It's all too easy to fall for a cute face or a sexy body and
wind up with a time-waster, or in crazy love, or even in a
bad marriage. And if "The Pitfalls
of Cyberlove" have clouded your judgement before you
even meet the other person, you're in even more danger.
While I've given you a whole Rogue's Gallery of types to
stay away from in "Men To Avoid"
and "Women To Avoid", and I've
provided you with some important guidelines in "Spotting The Crazies", you need a
final line of defense to protect you from a disastrous
Here it is. A step-by-step process which works even if your
hormones are raging and your brain is addled by those tight
pants or deep cleavage. If you REALLY want a fulfilling,
happy relationship, use the following steps to qualify each
new person you meet, with no exceptions, and don't stop
until you have all the answers.
First, Is Someone Commitment-minded?
Even if a person seems to meet all your criteria and they
appear to be someone you could take home to meet your
family, you're still wasting your time if they're not ready
for a commitment, whatever the reason is. Some people go
around with a bumper sticker saying, "Happiness Is Being
Single" -- and they really mean it. You need to know ASAP
if someone is commitment-minded or determinedly single.
Apart from the bumper sticker crowd, commitment-mindedness
is a tricky subject
to broach. The amazing thing is that people are more likely
to give a candid answer to a casual acquaintance than to
someone they're starting to date. You just have to ask
while you're still a casual acquaintance.
Here's how it works. You run into Studly Tom or Sexy
Suzanne at the coffee machine and say, "Oh, hi. How was
your commute this morning? Did you get around that jam-up
on the Lakeside Interchange?" Then sip your coffee, smile,
and say "You should see how all the girls/(guys) look at
you. I bet you're really enjoying the single life..."
Their immediate response will be telling. A player will
simply enjoy this idle flattery. Someone who'd like to
be through with playing, on the other hand, may be flattered
but will also look vaguely uncomfortable, as if the shoe
doesn't quite fit, and may even tell you, "Actually, it gets
a little old." Either way, you've got your answer. Of
course, if they just glare at you and walk off, that's an
answer, too -- they're not interested in you, and it doesn't
matter how they feel about relationships.
Your first casual conversation is the best timing. If you
delay, the opportunity for surprise and candor is
irretrievably lost. Anytime after the other person has
shown overt interest in you or vice versa -- even before
your first date -- the subject of relationships suddenly
becomes heavy. From then on, there's no way to make your
question sound casual, and their responses will be at best
guarded, and at worst calculated to be the "right" answer.
Trust me. Try this my way.
But if you miss your chance in the first casual conversation,
don't fail to ask about the person's goals and plans
on your very first date. It may feel a little pushy, but do it.
It's an appropriate, normal question. Their
answer will hopefully be consistent with wanting a long-term
relationship, such as, "I'm working on my MBA and saving for
a house down payment." On the other hand, if they tell you
they're saving up to sail their own boat around the world,
or taking acting lessons and want to be a movie star, their
dazzling smile should suddenly change in your eyes to a big,
flashing red light.
Also, be sure to chat about mutual interests and background.
What you're looking for is to learn whether someone's had
long-term relationships in the past and whether or not they're
close to their family -- both are indicators of someone's
general inclination toward longterm commitments.
It's easy. Just start with a little self-disclosure: "I
don't get to see my family as much as I'd like -- didn't you
say your folks live in Chicago? Do you get to see them
much?" What they answer will give you some early clues
about how they value family relationships.
Even if a new person passes the Commitment-Mindedness checks
and you feel intensely attracted, keep your head. Never go
out with someone blindly and assume they're perfect until
events prove otherwise. Enjoy being with them, but keep
gathering information. If you're headed toward a committed
relationship with someone, you'll need to have answers to
all of the following questions.
- Are they honest? When you're with them, notice
whether or not they lie to other people. (If so, odds
are they'll lie to you.)
- Are they responsible? Do they take good care of
their plants, pets, and children if any?
- Do they show up when they say they will, or call if
they're running late? Could you count on them to be
there if you needed them?
- Do they have lots of old friends? What do the
friends say about him or her?
- Are they on speaking terms with ex-lovers and/or
- Are they on loving terms with their parents and
- Do they seem financially stable, or are they wildly
extravagant, or always scrambling to pay their bills,
or into gambling?
- Do they take good care of their health, or do they
drink too much or need drugs all the time?
- Do they get along with your friends?
- Do they appreciate you? Do they express their
feelings to you? Are they willing to spend a lot of
time with you?
- Do you feel secure about them in the relationship,
or do you worry a lot about them straying?
- Do you feel happy and safe when you're just hanging
out together, or are there a lot of awkward moments, or
have you ever felt physically threatened?
- Do they show clear signs of being capable of sharing?
- Would you consider spending the rest of your life
- Are they okay just the way they are, or are you
going to have to make a lot of "improvements"?
The idea of the checklist is to find these things out BEFORE
you're madly in love, so that if the answers are turning up
negative, you can get out without a broken heart.
So speed up the process by arranging little tests. Lend him
or her a book and see if it's returned without you having to
ask. Ask him/her to feed your goldfish or water your plants
while you're away and see if everything's alive or dead when
you get home. Make dates far into the future and don't call
to remind him or her when the time comes. See if he or she
Call on them if you need help with something, and see if
they volunteer to help or tell you they're busy or it's your
problem. You can quickly find whether you can depend on
them or not.
If their immediately-prior ex lives in the same city or area,
you may get a chance to meet the person at a social or
community event. Don't miss the opportunity, and don't be
bashful. Introduce yourself and say something like, "Hi,
I'm Norm NewGuy (or Norma Next), and I know you were together
with Perfect Patty (or Tom Terrific) for quite a while.
I'm starting to get pretty involved with her (him) and
I wondered if you had any words of wisdom or warning for
me..." They may not want to talk, or you
may not believe much of what they tell you, but whatever
happens, you'll learn something.
Pass on anyone you can't trust or about whom you hear
horrible stories from more than one source. Don't waste
time with someone with whom you wouldn't want to share a
checkbook or a credit card. Forget about anyone who is
abusive, cold, critical, uncommunicative or unkind. Just
get out, quickly and efficiently. (See "Ending It.")
I don't want you to waste a year of your life dating someone
and then find out that they're crazy or married or a flake
or a drug addict or under indictment.
Dealing With A Mystery Man Or Woman
Let's be clear about something that should be common sense.
Unless you're making a fool of yourself chasing someone who
doesn't care about you, the feelings in your deepening
relationship should be mutual. The person you're falling in
love with should be "inviting you into their life," and
should be totally forthcoming about themselves.
This means it should NOT be tricky or difficult to find the
answers to the 15 Checklist questions in a normally-developing
relationship. But what if the object of your
affection seems loving and attentive and nice, but just
won't tell you anything about themself and their past, or
what they tell you floats in a vacuum -- no corroborating
evidence anywhere. "Oh, my folks died years ago. No, no
brothers or sisters. My ex? Oh, she's crazy. I never talk
to her." And so on.
If you're in such a situation (and I've had many clients who
were), you are not helpless. Stop plunging ahead blindly.
Instead, plan a party to which you will each invite some of
your oldest and closest friends. If he or she refuses to
cooperate or claims he or she has no friends to invite, see
"Your Last Recourse" below.
But let's assume he or she cooperates. Make sure the
party's large enough so that it's sure to break up into
several conversation groups. A barbecue, with people
meandering in and out, is ideal. Make it a point to chat
with a couple of his or her oldest friends, and ask about
him or her. Assign a few of your closest friends do the
same. Don't worry about being obvious; your interest in him
or her will seem perfectly natural.
What you hear about your mystery person will either start to
fill in their past and corroborate what little they've
already told you, or it will conflict. If it doesn't jibe
or his friends are vague and unspecific, it's time to go on
red alert. Again, in this case, see "Your Last Recourse"
Your Last Recourse
If all your efforts to unveil your mystery person have come
to nought, it's time to be deeply suspicious. At this
point, self-preservation must displace romance. Put your
plans on hold, take off your rose-colored glasses and
recognize that you're down to 2 options: A. do some detective
work online; and/or B. directly confront him or her.
If you choose option A, don't feel the slightest bit guilty
You were thinking of committing your life to this person;
surely you deserve to know who he or she is. If he or she
doesn't check out, you've saved yourself a world of misery
and heartache; on the other hand, if he or she checks out
okay, you still must find out why they weren't more
forthcoming with you.
If you choose option B, you might want to confront him or
her in the presence of a relationship counselor. Tell your
partner you're uncomfortable, that you're in love with him
or her but you don't want to get more involved with someone
you know so little about. Offer to exchange information
right then and there.
Someone with something to hide will rarely admit it. They
are more likely to blow up, accuse you of "conducting an
inquisition" or some similar remark designed to make you
feel guilty and then stalk off. If they do, don't take them
The Final Checklist
By the time you become engaged to a someone, you should know
at least the following hard facts about them:
- Full name and address
- Social security number
- Driver's license number
- Place of birth
- College, if applicable
- Military service information, if applicable
- Pending lawsuits or contingent liabilities
- Credit problems or prior bankruptcies
- Convictions (excluding minor traffic violations)
- Blood type (for a medical emergency) and any major
health problems (heart condition, post combat stress
syndrome, HIV positive, etc.)
- Marital history
I'm always amazed at the number of people who get married
without knowing many of these basic facts about their
spouse. Many people, especially women, find some of these
questions very awkward to ask, so blame them on me. Say I
told you you couldn't get married without this
And remember, you're not demanding audited financial
statements. Assuming your about-to-be-betrothed has
demonstrated their honesty in little ways that you've
noticed, and their friends speak highly of their integrity,
you can simply take their word when they answer your
The point is, if there's anything on the list you haven't
already discussed, now's the time to ask. You're about to
become life partners; if both of you aren't comfortable
knowing everything about each other, you should
definitely think twice.
Related Keywords: Qualifying Someone, Bad Prospects, Your Requirements, Commitment
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