Mark always dates controlling women who treat him like a child. C.J. consistently finds herself in relationships with critical men. Ashley wants a man who respects her when she says no, unlike the other men she's dated. And Brian often falls in love with women who are irresponsible.
How can Mark, C.J., Ashley and Brian break these negative dating patterns and find respectful, responsible and loving spouses? Here are five ways that can help you recognize a date as a safe person.
A safe person will respect your boundaries. In their book, Safe People, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend describe boundaries as spiritual and emotional "property lines." These invisible lines help us define which things are our responsibility and which are another person's. It also helps us to know when the emotional or physical line has been crossed.
In any relationship, one person may not respect the other's boundaries. This means that if Susan tells her boyfriend, "Don't call me after 11 p.m.," and he repeatedly ignores her request, he has not respected her boundaries. Boundary breakers who don't respect you in one area probably won't respect you in others.
A safe person will not treat you like a child. When Joel met Kati, he appreciated her maturity and how she demonstrated control of her life—until she started treating him like a kid. Joel quickly discovered Kati was an unsafe date, because she believed he wasn't capable of making his own decisions.
If you're in a parent-child relationship, then you may not want to reconsider keeping him around; healthy relationships are characterized by people who relate as equal adults.
See if you recognize these other characteristics of an unsafe date:
- Gives advice without seeking it
- Distrusts your judgment
- Is critical
- Is convinced that you need help navigating life
- Disapproves of you
- Withdraws when you make adult decisions with which he disagrees
Remember that if your date is parenting you before you've tied the knot, she won't magically respect you after saying, "I do."
A safe person will forgive you, not condemn you. Some people allow their perfectionism or bitterness to consume them. But when we can't show grace, we can't forgive. This is essential in any relationship, but in marriage each spouse has to make it a priority.
If your date has a penchant at holding grudges, he or she won't exclude you. Take your time to determine if he has the ability to resolve conflict maturely and forgive without constantly condemning.
A safe person is responsible. When Cheryl met Len, she was impressed with his people and business skills. Before long, she fell in love with him and believed he would strongly support her and a family. After they married, his true nature reared its ugly head. He used his winsome ways and took advantage of others' generosity. He jumped from one job to the next, and left it up to her to be the consistent breadwinner. This irresponsible and reckless spouse drained her physically, spiritually and emotionally.
At the beginning of their relationship, Len seemed exciting, fun and spontaneous, but it didn't take long before his behavior and lifestyle caused irreparable damage.
A safe person admits their faults, rather than blames others. Some people are either blind to their faults, or they blame others for their problems. If you're dating a person who embraces these not-so-endearing qualities, you might want to cut them loose.
Emotional intimacy is key to a thriving, growing love, and it is difficult to feel safe when there's no expectation of empathy. Granted, everyone struggles to some degree with this, so we need to seek God's help in overlooking imperfections in others and ourselves. Just remember that you aren't looking for a perfect person—just someone who's perfect for you.