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May 20 2010

“Okay. What’s this guy really like?”

Published by at 4:02 am under Knowing Relationships BLOG

Will Your Partner Treat You Well?
By Philip Belove, Ed.D.
Director, Dating At Midlife Research Project

When people first enter into relationships, they are generally on their best behavior. However, even in the early stages, new couples reveal how they will treat each other in the future. The problem is that this critical information is often obscured by the swarm of other new information that comes when you first meet someone.

So how do you know how someone is going to treat you over the long haul when you are just starting a relationship? There are loads of clues. Here are some of them. (I’m going to talk about how women can read men. The same principles apply in the other direction.)

How Does He Treat His Male Friends?
I have a friend who has loads of people he’s angry at, who did him wrong, who he doesn’t speak to anymore. I thought I was the exception to all those other people. This was my vanity. The inevitable happened, and one day I found myself on the other end of the same kind of fight he’d been describing.

What If He Says That He Treats Women Differently?
This is courtship behavior. However, when it’s time to deal with differences in situations of conflict, people actually treat men and women much the same. If they have a tendency to bully, intimidate and be aggressive, that comes out. If they have a tendency to manipulate and be dishonest, that comes out. And if they are fair, forgiving and direct, that comes out as well.

How Does He Treat People Who Are Not His Friends?
Some people divide the world into winners and losers. Winners get respect and the rest get taken advantage of. If you are out to dinner and your date is gracious and considerate to the servers, then you know something very important. If he is rude and cruel, then there will come a time when he will be rude and cruel to you. People who have had to divorce bullies often can recall a million small, seemingly harmless examples of their bullying from the early days of the romance.

How Does He Treat His Old Girlfriends?
Relationships don’t end, they just shift gears. Once you’ve been intimate with someone, you are always connected to them. A man reveals much about his character in the way he constructs his relationships with former lovers.

At midlife we all have resumes. The issue here isn’t about what happened then. We all have our regrets. The important question is how he thinks now about what happened then. Does he see his part in it? Is he capable of regret? However he tells his stories to you about his past, he will use those same explanations and justifications in handling you.

What Does He Think About the Way His Father Treated His Mother?
This one is a little “shrinky,” but it is a good test. A growing boy will watch how his parents deal with each other. As a boy, he will be particularly interested in the example his father sets. If he approves, appreciates and admires how his father handled himself, he will try to rise to the same honorable heights. If he disapproves, he will do the opposite. He’ll sympathize with his mother, criticize his father and try to do everything right that his father did wrong.

When he talks to you about his parents’ marriage, you can hear which way he will go. In each story he tells about his family, you can hear his expectations of himself — and his expectations of you.

The Bottom Line
At some point in a relationship, all the small things you may have overlooked all come together in a pattern. Ah hah! You are starting to understand your partner. You are starting to see what you’ve known all along.

Most of the time, people don’t look for the clues, and so they are surprised by things that should not be surprising. But you don’t have to be surprised if you don’t want to be. Stay open and aware

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