As I write this article, I am thinking of a young lady in her late teens or early twenties. However, the points that I make are appropriate at least in principle for any age lady. Some of the most serious dating problems occur in elderly widows who are dating for the first time in many decades. And their mistakes are no less hurtful than young ladies in their twenties. Dating is a factor of circumstance, not of age.
The big question is, “How do you find the right one?” How does a lady know for sure that she is doing the right thing in dating a particular young man? Who you spend the rest of your life with is a huge decision. Make the wrong decision, and you may live the rest of your life in misery-lonely, hurt, or even alone.
Before you walk down the aisle, answer the following questionnaire:
1. Does my Dad approve of my boyfriend?
If your Dad does not approve of your boyfriend, it is very likely he knows something that you do not. Fathers have a sixth sense for future sons-in-law. They cannot guarantee that an apple will taste good, but they know a rotten one when they see one. No one is more concerned for your welfare than your Dad. Dads can usually spot a phony guy before he is even out the car door. Dad is not in love with your boyfriend. He can clearly evaluate him without love and passion interfering with his thought processes.
2. Does my Mom approve of my boyfriend?
Your Mom knows you better than any person alive. She is a woman. No one understands another woman like a woman. And no one can understand more than a mother.
She knows the kind of man that will make you happy. No matter what your mother's life has been like, she has experienced and observed enough of life to be many times wiser than you in evaluating a boy friend. Trust her. (If you are a widower, do your grown children approve of him? Listen to them!)
3. Do your closest friends like your boyfriend?
If they do not like your boyfriend or your boyfriend does not like your friends, then that should be a warning sign to you. Your friends like you because of who you are. And you like your friends for who they are. You have that in common. If your boyfriend and your friends don't like each other, there is a good chance that your boyfriend does not like you for who you are. A boy who loves his girlfriend is only interested in her happiness. Her friends are part of her happiness picture.
4. Does your boyfriend have any friends?
If he doesn't have any friends, beware. What do other people know that you don't know?
5. Does your boyfriend add to your life?
Does he add to your enjoyment of life, or does he take away from it? Does he make you feel better about yourself, or does he make you feel used and hurt? Does he give to you or take from you? Does he add to your reputation, or does he tarnish your reputation? Love is giving. If a young man gives to you, that is a sign of love. If he takes from you, that is a sign of lust. If he is taking from you while you are dating, it is likely that he will only get worse if you get married.
6. Does he like being around your family?
Has he been a wonderful addition to family activities, or does he divide the family? Does he want to be around your family, or does he try to avoid any family activities? One reason for dating is to find out how the young man interacts with your family. What is he like around children? Do children like him? Does he like them? Does he tease them? Does he play with them to the exclusion of other adults?
7. How does he treat his mother?
Do you want to be treated the way he treats his mother? You will be treated that way. Does he resent her, or does he show her respect? Investigate. Don't take his word for a bad relationship with his mother. But you say, “Oh, I trust him.” If that is the case, then a little prudent checking on your part should only confirm what he says. Do not fear finding out the truth. Marriages are based upon truth.
8. Does he have some noticeable negative traits?
Make a list of everything that others tell you about your boyfriend. If he never changed one thing for the rest of his life, could you still live with him and love him? Chances are he is not going to change much after you get married. If he doesn't have a job now, he won't have one then either. If he has an immoral life now, chances are that he will later also. Has he been inappropriate with you? Do you really think you are the first girl that he has treated that way, or that you will be the last? Just how dumb are you?
9. Does your pastor approve of your boyfriend?
If you don't care if your pastor approves of him, then you are not ready to get married. Marriage is a spiritual activity. You must have your pastor's blessing if the marriage is going to be a happy one. If your pastor does not approve of your boyfriend, then he is the wrong boy. You should not date anyone just because your pastor tells you to do so, but if the preacher says “no,” then “no” means no.
10. Can you easily communicate with each other?
Can you sit and talk and enjoy each other's company without gossiping about someone else. If your conversations are strained, difficult to maintain, and punctuated with long periods of silence, something is wrong. The silence is shouting out to you. Listen to it. If your dates consist of watching TV, you have a serious relationship problem that will get worse with time, especially if the television breaks down.
11. Is he an expert at everything?
The self-appointed expert is often an insecure, argumentative, compulsive control freak. Has he gotten into arguments with your parents and friends over trivial things? Is winning an argument a big thing with your boyfriend? Is he never wrong? Worse yet, he blames others for everything that goes wrong. Eventually he will start blaming you.
12. Are you the sole judge of your boyfriend's worth?
The poorest judge of a man is the girl who is in love with him. She sees everything through a Thomas Kincaide painting. She senses love but not much else. Listen to those who love you. Listen to the warning signs of a probable bad relationship. Even listen to those who have made mistakes. Their hurt has great wisdom. Most of all, listen to your parents or other loved ones that know you best. They are a better judge of character than the young lady in love-99.999% of the time. They can see things to which a lover is blinded. Those who love you are looking out for your best interest. Listen to them.
Love is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately it can take a normally wise young lady and make a fool out of her. Whom you date is an extremely important decision. It may affect the rest of your life.
Dr. Tom Vogel is the academic vice president at Hyles-Anderson College. He has reared three daughters who are happily married.