First, let me say this. This is not an article about how to get yourself married. It's not about making yourself emotionally available, or putting yourself out there, or not returning calls right away. It's not even about finding the right match for you. I don't really know you.
What I can speak to though is how to discern good men from bad. My only credentials are that I am proud of all the men I have dated and would set any of them up with a good friend. And I think those are decent credentials.
1. Distinguish between nice, kind, and good. This is one I talk about a lot and almost everyone responds with "What's the difference?" According to, well, me, nice, kind and good operate on three different levels. The one girls talk about the most is probably what I deem the most superficial: "nice." This is what happens in front of you. He sends you sweet texts. He brings you flowers and takes you to fancy restaurants. He complements your mom. And that's wonderful, just don't get distracted because it's the least important. Of course he's trying to win you over, and why wouldn't he? You're a great catch.
The next level is kind. This is what happens away from you, behind your back, so to speak. OK, by definition, you don't know what he's saying about you behind your back, but what is he saying about other people -- how does he make them look? Are the waiters "dumb"? Is his ex a "slut"? Are all his coworkers "idiots"? Is he ever helpful or nice in ways that people will not find out about, or is he only after the credit?
Being nice is good, being kind is important, but being good is huge. There is a line from Wall Street that men like to quote that says, "Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment man finds his character." At his basest and at his core, what is the man in front of you about? What are his intentions? Are they to make you and other people happy? Or are they to appear good, smart, or better than others? Does he aim to do what is right, or what is popular and will get him ahead?
If he defends easy targets, is quietly charitable, or is patient with aloof waiters, forgive the fact that he forgets your anniversary because you've just found yourself a good man.
2. Picture yourself divorced. There is a guy I know. I am attracted to him. He's funny, confident, etc. And then for whatever reason, I tried this thought experiment on myself: if we were married and then divorced, what would he be capable of? Would he try to take everything away from me? Sink my reputation? Speak ill of my family to mutual friends? I didn't come to a specific settlement agreement or anything, but in my heart of hearts I knew it wouldn't be pretty. And so that was that. Not because I expect divorce (though statistically speaking...), but because I expect hard, ugly, and desperate times that will bring out the worst in a person and there is a worst I am not willing to tolerate. Push yourself to look past the cute and fuzzy to a place where he's significantly less fond of you. What, if any, boundaries would he have?
3. Play. If you are not into thought experiments, there is a real-life test you can try, should you be lucky enough: team sports and/or board games. Sports are better. The worse the rest of the players on the team, the better. It's ideal if you can be on the team. Scenes you may observe include: potential mate whispers to you about how bad your teammates suck; potential mate makes visible signs of being disappointed in teammates for sucking; potential mate finds ways to minimize participation by girls or weak links; potential mate cries injustice, despite own team committing the same acts as the other. All of these scenarios are bad. I have also seen the good: I have seen guys try to improve less skilled players; men who have commented on anything done right so that a teammate doesn't feel bad; men who forgive an opposing team's offence because they know they're just as guilty. Ultimately what you're seeing is valuable because you are catching him off-guard and in the heat of competition, which you will never see over a candelit dinner with your pretty face staring back at him. It's not exactly an abyss, but it is significantly more accessible.
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