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Survey Says: XXX or Circle Gets the Square”

Lessons I learned from both good and not so good relationships and tips to recognize both.

Having been in good, bad and ugly relationships, I learned (hopefully!) a few lessons about signs that can reveal whether your current match has great potential or is doomed from the start.

First, let’s look at what may predict a positive future for you and yours. You should share some common interests. For me that included dating someone who shared my commitment to a vegan diet, loved cats (almost as much as me) and enjoyed my favorite TV show of all time — “Lost."

When a guy enjoys my poetry and shows a genuine interest in my love of free verse, I know he gets me or is at least making the effort. Do they encourage your talents, build you up? Score!

Next, if he makes me laugh, he’s all the closer to winning my heart. A guy’s looks are further down on Amy’s totem pole of relationship “musts."

If he can’t make me laugh, be silly with me, and isn't able to cheer me up — he could be Bill Murray (yes, secret crush) on the outside, but it wouldn’t matter.

Are they flexible? It makes all the difference if they can “go with the flow." Having dated guys who are on either side of this spectrum, I know flexibility is a requirement for me.

Also, if your new friend is anxious to show you off and introduce you to family and friends and enjoys any opportunity to take you out in public, big thumbs up. Things are progressing swimmingly!

Lastly, I believe it’s important to really look at their family dynamics, including their parents’ marriage. Also look at how they treat and talk about family members of the opposite sex. As I previously shared, having parents who have a healthy strong marriage, taught me, finally at the age of 40, that I will work for nothing less.

Second, let’s face facts with some signs your friend is NOT a good match, and it may be time for you to move on. If serious topics are avoided or dismissed (commitment, marriage, family, oh yeah, THE FUTURE with you) — time to run, don’t walk from this person.

At the beginning of every relationship, it’s mostly about “roses and candy.” But your time is valuable, don’t waste it with someone who, true story, wants to just take it “day by day." Um, not okay, and you deserve more commitment.

Does this person show a rigid, judgmental side that makes you cringe? One of my pet peeves is the frequent use of absolutes: words like — always, never, everyone, all. Having opinions is fine, even strong ones, but this type of speech reveals a character flaw, which is often an unwillingness to accept diversity. You cannot win against this line of thinking.

Also, if there is a pattern of criticism or belittling of your beliefs and/or life choices, again, this is a personality trait that won’t change. Sadly I’ve dated, and even put up with, guys who did this. They treated me as a child to be schooled in what is proper and to come in line with their beliefs. This involved everything from politics to parenting to house cleaning!

And finally, I truly believe if there is a large enough gap between you and your friend in education, family relationships, cultural beliefs, and, yes, IQ as well, these are obstacles that will be too large to overcome.

If you are dating a woman, and she has nothing but negativity and disdain for the male members of her family — or if her parents’ relationship was stormy and abusive, proceed with extreme caution.

This may be how she truly feels about men, on one level. And if the primary role models for marriage she had growing up were unhappy and angry, this affected her, and possibly (but hopefully not) her chances for a healthy marriage.

In addition, I’ve dated guys from other countries — and it’s not about being elitist, if everything else comes into line, great — but there can be cultural differences too large to overcome.

One guy loved the fact that I was this independent, financially secure American woman. He enjoyed being amazed by watching the
History Channel with me. And yet, deeply ingrained in his mind was the idea that I should meet his expectations, some culturally based and completely opposite from the independence he’d fallen for within me. We could never overcome this dichotomy.

Another guy was so good at hiding his differences from me, we were together for quite awhile before they came popping out. He was illiterate, and books are everything to me. When he used a racial slur against Hispanics, it was the final straw that ended the relationship. My wonderful son is half Hispanic.

Summing up, you must decide what is or is not acceptable in a relationship. What behavior sets your teeth on edge or keeps you fuming all day? What do you want from a partner? It seems silly, but maybe try a list. (Ooooh I love lists!)

To start, in one column write the best qualities from past matches, and any additions. Next, in the other column, any red flags that came up in the past and may have been, or may now be, deal breakers. It’s OK to be picky, you deserve the best.

As I am often reminding myself, it’s better to be alone and happy (cat lady philosophy 101) than together and miserable.

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