I know that a lot of the articles on this Web site deal with red flags and relationship problems.
And my general philosophy is that long-term potential in a relationship is really based on what matters to you; what makes for a happy, fulfilling relationship in your world?
Your relationship relationship requirements will be different from your friend’s relationship relationship requirements.
With that said, there are some signs and characteristics that demonstrate healthy relating.
These characteristics are good signs that your man has keeper potential.
But don’t use this is as a checklist to determine whether or not he’s right for you, or whether or not he’s marriage material, or anything like that!
Deciding whether your partner is right for you should be based on your whole experience of him, not only based on whether these particular qualities are present. (But if these particular qualities are present, that’s great!)
The purpose of dating is to really get to know someone and experience them.
However, depending on how long you’ve been dating your partner, you may not have had the chance to get to know yet him in some of these ways. It takes time to experience someone.
But maybe there are clear indications from your experience with him, for example, on whether or not he shows respect, or whether or not you share the same life values.
I remember, years ago, I was out to dinner with someone with whom I was dating at the time, and he was so rude to the waiter who was serving us—he was sarcastic, belittling… He was totally disrespectful—so much that I was embarrassed to be dining with him.
I wanted to hide. And I felt really bad for the waiter.
Needless to say, that experience left me with a bad feeling, and I didn’t continue to see this person.
So look at your relationship objectively when you consider this list of “signs.”
And really tune in to your intuition and your experience of him, to determine whether or not he truly demonstrates these qualities and characteristics:
He’s an Open Book
If he’s an open book, this is a man who is willing to share with you and answer any questions you may have about him and his life; he wants you to get to know him.
From the reasons behind his divorce, to the ways in which he has learned and grown from his past, he is willing to talk about and discuss even some of the most difficult aspects of his previous relationship. And he values communication and sharing.
This is very different from someone who talks so much about his previous relationship, that it feels toxic to be around him.
When he’s an open book, he’s sharing with you because he cares about your concern; his sharing is not about trying to get you to side with him, or feel sorry for him, or making you responsible for cheering him up for making him feel better about himself.
Being an open book means that he’s sharing from an authentic place with no agenda, other than to deepen his trust and relationship with you in a healthy way. It is also the sign of a man who feels he has nothing to hide.
He Sets Appropriate Boundaries
Your partner may still have some strings attached to his ex, despite being divorced.
Maybe they share investment property or maybe they have kids.
He’s going to have to interact with the mother of his children for various reasons relating to his children’s care. If they share investment property, they might have business to discuss regarding the property.
Also, often because of childcare, your partner and his ex-wife will have to trade off on taking care of the kids.
In a perfect world, your partner’s schedule and his ex’s schedule are predictable and easily managed. But if they are both full-time working professionals (and even if they aren’t), sometimes work or family emergencies come up. And someone has to take care of the kids.
Often it might be the ex-wife or ex-husband who takes care of the kids when the other ex has a work obligation.
But sometimes, one ex might try to take advantage of, or put undue responsibility on, the other ex out of anger or bitterness, or just wanting to give the other person a hard time.
Or maybe his ex still carries a torch for her ex-husband and she calls him “just to talk”, but it’s not related to business or the kids.
Or maybe his kids are disrespecting you in some way.
It is fair to want some boundaries there.
And if your partner recognizes when other parties have crossed a line, or when other parties are not respecting boundaries (sometimes it takes telling your partner about things that concern you; he might not always see if something is not right in your book), and he works to address your concerns or make sure that his ex and his kids honor those boundaries, you have a man who really values and respects your partnership.
He Shows Respect
Hard feelings are natural after a divorce.
But a divorced dad who can put those hard feelings aside and continue to show respect for his ex wife, the mother of his children, is a man worth getting to know.
Showing respect for someone who caused you a lot of pain takes a lot of emotional maturity; it’s not an easy feat, especially if he really dislikes her and the divorce was bitter and messy.
But you don’t have to like someone to treat them with respect.
You don’t even have to personally have respect for someone in order to treat them with respect.
Respect and dignity is something that everyone deserves.
Treating his “enemies” with dignity not only takes self-control, but it takes a higher level of awareness; he recognizes that it’s not “all about him”, and how he feels about things. He can think beyond himself.
If he treats his ex-wife well, he will likely treat the new woman in his life even better.
His Actions Match Up With His Words
If he’s a man who walks his talk, and who’s authentic in his words and in his actions, you’re likely going to feel safe trusting him.
The more real he is with you, the better you are able to discern whether he’s right for you. When people are putting up a front, even if you’re unaware of it, you don’t have the opportunity to know who the real person is and what they really think.
Being real takes a lot of self-confidence, and it takes being secure in who he is and how he leads his life. Being real takes a high level of integrity.
You Share the Same Values
Sharing the same values and ideals can be a strong indicator of long-term compatibility.
When you share the same values, or your values are very closely aligned, it means that you share similar life visions, and that alignment will support your growing together as a couple.
For example, if you are a devout Catholic, but your partner openly despises organized religion or is not spiritual at all, it might be really difficult to grow together in spirituality, if that is an area that is important to you.
But more so than sharing the same values as your partner, the important part is having respect for your partner’s values, despite the differences.
I’ve met plenty of couples who are polar opposites when it comes to religion and politics, but they respect each other’s point of view and their differing religious and political values don’t adversely affect their relationship.
The bottom line is to really realize what matters to you, and then see if what truly matters to you also matters to him.