Date Smart & protect your heart
Foolproof Ways to Know if He's Right for You
After you read this, you're going to wonder why you've never heard this before. My clients are always telling me, "I wished I had known these things before I started dating or before I got married!"
Sister, here's my hope for you. By the time you find the one, that you'll go into marriage with full confidence knowing that the two of you can fulfill all of your God-given dreams together.
But before we dive into the RRA, I just wanted to take a moment and say hello first. So, hi Friend!
If I saw you in person, I'd give you a hug. Sorry I can't do that here, but I do hope you feel welcome! My goal is to help you be all you can in Christ and to avoid a few of the dating disasters I've encountered. I'm married now, but let me tell you....I've learned a lot of things the hard way!
John and I got married in 1999, almost 20 years. Hard to believe. Most people think we met in church, but I was impatient. My church only had services twice a week. And for me, that didn't provide enough opportunity for meeting men:)
We met on The Twister Love Line....yep a local country radio station that had a telephone match making service. This was before the days of .com dating sites. I like to say that we paved the way for internet love.
It was risky and new. Not many admitted to using technology for finding love, but by then I had learned, no matter where you meet men...the two most important dating tools are discernment and caution.
Why it's Important to Date Heart Smart
Wanna know what irks me more than anything? It's how the standards of the world have tried to influence the way we enter relationships. Fast and furious. Movies, music and media make it seem like sex within the first few dates is normal. But it's not normal. It's backwards!
Uncontrolled chemistry is dangerous. It can cause you to turn off wisdom. It can cause you to trust too fast and get hurt.
If this has happened to you, let me share with you my best relationship advice: dating smart protects your heart. It’s the opposite of what you may've been taught—just trust your heart. Rely on your feelings, not your intellect. Throw caution to the wind.
If you take this kind of advice and allow your emotions to rule and ignore reason, when your relationship turns sour, you’ll no doubt feel blindsided. Being blindsided hurts, but it can be a great place to stop and reflect so you don't make the same mistake again.
In my coaching practice, I often ask women this question: “Looking back, knowing what you know now, what are the mistakes you made and what are the red flags that you missed?” This is an important issue to ponder. If you can’t see the mistakes you made the first time, you’re doomed to repeat them.
Hindsight is helpful because it allows you to examine your previous relationship and try to pinpoint where it went wrong. Are there areas in which you compromised? Did you move too fast? Is there something you overlooked?
If you’re willing to make an honest assessment, this can be an eye-opening exercise. Given the benefit of retrospect, you’ll be able to bring clarity to the issues you overlooked. But what if you could reverse this situation and instead of just relying on hindsight, use foresight?
That’s the whole purpose of this article—to help you use wisdom and caution so you can date smart. You’ll learn to set your emotions aside so you can make wise choices based on observation of character. When your emotions are not entangled it’s easier to examine the reality of a man’s character.
You’re not looking for Mr. Perfect. He doesn’t exist. You’re looking for an excellent choice. There’s a huge difference. Excellence is obtainable. Perfection is a myth.
Don't Skip the Evaluation Process
Evaluating a man’s character is the most fundamental part of dating smart.
Maybe you think it’s wrong to examine his behavior. It’s somehow not the Christian thing to do. You may feel like you’re being judgmental. Let me just say this—it’s a must. You’re not judging his eternal destiny. You’re evaluating his character to ensure that he’s trustworthy, honorable and relationship ready. You’re being cautious while you take the time to assess his character and evaluate whether or not he is a good fit for YOU.
Let me say it again. Evaluating a man’s character is not judging.
Here's what Luke 6:44-45 says: "Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
The word recognized used in this verse comes from a Greek word ginōskō which means to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of, perceive, feel, understand, have knowledge of.
When you consider a new relationship, do it with your eyes wide open. Study, look, perceive. You’re not judging his worth as a human being. Only God can do that. You’re taking a opportunity to consider relationship suitability before you form an emotional connection.
It’s imperative that you do this before you get emotionally involved because
Take it slow and be realistic. Making decisions based on your emotions is dangerous. By the time you notice areas of incompatibility, the discomfort of leaving is often too strong to end the relationship. You may be tempted to stay longer than you wish because discontentment becomes familiar. Like quick sand, it’s a slow drown.
Proverbs 12:26 says that a wise woman is cautious in friendship.
- * Banks and mortgage lenders do credit checks to make sure candidates are credit worthy.
- * Employers often require a drug test as part of a new hire process. They’ll also check references to make sure you’re a good fit for their organization.
- * If you apply for insurance, your insurer will check your claims history to evaluate the potential risk in order to determine the rates they’ll charge.
- * Even if you do volunteer work, most organizations will do a background check—for a volunteer position.
Credit worthiness. Employment suitability. Risk management. Banks do it. Employers do it. Insurance companies do it. They’ll all check you out. So where did women get the idea that to evaluate character is being judgmental? It’s not judgmental. It’s prudent!
Proverbs 14:15 in The Message Bible says this: The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word.
You’re trying to discern whether or not a man is a suitable investment for the most valuable asset you own—your heart. Is he capable of a healthy relationship now? Not in the future—with a bit of persuasion and work. But now. Be careful not to fall for potential. Potential is like peanut butter. It’s nutty and sticks to the roof of your mouth.
You’ll also want to consider his maturity. Keep in mind that age does not make a man mature. Character does. That’s why it’s important not to rush. Gauging character suitability takes time and intentional consideration.
“Date heart smart!
It’s been said that love is blind, so make sure you protect
your heart. Keep your eyes wide open while you’re dating..”
The Character Factor
Aside from chemistry, personality, and common interests, many women overlook the character factor. Even the term character is often vague. So that’s why you’ll find a list of character traits below to help you consider what you value most.
Character trumps chemistry. Chemistry is awesome, but it often has a short life span. It’s like a Fourth of July sparkler. It looks magnificent and fun at first, but it doesn’t last long. If you’ve made a relationship decision based only on chemistry, when it fades, your relationship foundation may crumble. But if you’ve made a decision based on character, your relationship will be secure.
Check out the list below and select five to ten traits that are most important to you. It will help you identify must haves and deal breakers. After you select the top traits that you feel are essential for relationship success, the next step is to watch and wait. This is the stage where it’s crucial to be in observation mode. You’re making a list and checking it twice. Remember, you’re not judging. You’re being cautious. You’re watching his actions to look for evidence of the character traits that matter most to you.
It’s easy to rush this process and jump in too soon. Resist the urge. Watch for consistency. Reliability of character takes time to evaluate. Everyone displays their best behavior in the beginning. You have to decide if his behavior is the real deal or an impression session. Any guy can put on his game face for awhile, but true character is revealed in times of trouble. When his actions reflect honorable qualities on a regular basis and under the heat of adversity, odds are his character is genuine.
Consider His Emotional Maturity
Does he have emotional maturity or does he have traumatic issues that are still unresolved? If you get in a relationship before these issues are addressed, they’ll hinder your relationship and drain your energy.
I’m not endorsing intolerance, but it’s important to know whether the baggage he brings into the relationship is something you’re prepared to deal with. Evaluate your concerns from an intellectual point of view. Can you live with it or do you need to leave it? Don’t be his rescuer or missionary because you want to help him get past his past. That’s the job of a counselor.
When evaluating character you should also consider that most character flaws are magnified over time. Many women think that love will make it easier, but the reality is that character qualities that aggravate and frustrate you now will become a thorn in your marriage or relationship later.
Glance over the following list and select your top ten traits. Later you'll consider these as you complete the Relationship Risk Assessment.
Don't Confuse Character with Temperament
Personality traits and temperament are different from character traits. Temperament is dealt from family genetics while character is developed. In other words, we’re born with a personality and temperament. It’s part of our nature. Like the color of our hair and the color of our eyes are part of our physical nature, we’re all born with temperament traits.
On the other hand, character is developed over time by the choices we make. It is strengthened or weakened by the trials we endure. But we choose. It’s not what happens to us in life that determines our character. It’s how we respond to what happens to us that defines it.
Character is the Foundation for a Successful Relationship
Many women choose a mate based on their personality, chemistry and common interests but fail to evaluate character. Character, however, is one of the main ingredients that will cause your relationship to thrive. When times of adversity come, his personality won’t get you through difficulties. His character will.
Joni wanted a man who pursued her and who was direct and forthright. But also high on her priority list was a man who was witty and could banter back-and-forth with her. She admired Jason’s intellect and sense of humor. They spent hours talking, laughing and joking together.
Still, something was off. “We have so much fun together, but something isn’t right,” she said. “I want more, but every time I approach the subject, he freaks out and puts walls up. I don’t want to scare him away. Do you think he’ll ever change?”
Knowing that pursuit was important to Joni, I asked her some direct questions. “How often do you call or text? Who is the one who initiates these communications?”
Joni looked at her phone. The text messages didn’t lie. She was the one who initiated every conversation and date. They’d spent so much time laughing together that she didn’t realize she was the one in pursuit.
That’s when Joni took a step back to look at Jason’s character qualities on paper so she could evaluate the realistic longevity of her relationship. Over the next several weeks she slacked off on her texts to see if Jason would initiate contact. It was hard to deny reality, but Joni didn’t hear from him unless she texted or called him first. When she tried to discuss her concerns with Jason he avoided the topic or blew it off. His sense of humor camouflaged his lack of pursuit and initiative.
Joni had to face reality—Jason wasn’t invested in the relationship and wasn’t going to pursue her or take the lead. “It was difficult to walk away because I’d elevated his sense of humor and ignored my desire to be pursued,” said Joni, “but the pain of the same outweighed the pain of the change. I know I made the right decision. I couldn’t be content in a relationship where I was always the one leading.”
When you let your emotions rule, you’ll often make unwise choices in relationships. But when you stand back and assess the relationship from a different perspective before your affections and passions are ignited, it’s much easier to evaluate the risk. This is a very difficult thing to do after your emotions are entwined.
Emotions will skew and distort the reality. Your friends will be able to see the warning signs. But once your heart is involved you’ll have to compromise, minimize, or tell yourself lies in order to carry-on.
Examples of character traits to assess:
Does he exhibit self-control?
Here are some questions to consider: How does he handle anger and frustration? Does he have a history of addiction with drugs, porn, or gambling? If so, how long has he been clean? Does he honor your sexual boundaries? Does he ignore your wishes or violate your boundaries?
Is he confident or self-absorbed?
Sometimes self-absorption can camouflage as confidence. It can take time to tell the difference. Here are some questions you can ask yourself. Does he talk about himself all the time? Does he interrupt you? Does he give you time to share your views? Does he ridicule your ideas? Does he talk over you?
Tammy confused her first husband’s arrogance for confidence. “I admired the way he took charge of things,” she said. “He seemed so driven and ambitious. After we got married I became frustrated that he cared little about my opinion. He was always putting me down and demanding his own way. I should’ve seen it earlier.”
Can you deal with untidiness?
Nick never picked up his things. “That’s just the way I am,” he told Janie. “I’ve always been this way. Deal with it. I’m messy.”
Slothfulness and laziness are not temperament traits. They are character flaws that reflect a lack of discipline. If tidiness is important to you, this could be something to watch. Are you prepared to accept this trait in your mate?
When he’s never on time.
Tiffany was frustrated with Jacob’s frequent tardiness. “He was always late for dates,” she said. “It wasn’t uncommon for me to show up at a restaurant only to get a text from Jacob saying he was running behind. He’d show up 30-40 minutes later profusely apologizing with an elaborate excuse. He promised to change, but he never did. Sometimes he’d send flowers the next day. It was as if he thought flowers should compensate for his lack of consideration.”
Like tidiness, punctuality is not part of our temperament. It’s something that can be changed, but Jacob proved by his actions that he wasn’t interested. “His tardiness translated disrespect and a lack of honor for me,” said Tiffany. “For me, it was a deal breaker.”
Relationship Risk Assessment
Below you’ll find two tools. One is a character quiz and the other is my Relationship Risk Assessment (RRA). You can download the RRA in a moment, but here’s what it looks like.
I compare the quiz and the RRA to a railroad crossing. When you approach a crossing, you exercise more caution. If the lights are blinking and the arms are going down you run a great risk if you try to cross in front of a train. There’ll be a huge collide if you ignore caution.
I also compare the RRA to the prudence lenders use in reviewing a loan applicant. A borrower’s credit score doesn’t have to be perfect to get a loan. Lenders assume a moderate amount of risk in most transactions, but by checking a borrower’s credit, they can use wisdom to review the liability. They’re wise and selective about whom they loan money to. If the risks are too high, the loan is denied.
Likewise, in relationships, it’s important to consider the risk. It’s the uncertainty and ambiguity that’s dangerous. Knowing the risk factors will help you evaluate whether or not you are prepared to accept them.
The character quiz allows you to consider how your guy stacks up in regards to 33 different character traits referenced above.
You can take the quiz in a minute, but first let me tell you about the Relationship Risk Assessment (RRA). The RRA takes character into consideration but also helps you appraise your compatibility in regards to five key areas that I call the 5 F’s: faith, family, friends, finances, and fitness.
Chapter 16 in my book Love Junkies: 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle provides more insight on this subject and discusses the 5 F’s in detail. You can purchase a copy here or on Amazon. Each of the 5 F’s provides several aspects of each category for you to consider in regards to your compatibility.
Look over the sub-categories of the 5 F's and highlight the areas that are must-haves or non-negotiables for you. In other words, the absence of these qualities should be deal breakers for you.
At the bottom of the RRA, you’ll see a spot to write down your top ten character traits in the spaces numbered 1-10. That's where you'll use the list above to select and record the ones that are most important to you.
In the right hand column, you’ll notice there’s a place for you to comment on how you’ve seen each attribute evidenced. It’s important that you’re able to document ways that you’ve seen him exhibit each quality so that you know you’re not just making an emotional assessment.
It’s also important to note how you’ve seen unacceptable behavior evidenced. This will serve as a reminder to you should you be tempted to minimize the offense later, or brush it off altogether.
After you’ve had sufficient opportunity to observe your date’s behavior and character, find a quiet time to review the checklist. Be honest and be picky. Committing to a life partner is the most important decision you’ll ever make.
Make your evaluation and add up the number of check marks. List the total in the bottom line titled TOTALS.
When you’re finished with your RRA, look at where the majority of the check marks are. How did your guy rate?
If there are deal breakers or if he doesn’t look good on paper, it’s best to use the wisdom of this exercise to dismiss the idea of pursuing a relationship. On the other hand, if his character (based on the quiz below) and compatibility (based on the RRA) are in alignment with your desires, and he feels the same way about you, you have a great foundation for a successful relationship.
Please note, there is no score for this assessment. The RRA is simply a tool for you to evaluate the potential in a new relationship. Check marks in the He's got it down, I could live with it, and Average columns are great, but what you want to pay attention to are the check marks in the Needs some work and Not what I'm looking for columns. These red and yellow flags should cause concern and make you pause to consider the reality of how successful and fulfilling a future with this man will be. Only you can decide how many check marks in these columns are too many, but proceeding with your eyes wide open is essential.
Remember, dating smart protects your heart. If you settle, compromise, rush and push, you’ll only produce a knock-off relationship that won’t survive hardships. But when you use wisdom to evaluate character and compatibility, you’ll stand a much better chance to enjoy a healthy relationship and satisfying marriage.
If you’d like more wisdom on dating, contact me at Christy@christyjohnson.org for a one-on-one coaching session or pick up a copy of Love Junkies, 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle.
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How Did He Do?
He's a Keeper!
Of course, nobody is perfect, but your guy’s character is solid. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to guard your heart but a relationship with him has all the makings of a great future.
Proceed with Caution
You already know your guy’s not perfect, but he seems to have a lot of the qualities you want. There’s probably a few areas that you wish he would change, but a suitable match is not about looking for perfection. It’s looking for excellence. You know yourself better than anyone, so give careful consideration to the character traits that you think need some work. Are those deal breakers for you, or are they less important character qualities on your list? Now is the time to give careful thought to these issues before it’s too late. Using wisdom and caution now will spare you heartache later.
He’s a Fixer Upper
This guy’s right in the middle. Has some great qualities and some that will leave you in a constant state of wishing he would change. Can you deal with the frustration when his actions leave you disappointed? Keep in mind that falling in love with potential and what someone could be rarely turns out well. Remember, the only person you can change is yourself. Can you accept his character at face value or will you always be wishing he was different?
He Needs Rehab!
He may be a great guy someday, but his character is not yet developed. A relationship with this guy will be built on a foundation of frustration.
You’d Better Run!
This guy needs professional help. No matter how much he tries to persuade you, a relationship with him is a recipe for disaster. Spare your sanity and run.
Pick Your Top Ten
Now that you’ve done the quiz, it’s time to pick your top 10 character traits. Instructions are on the Relationship Risk Assessment. Click here to print your copy of the Relationship Risk Assessment.
When you use these tools you’ll be better equipped to date heart smart!
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About Christy Johnson
Relationship Expert and Soul Health Coach Christy Johnson is proof that God allows U-turns. A domestic abuse survivor turned champion of forgiveness, Christy is a sought after soul-health coach, national speaker and author of Love Junkies, 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle.
Christy is passionate about empowering women to destroy the bondage of their past and live empowered Christ-filled lives. She's appeared on numerous radio and TV programs including Trinity Broadcasting Network. Her message of hope inspires women that whether they are in or out of a relationship, they can live confident content lives.
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