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 I know him/her?
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 development 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 my secrets?
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.
3. Are we comfortable together in the quiet?
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. Spend more time getting to know them before you decide to commit.
4. Do I know how this person will change me?
"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 and who you allow to influence you.
Remember too, that you will marry a person you date. So ask this question early.
5. Am I attracted to their heart and character?
It's easy to be attracted to someone physically or to the version of a person someone portrays to the world. But what do they do during their free time? What are their values and beliefs? Our worldview is our center and directs all of our decisions.
6. Does he/she appreciate 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 just 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 they were protecting me.
They 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 every day. 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.
8. Does he/she strive to place my desires and needs first?
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. 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: 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.
9. Are their hopes and dreams for the future compatible with 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 suburb?
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.
Check out The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story told from the male perspective by James Russell Lingerfelt. The novel helps readers find healing after severed relationships.
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, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or subscribe to his email list for updates.