From day one, my husband and I told our children to “choose the right person.” I feel like we could put it on our family crest – if we had one. There are few things that I feel more passionate about. Choosing the right person to love, date, or marry is one of the most important decisions we make in our life. No matter how much effort, energy, love, or compassion you invest, if the person is wrong for you – the relationship will not work.
It’s So Important to Choose the Right Person to Love, Date or Marry
When our kids were young, this advice fit right in with brush your teeth…say thank you…choose the right person. (We really started drilling this one in at an early age.) As our children got older they seemed to take our instructions to heart; they brush their teeth and say thank you-but choosing the right person? Easier said than done. I thought, “choose the right person” was a command to follow. It’s really good advice, right? Why would they not just do what we tell them to do?
We watched our oldest son start dating and realized our advice was not working as we had hoped. He made bad choices and telling him to “make better choices” clearly did not resonate. Shocking, right? We began to understand there was more to cover, more to uncover, more to explore. This wasn’t a clear cut task he could execute. So we started having long conversations as a family around how you can tell if a person is right for you.
With three kids we started these conversations at an earlier age with each child. We had these discussions even when we knew a relationship would be short lived. We couldn’t wait until they were choosing a life partner. We needed to start with their middle school crush so that the criteria and lessons learned would be ingrained in their minds and in their hearts.
Through countless conversations regarding relationships, we kept coming back to a list of questions that might help you define “the right person.”
How to Find the Right Person
1. Are you ever embarrassed by the person you are dating? Then they are not right for you. Are you embarrassed by the way they treat a waitress? Are you embarrassed by an inappropriate joke? Are you embarrassed when they drink too much? Are you embarrassed by the way they talk about themselves or others? Then they are not the right person for you. Be honest with yourself. There are so many times we ignore our gut feelings because we don’t want something to be true. Trust your instincts.
2. Does the relationship take too much work? People say that relationships are hard work. I don’t believe that. A good relationship takes effort and energy and thoughtfulness. It needs to be a priority, but it should not be hard work. It should not be a struggle. If it is, the person is wrong for you. So many teenage relationships are breaking up and making up. There is so much drama. This is too much work. This is not the right person for you.
3. How does this person treat their family? Their mom and dad? Their brothers and sisters? Their grandparents? If they do not treat them with kindness and respect, they are not the right person. Family is the core of our relationships. These are the people you have known the longest and should have the deepest connection to. Of course, not all families get along and, unfortunately, some people have really difficult family situations but a person you are looking to love should not disrespect a family that emotionally supports them.
4. How do you feel about public displays of affection? The partner you choose should feel the same way. If there is physical contact at parties or in the halls at school that makes you feel uncomfortable, get out. Respecting space and boundaries is non-negotiable.
5. Do you laugh and have fun? Hands down the most important part of any relationship – especially as a young person. Life is hard. Work and school can be stressful. The person you date should bring light and laughter to your day.
6. Does this person have interests and activities that don’t involve you? You cannot be everything to a person. They need to have friends, activities, interests, work, passions that do not involve you. And, remember, the same applies to you…do you have a life beyond the relationship? If not, let’s work on that.
7. Are you thinking you can change this person? As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” You cannot change a person. The person you are dating should be right for you as they are or they are not right for you. Would you want the person you are dating to have the hidden agenda of changing you into someone you are not? It will not end well.
8. Are you dating after an ultimatum? Was there a moment either of you said: we need to be boyfriend/girlfriend or I can’t spend time with you anymore? This is never a good way to start a relationship. If it was meant to be, it would have happened. This won’t be good for the person pressured into the relationship and it also won’t be good for the person who had to do the convincing. It is a bad start to what will be a bad relationship.
9. Do they treat you well? Are they kind and attentive? Are they supportive and encouraging? Do they want what is best for you in the long term even if it may inconvenience them in the short term? These are a lot of questions but they all stem from “do they treat you well?”. This is critical. You deserve a kind and loving partner.
10. Do they make you a better person? The “right person” will make you a “better person.” It is not that they are trying to change you, being with them actually makes you a better person. Their actions should make you happier, healthier, more creative, more focused. They should encourage you to excel and support you in your passions. They should bring out the best in you.
These are simply guidelines. There are no steadfast rules to choosing the right person – life and love would be a lot easier if there were – but these questions are a good starting point to better understanding ourselves and our relationships. Asking these questions – before, during, and after a relationship – will help our children achieve the ultimate goal of choosing the right person.
So keep asking the questions. Keep having the conversations. Keep your child thinking about who would be the right person for them. Of course, their version of the right person and ours might be different…but that is another article altogether.
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Kristin Parrish is a mother of three living in Cocoa Beach, Florida. She is an almost empty nester, raising almost adults, and almost holding it all together. Long walks on the beach help.