationships is actually paving the road for more fun without all the regrets. And the good news is that following these principles can improve relationships at any stage.