L. J. Maggie, 34, a single in Los Angeles, shares some of her dating experiences and what she has observed about a partner’s ability to be respectful and considerate. “If a person says they will call, they actually call and don’t leave you hanging. They plan a date with you and keep that date. If they are running late, they call to let you know. When planning a date, they plan it in advance and want to go out with you in the early evening and don’t just want to see you after 10 p.m. Spontaneity is good, but it shouldn’t happen all the time. If they like to plan dates last minute all of the time, it means they are waiting to see if there is a better offer, and they aren’t making time for you in their life.”
It takes time to see if someone can be consistent with you and with others. Can he be compassionate when you are going through a rough time? Can she be patient and avoid bossiness while you assemble a bookcase? Is he consistently truthful? Is she responsible with her employment? Can you trust each other to be faithful? Gentle? Flexible? Courteous? Generous?
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Then, what do you do with your observations? “The most important piece of advice I would give anyone, is to stay alert and reflective, and don’t push away or be afraid to contemplate a partner’s character qualities that are disconcerting,” says Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, a Marriage & Family Psychotherapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage (www.ashortguidetoahappymarriage.com) “Watch and listen to your partner talk and react with others. When are you uncomfortable, do you ever cringe, do you ever feel like he owes apologies to others? How does your partner treat their family members and their friends, and how do they speak about their boss and coworkers?”
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There’s a theme going here. It takes time and a variety of experiences to thoroughly know a partner, especially if you want to consider marriage. This is especially true when it comes to character. Deb Castaldo, a couples and family therapist (www.debracastaldo.com) says, “Looking for traits that increase the chances of success of the relationship over the long haul is really where it’s at! It’s not attractiveness, brilliance, humor, wealth, or enjoying long walks on the beach that make the foundation of a great relationship. It takes time to discover someone’s true character. Observe the person from a distance in different settings for awhile. Then ask yourself, is this someone I could admire and be proud of? If the answer is yes, you are off to a good start!”