It’s tempting to jump into relationships when we meet someone we believe is wonderful. But if it takes a few months to begin gauging someone’s character, and two to three years to truly know them, we are setting ourselves up for disaster if we commit too soon.
Here are nine essential questions to help guide us:
1. How well do we know each other?
Don’t trust someone until you know them. Oh! How we miss this one. A lot.
“But our friends introduced us.” It doesn’t matter. Anyone can wear masks. The best way to know someone is this: 1) Spend time with them while they’re with their family. 2) Listen to the words they say to you. 3) Observe them in a variety of circumstances.
Not watching them interact with their family is one of the worse mistakes we’ve made in our post 1920s western dating culture. For some reason, “Meet the parents” has become the last step before planning the engagement.
What kind of family does he/she come from? That was their foundation and upbringing until they left home? No matter how far we travel, those developmental years left a huge impression on who we are, and who we’re likely to resort back to when we’re older.
2. Can I trust them with our private discussions?
If they share your private conversations with others, walk away or have a serious discussion about that issue. If you don’t take care of it now, you’ll only resent them later.
A relationship is built on a foundation of trust. If we don’t have that, then we won’t really have anything. Make sure that we fully trust our partner and if he does something to betray our trust in any way, don’t just brush it under the rug. Talk to him or her openly about it in order to determine if this was an innocent mistake, or a revelation about his or her core character.
MORE: 5 Signs He’s Not The One
3. Can we be quiet in each other’s presence?
If they can’t enjoy the silence with you, that’s actually evidence that there’s a lot going on inside them and they need noise for distraction. Communication is essential in a relationship, but so is being able to simple enjoy being in one another’s company and feeling at ease.
4. Do I look forward to becoming like this person?
“We become like the community we’re a part of” and “We are a product of our environment” are popular quotes for a reason. Be selective with who you surround yourself with – who you allow to influence you. Ask yourself if he or she is a truly good person, one who inspires you and also brings our your best. Do you admire him? Do you appreciate the person that he is?
It’s important for us to ask this question early on. A guy or girl can be a very good partner, but not necessarily a good person. Pay attention to people’s core characters, not just the way they make you feel.
5. Am I attracted to their character or blinded by the appearance of things?
It’s easy to be attracted to the physical or who the person portrays him or herself to be. But what do they do during their free time? What are their values and beliefs? Our worldview is our center and directs all our decisions. Don’t be fooled by someone who seems good on paper, these things rarely tell the full story of who someone is. Look at who they really are and what they truly believe in, and at whether they live a life in accordance with these beliefs.
6. Does he/she love and respect me for who I am right now?
If they’re trying to change you, they’re not ready for a relationship. Plain and simple. The most mature, loving people I’ve ever encountered loved me for exactly who I was. The only time they called me out is when they knew I was knowingly or unknowingly about to hurt myself or others, and that was done out of love in order to protect me.
QUIZ: Does He Really Love Me?
Your partner might challenge you, which is a very good thing, but that is very different than someone trying to change you. Beware not to confuse these two.
7. How does he/she already treat people they love most?
I don’t mean during holidays or time spent after long periods apart, but everyday. This will require spending a lot of time together with their families. If that’s impossible, don’t forget that this side of them, who they truly are, is a side you haven’t been exposed to yet.
I’ve met plenty of people who told me that their partners or spouses completely changed when they were back in the comforts and security of their families. How they treat the people they love is an indication of how they will treat you, so make sure you pay attention and don’t delude yourself into thinking you’ll be the exception if you don’t like what you see.
8. Is he/she selfless?
I understand the importance of giving and receiving. But if the person you’re with has the attitude of, “My desires are above yours,” they’re not ready for a relationship. They still have some growing up to do.
I’ve met plenty of people who believe the world revolves around them, rather than embracing the simple truth that we are all part of a universe.
We are a part of the human community within a universe. Neither that universe nor its members are here to grant us our dreams and wishes. Until we realize this, we will live very selfishly and never understand what it will take to nurture and grow healthy relationships.
Clear warning signs are: Temper tantrums, outbursts of anger, control issues, and their believing you should read their minds to know their wants and desires without having to communicate them to you.
MORE: 4 Relationship Rules to Live By
9. Do their visions for the future resemble yours?
Do they want a partnership where both are working in the corporate world, or a traditional role where one partner stays home? Do they know if they want to live in the city, the countryside, or the suburbs?
Though it’s important to remind ourselves that our desires and interests change as we grow older, it’s still important to discuss these issues. They might not want to live near their parents now, but wait until his/her parents age and find it difficult to take care of themselves. Suddenly, the situation has changed.
Make sure you have the same general vision for the future before you take things any further in the present.
Check out Lingerfelt’s book, The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story. The novel helps readers find healing after severed relationships and gives people hope to love again.
The Mason Jar movie is scheduled for pre-production in 2015 and will be directed in the same dramatic and romantic tones as The Notebook (2004) and Pride & Prejudice (2005). Follow him on Facebook, Google+, Twitter or subscribe to his email list for updates.