Truthfully, it's hard to tell sometimes.
He is exciting, humorous and charming. He is a real turn-on and he knows it. A "limited edition," he is mysteriously elusive and hard to pin down. The initial BIG romantic gestures and his "bad boy going against authority and getting away with it" persona intrigues you.
It makes sense that you're attracted to him. Though superheroes are great with damsels in distress, they can leave damsels full of stress.
Understanding the difference between the True Superhero and Romantic Kryptonite can help you look beyond the cape and make sure your "picker" is setting you up for relationship success:
In today's world of dating technology, where another person is a swipe away, a True Superhero embodies the real characteristics and values you are looking for in a life-long partner. But be careful what you look for.
The problem is that all traits are on a continuum. Anything that is too "Super" has the downside of turning into Romantic Kryptonite That is when those parts of him that you like become so super-sized that they can self-destruct a relationship.
1. Confidence vs. Arrogance
A true Superhero is confident. He is sure of himself and knows what he wants out of life. He doesn't need the compliments or attention of others. He is humble and modest, and sees the idea of settling down as inline with his life goals.
Romantic Kryptonite is when confidence is super-sized and becomes arrogance. He builds himself up, puts others down. Looks for the admiration of others and has trouble taking responsibility, being humble, or admitting fault.
2. Smart vs. Know-It-All
This Superhero can hold a conversation with most people about most topics. He cares about what you have to say, and isn't afraid to "not" know something. Emotionally intelligent, he can talk to you about vulnerable feelings and talk constructively about problems.
It's Romantic Kryptonite when he corrects people's trivial mistakes and claims to know the best of the best. If you have experienced something in life, he has experienced something "even better." If you challenge him in any way, he becomes defensive.
3. Helpful vs. Controlling
A Superhero strives to be helpful. He supports you the way YOU want him to. He is able to either listen or give advice he is attuned to. He is sensitive to what you need and how he communicates at times when you need him.
Romantic Kryptonite tells you what you "should" do. There is one way that things should be done: his way. When people don't confirm to his way, he looks down on them. He cannot be wrong. He tries to sell his hurtful feedback as being "blatantly honest."
4. Social vs. Attention-Seeking
Socially, he enjoys people. Though he has friends, he can enjoy yours and speaks positively about them. Bringing you around both his men and women friends, there are no social secrets here.
Romantic Kryptonite puts on a show for your friends and keeps you away from some of his. The world is his stage and his role is to impress. You can see he flirts and wants the admiration of others, though he would never admit it.
5. Has a Life vs. Absent
Living a balanced life, he talks positively about his work and has interests outside of it. He is good to his family and does not get sucked into family or friend drama. Regardless of his busy life, he makes you feel that you are his priority.
Romantic Kryptonite leave "the plans" unclear. He can't commit — often not even on the covenant Saturday night or other special occasions. There are times when he is MIA or "falls asleep" oddly early ... or so he says.
If you are attracted to the Superhero, there are things you can do to navigate the "True" and the Kryptonite:
- Take everything in moderation.
Remember: everything you like about him has its good and bad sides. The stronger he is on these traits, the more likely he can tip the scale and cross over to the dark side. Looking for the best of the best can make us wind up with someone from another planet. Therefore, a True Superhero may not be the guy standing out in the crowd. He may be in the crowd listening attentively to one of his friends.
- Assert your needs.
Don't be a "good girl" keeping your needs to yourself hoping he will be converted to a True Superhero. The relationship has a better chance to work if you speak up. He will respect you more when you are assertive. You have the right to have him understand and validate the relationship you desire. Use phases like: When ___ happens, I feel ___, and would like you to ___. If he is not receptive, this is a red flag.
- Be flexible ... to a point.
Envision the kind of relationship you want. Maintain your limits and boundaries. At the same time, True Superheroes need their life balance. Be flexible and try to problem-solve the differences in what you both need. The ability to problem-solve with you shows signs he is true.
If he can't problem-solve with you, that is signs of being controlling. If you find yourself continuing to assert your needs and being flexible only to be met with blaming, it's time to let him go or you will eventually turn into a Supervillainess.
Dr. Paul DePompo is the founder of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Institute of Southern California. For over a decade, Dr. DePompo has utilized his no-nonsense approach to successfully treat adults and adolescents with short-term methods that provide long-term results. His new book "The Other Woman's Affair: Gambling Your Heart and Reclaiming Your Life When Your Partner is Married" was published in May 2016.