Let’s be honest — no one ever sets out to spend a lifetime in a relationship with the wrong person. That’s an outcome we all are trying to avoid. And yet, if the number of failed relationships is any indication, that’s precisely where a sizable number of people end up anyway.
The truth is, many men and women complicate matters by letting blind emotion do all the talking, when a little systematic reasoning would go a long way. In the heat of a new romance, it is difficult to think straight. Which is why it is helpful to make up your mind well in advance about how you will go about making such a momentous decision and know what criteria you will use in the process.
Here are some ways to sharpen your focus and take a clear-eyed look at whether a potential partner is the right one to accompany you into the future:
15 Ways to Avoid Mr. Wrong:
1. Check your romantic radar. First things first: make sure you’re not overeager to get into a relationship. Desperation leads to a multitude of mistakes.
2. Avoid the addict. The man who has an unaddressed addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography) will make the object of his compulsion the center of his life—not you.
3. Look out for the guy who loves himself more than you. Confidence is what you want; conceitedness is not.
4. Ditch the deceiver. Beware of the man who will “shade the truth” with you—little lies will lead to bigger ones.
5. Pass on the passive man. Sure, you want to find a nice, amiable guy. But you also want one who will stand up for himself … and you.
6. Watch out for Mr. Wonderful. The guy who seems too good to be true—suave, sophisticated, super-successful—just may be.
7. Forget about the flagrant flirt. What seems at first like harmless sociability can conceal heartbreak waiting to happen. Find a man who only has eyes for you.
8. See through the sarcasm. A man’s sense of humor reveals much about his inner self. A jeering joker who relies on crudeness, put-downs, or laughter at someone else’s expense is not kindhearted.
9. Look for the master of disguise. Some men are highly skilled at adopting a persuasive persona, presenting themselves as something they’re not. If you detect a whiff of duplicity, ask yourself why the guy feels the need to fool you.
10. Beware of the man who’s easily bored. If you’re with a guy who seems chronically restless and antsy—always ready to move on to the next promising prospect—do yourself a favor and let him get bored with someone else.
11. Forego the control freak. The fastidious, uptight guy who wants to micromanage your life is probably not someone who want to live with day in and day out.
12. Evict the eternal adolescent. Some guys can’t seem to grow out of their high school days. You deserve better than sophomoric behavior.
13. Detach yourself from the detached man. The person who is preoccupied, distracted, and emotionally unavailable is not going to attach to you in a meaningful way.
14. Move on from the mama’s boy. It’s admirable when a guy loves his mother–but not when extreme attachment interferes with your romantic relationship.
15. Trust your gut on a guy’s trustworthiness. If you have a hint of concern about your man’s truthfulness and dependability, listen closely to what your instincts are telling you.
15 Ways to Avoid Ms. Wrong:
1. Know yourself. Before you can see whether she is the right fit, it helps to confidently know the contours of your own personality.
2. Beware of the chemistry. Emotional fireworks are a good thing in a healthy relationship. But physical attraction shouldn’t be the only thing holding you together. If you suspect that it is, think twice.
3. Take your time. You’ll never get a thorough look at a prospective partner in just a few euphoric weeks or even months. Give things a chance to evolve, and you’ll see how you mesh through all of life’s various moods.
4. Solicit advice from people you trust. You may be rendered senseless by the red-hot excitement of a new romance—but your friends and family won’t be. Let them give you reality checks.
5. Ask hard questions. No one wants to be accused of “buzz kill” in a new relationship by bringing up issues that might be uncomfortable. Yet often that is the only way to learn important things about each other.
6. Learn her history. The best way to understand why a woman thinks or behaves as she does is to know what she’s been through on her way to you.
7. Look out for mismatched goals and values. Be brutally realistic about whether your respective lives and desires are pointing you in the same direction, or whether impossible compromises lie ahead.
8. Observe how she handles conflict. Fights happen—and how a person behaves when feeling angry or threatened provides valuable insight into her character.
9. Discuss the M word … money. Researchers long ago identified financial stress and incompatibility as the leading cause of marital strife. Head off trouble by mapping out your beliefs and goals up front.
10. Talk about kids. After the arrival of children is the wrong time to discover you have very different ideas about parenthood. Thoroughly discuss this critical issue well ahead of time.
11. Be honest about your motives for wanting a lasting relationship. Are you unable to imagine spending life with anyone else, or are you simply tired of being alone?
12. Make sure you understand her motives as well. What are her expectations? Does she expect things from the relationship you can’t deliver?
13. Get to know her friends. Her choice of friends is a window into her most unguarded values.
14. Observe her in stressful situations. Stress has a way of revealing a person’s true character and ability to handle tough circumstances.
15. Take seriously any sign that she is less than truthful. Even little, seemingly inconsequential lies can foreshadow big problems later on.