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Buyer Beware

We don't inspect what we expect of others anymore. In other words, we take people at their word, never question their intent, and don't check if their words matches their actions. We enter relationships with fear of appearing critical and judgmental so we don't look for inconsistencies and judge no one.

If you are afraid to ask questions how can you trust those who have not proven themselves to be trustworthy? This lack of willingness to ask hard questions has gotten us all in trouble at one time or another. People will manipulate, lie, and deceive those who are willing to be unreasonably vulnerable. When you trust everyone you meet you will treat them according to your level of trust and not according to their trustworthiness. Until they do you wrong you give all, trust all, and excuse all, which means you are more likely to be done wrong and will be taken advantage of over and over again.

Most of the time people seeking a relationship are attempting to get away from a sense of disconnect and feeling isolated and alone. They are seeking connection, but in order to feel connected to someone, you must also feel safe. Unfortunately, most people don't seek safety first and will blindly enter into unsafe connections rather than take the time to ensure the connection is safe. Most people assume another person is safe, but they have no assurance for that assumption. Complete strangers "should be safe" and when they prove themselves unsafe, heartache and even trauma can result. So, before you seek connection, seek safety.

Safe people are identified by their trustworthiness. I explain that in order to create a successful relationship they must first know what a trustworthy person looks like, and secondly, why they want that person in their life. There are 3 levels to trust: Trustworthy, So-So, and not trustworthy. You must identify the desirable qualities in each category and be willing to set boundaries to ensure safety. When you have a clear understanding of what a trustworthy person looks like and they have met your expectations, then you can enter into the dating relationship with some confidence that you will be safe. Caution, it takes approximately 2 years to truly know if someone is trustworthy. This time delay is often the reason why people rush into unsafe relationships. Begin your relationship learning about each other as friends. Test the relationship stability before you commit to taking the next step. Each step of the relationship should be taken intentionally with a desired outcome BEFORE you take the step. The journey is easier when you know what you want, what you need, and what you don't want (non-negotiables).

I ask this question of everyone in a relationship or seeking to start a new relationship, "Do you know what you want in a partner?" I usually will hear, "Tall, dark, and handsome. Someone with a job. Someone who makes me laugh. Someone physically fit who dresses nice." These wants are all based on external appearance, finances, and superficial benefits (aka: hobbies) that would make someone happy to be with another. But wants should be flexible so as to accommodate the person's "needs."

The needs list has more to do with compatibility of character, goals, and ideals, also known as expectations. Are you looking for a good time or a long time? Are you focused on fun or family? Is religion important to you? Do you desire connection with heritage, culture, and tradition? Do you seek a travel companion or someone to snuggle up on the couch with on Friday nights? Do you feel like you need to run a background check on someone to ensure they don't have a criminal background? Do you want to get to know his family connections (good or bad)? Look for anything that might be a red flag or precautionary warning that there might be something "off" in what is being said and what your observations are. Inconsistency in character is a HUGE indicator that you are being lied to and possibly set up for manipulation. RUN! Now you are entering into the Non-negotiables zone.

The Non-negotiables list is usually created by every negative experience you've ever had. In other words, what are you NOT willing to tolerate? Things like affairs, addictions, lies, manipulations, stealing or poor character traits like laziness, sloppiness, and a general lack of caring and sharing. Some women do not want a guy who is addicted to sports and some men are not willing to date a woman who spends all her time shopping. Some people want children and some don't. Some people are early risers full of energy and others stay up until all hours of the night. There are some people who are internally driven and there are people who have no purpose of their own. They may seek to be with a person with purpose as a means of obtaining a purpose, because without your purpose they have no life. Some people desire to be alone, while others thrive with connecting to their community. If your father was an alcoholic you might add that to your list. If you mom screamed at you, possibly that would go on the list too. If you are strong in your faith it could be a deal breaker to date someone outside of your faith. If you want children and the other doesn't, you should know this before your heart gets involved. Caution be careful when making your list as you must not tolerate a violation even one of your Non-negotiables and the violation should cause you to leave the relationship. If you tolerate it during the dating process, the expectation you set is you will always tolerate it.

Write down what you want, what you need, and what you are unwilling to put up with. When you meet someone you'd like to date, start asking them what they want, need, and won't tolerate before you tell them what you want, what you need, and what are your non-negotiables. Some people will tell you they are in agreement of your wants, needs, and intolerances only to gain your confidence and trust. Avoid giving them your answers until you have theirs. If they "never thought of it" before, you may need a solid answer before you move on. If that sounds like too much work for them, you've gotten your answer by default. If you are not worth their time and effort to answer your questions, they should not be worth your time and energy either.


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