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Important Questions to ask in a potential relationship

(31 Posts)
Destinysdaughter Sun 24-Feb-13 22:39:02

I seem to have really poor judgement when it comes to choosing partners. For example, I was with someone who was unfaithful to me the whole 3 years we were together ( only admitted it by letter after I finally ended it with him), men who are controlling, critical, vaguely autistic, pedantic and the last one was with a man who told me he had been divorced for 3 years, but after many months, confessed he was still married, but said he was in a loveless marriage, said he saw his future with me, bla bla, usual script and of course it never worked out

So now I am feeling somewhat phobic about men and relationships and so my question to all you lovely wise women out there is, what questions would you ask of a potential new man in your life to establish he is a decent man and not a jerk...? ( equally, what would you do/not to to try and ascertain this?) I know I am probably asking for the impossible, but am hoping for some guidance or for something people have tried, and worked....

Anna1976 Mon 25-Feb-13 20:05:56

Destinysdaughter I second those who say you need to be comfortable with yourself first, and you need to develop your own self-esteem.

How you do that is going to depend a bit on your caring responsibilities - does your Dad live with you, do you have respite care opportunities, etc?

What sort of person do you think is good, cool, worthy of admiration and respect? Who do you secretly want to be, and why? That's not "what do you want to have", but "what things do you admire in other people?"
This doesn't have to be solely about relationships - work out where you say to yourself "oh, how awesome" about anything that someone does - mountain climbing, football, zoo keeping, politics...

Once you've worked out who you'd like to be, then think about what it is that you respect in those people. This is often stuff like determination, working hard & consistently, resilience, kindness, empathy, imagination and resourcefulness, self-efficacy.... i.e. all the things you're already showing by caring for your Dad.

Caring duties can be overwhelming at times, so perhaps rather than thinking about dating in any spare time, can you use that time to do something that challenges you a bit and requires you to use all the skills you respect? It could be anything - I took up long-distance running and climbing mountains at the time I realised I was bored and unhappy in my career (which had stalled) and that my relationship had broken (because all my exP respected about me was the outward appearance of my successful career). Exercise is good because it's good for you and requires relatively little thought once you get over the initial barriers, but it has to be something you really want to do, and preferably something you didn't think you'd ever do.

Work on that for a year or two, keep thinking about who you want to be and what you'd accept in terms of appropriate boundaries and kindness, keep reading Mumsnet (AIBU and Relationships)... and a few years down the line you may discover you actually have a very good radar for acceptable relationships, and healthy self-esteem. smile

SilverOldie Mon 25-Feb-13 15:30:08

I would like to suggest a book by Louise M Hay which helped me enormously in my life.

Loving yourself is crucial IMO to finding the right person to be with.

I'm at an age when I no longer want a man in my life, but if I did, I would re-read the book to ensure I wasn't sending out the wrong signals.

Lavenderhoney Mon 25-Feb-13 05:24:19

Thinking back to when I dated, I used to just see the guy as friend, lots of talking over coffee and walks - if they just want dinner and drinking and don't have time for you otherwise it's a pretty safe bet they just see you as a shag.

Keep busy with things that interest you, keep fit for yourself, all helping you be stronger and less likely to go out with someone just to get out! I suppose that's building self esteem.

I do, however, wish mn had been about when I was dating, I might have escaped some dreadful boyfriend who really weren't that bothered about me, or were happily dating lots of ladies looking for ms right, only didn't tell me " so I didn't get upset"

BertieBotts Mon 25-Feb-13 02:15:53

To build/boost your self esteem you need to do things which you appreciate, things which make you feel you've achieved something. It could be something small, like getting up half an hour earlier and making yourself a coffee in the morning, or something big like going for a promotion which you'd normally think "I wouldn't be any good at that". Or a long term project like learning how to knit or something.

At the end of every day think about all of the things you've achieved in that day. That might be as simple as having a shower and washing your hair. It might be something like caring for your dad, which is a big thing.

If you can get over the awkwardness, ask your friends what things they admire or like about you - you might see a different perspective of yourself! You can offer to do it for them in return, if you like.

Destinysdaughter Mon 25-Feb-13 00:48:24

ElephantsAndMiasmas -
thank you so much for that, your phrase "they're not magical unicorns who poo out gold" made me laugh so much! And making a list of what MY needs are in a relationship is exactly what my Relate counsellor told me. Funny how I'd never thought of doing that before, I've always just kind of fallen into relationships if someone has nice eyes or makes me laugh. Not enough really, is it?

ElephantsAndMiasmas Mon 25-Feb-13 00:30:09

Can you try to work on shifting your mindset from "How can I be good enough for a decent man?" to "What is it about this man that makes him good enough for me?" Because you sound like a smart, nice woman who any man would be lucky to be with, you need to see if they're matching up to YOUR list of needs. Have you tried actually writing a list? Start with easy things like "must have a pulse" grin and move on to important stuff - maybe opposites of what has gone wrong in previous relationships e.g. "must be kind", "must make me feel appreciated for myself". Because this: "you can't keep a man just through sex....(but what do you do instead??)" is honestly so sad. You shouldn't have to even THINK about working hard at "keeping a man" - they're not magical unicorns who poo out gold, they're people just like you. Ask not what you can do to keep a man but what any man who catches your eye is doing to deserve YOU.

Destinysdaughter Mon 25-Feb-13 00:01:53

Focus on yourself first and foremost. Develop your self esteem so that you establish healthy boundaries. Once those boundaries are in place, and are stable, it'll be very hard for another wanker to breach them. You will automatically "ask the right questions" because you will know what you will put up with and what you won't - the first sign of wankerishness and you'll be out the door.

I agree but the problem is I don't know how to 'develop my self esteem', what do I DO? Buy myself flowers? Run a marathon? I've been trying to do this my whole life and if a guy is nice to me, I'll still fall for his charm.If you were never given praise by your parents, how do you believe you are worth anything? For example, when I was 15 and trying to decide whether to stay on at school to do A Levels, my dad said to my mum ( who kindly then told me) that he didn't care what I did, cos as far as he was concerned I'd 'never be anything better than a shopgirl in Woolworths'. In fact the only praise I ever got from him was 3 years ago when my mum had to go into a home following a severe stroke, I had cooked him a lovely Sunday roast and he said what a nice dinner it was and how I'd 'make someone a good wife one day'|!!!! No wonder I've never got married....Sorry for the rant but I feel so handicapped by my upbringing and it doesnt seem to get better as I get older.

JulietteMontague Sun 24-Feb-13 23:56:26

OP you mentioned feeling bored and lonely. The bad ones out there will prey on that, maybe that would make you more eager to please. Its just one example of how you need to concentrate on yourself before you get involved.

BertieBotts Sun 24-Feb-13 23:56:19

Stop thinking about men/a relationship being some kind of prize for a start smile

You say you feel like you could be a good partner to someone, but then you say you don't feel you have a lot to offer apart from sex - which is it?

Also it might be looking at what you mean by "being a good partner" - for ages I thought I was some kind of amazing girlfriend because I didn't play mind games (like saying "I'm fine, go out" when I really meant "no stay at home with me") and because I was really accepting and willing to see the reason behind someone's actions even if those actions were flawed (excessive jealousy etc). It's only later than I've come to realise that most people don't play mind games in relationships and also that it's not great to keep excusing/trying to fix people, because it doesn't work.

Have you done the Freedom Programme? This is fantastic if you've had a history of relationships with "wrong'uns", because it shows you the patterns that you've repeated in those relationships and also opens your eyes to red flags etc, and also perhaps why you find yourself attracted to people who have these traits.

What do you want/expect to gain from a relationship, aside from companionship? (and sex grin) I'm guessing it's something along the lines of being validated, being appreciated, having someone to plan the future with, someone to love and accept you for who you are. But to be in a place that you're able to accept all of these things from somebody else you have to believe/gain them from yourself first. Appreciate you, find self-worth from yourself and the things that you do. I expect you have a lot on your plate at the moment with caring for your dad, but if you can find the time to do things which make you feel like you've accomplished something, that helps a lot. Make plans for your own future and take steps to achieve them, etc. If you're happy in yourself then you're much more likely to attract people who are happy and well-balanced too. And you'll be happier in the meantime rather than constantly feeling like there's something missing. Find the missing part within yourself first smile

Read this. And forget everything you've ever learned/read/thought about men and women being fundamentally different. There may be differences between men and women, but there are far, far more differences between individuals than anything on a gender based level. You'll meet millions of men in your lifetime - don't hold on to the notion that "finding the right man" is something rare, because it's not. You've probably already met plenty of people who you'd be a good match in a relationship with, and you will meet plenty more, it's just about it being the right time and the right context. Don't settle for anything less than someone who you feel absolutely at home with, and don't be afraid of ending something which isn't quite right because you're afraid nothing better will ever come along - that isn't how it works. Every day you spend in a relationship with someone who's nice but not quite right you're preventing that person who is right from coming along and showing you that.

mcmooncup Sun 24-Feb-13 23:55:54

"have enough self worth to drop them when you know it isn't right"

It's this

I have struggled with this all my life but have started practising it in the last 6 months. I can't tell you how hard it was the first time dropping a guy I could see 'potential' in despite the masses of red flags. It went against everything I've ever learned and was how I'd always behaved. But somehow learning to separate your emotions from the facts is the way I started it.....cold hard facts vs. warm overly optimistic dreaming and wishing.
It is so hard, but honestly it makes you feel epic.

kalidanger Sun 24-Feb-13 23:50:26

I sort of think my boundaries are OK. you can't mess with me. Unless I let you hmm For instance; I had a two man crew deliver a wardrobe this weekend. The little assistant guy asked if I had a husband?! I said Nuh? Then he asked for my number. So I said No. Then he said Just as friends... So I said Yeah, you can go now. Out. So he had to wait on the step while his boss finished straightening the wardrobe doors. I've been dying to tell people this as an example of not taking any shit. Might sound a bit harsh if you tend to think people are just being friendly but he was smirking. My house, my rules.

MaggieMaggieMaggieMcGill Sun 24-Feb-13 23:41:03

OP, search for the red flags thread, it's a crash course of signals wankers give out in the early stages of dating.
Boundaries are the lines we draw (metaphorically) on regards to a) how we let people treat us and b) how we interact with people, such as my sister only really talks to me when she wants to bitch about something, so nowadays I don't really join in the conversation, just nod and wait for it to be over.
A boundary with a dating partner would be waiting a certain time before having sex, until you feel comfortable with them.
A blurred/ unhealthy boundary would be allowing a guy to pressure you into moving to a sexual relationship before you felt ready.
If a guy starts doing that, 'the healthy thing to do is walk away.

PuddingWhine Sun 24-Feb-13 23:39:15

I had psychotherapy. It was really good. It made me see that despite what I thought, I didn't have confidence. I am an extrovert but not a confident one. it makes sense but still was an eye-opener.

PuddingWhine Sun 24-Feb-13 23:37:12

ps, another thing that is quite strange when it happens is, you meet somebody who treats you with respect, is affectionate, decent, good humoured, wants to meet your needs and it feels almost invasive or something, like somebody has downloaded your soul. No. That sounds stupid. I had a panic three weeks in and nearly dumped such a nice guy. We ended 7 months later anyway but not because I couldn't deal with the weirdness of somebody being really nice to me. I hope that makes sense.

kalidanger Sun 24-Feb-13 23:36:38

How old are you, OP? You know we'll say "You have plenty of time!" don't you?! I'm nearly 39 <vom> so not so much, but I dont want children so it's different but I do want someone on my team.

Tell me about the counselling? What type? Do you go in with a 'goal'? And is it expensive?

deedotty Sun 24-Feb-13 23:35:20

EXCELLENT post carefulobserver thanks.

Liked and agreed strongly - based on experience - with the point about the treatment of those who weren't "in their circle".

PuddingWhine Sun 24-Feb-13 23:31:10

all but my most recent boyfriends have been disastrous but i think I knew they weren't great and I pushed my radar to the back of my head. did you ignore your instincts or did you really not know they were dead losses?

kalidanger Sun 24-Feb-13 23:29:24

Good stuff carefulobserver Solid basics.

jynier Sun 24-Feb-13 23:27:57

Sort of agree with careful observer although who wants to listen to a lot about a man's exes.

I always found it a good idea to ask fellers about their favourite sexual fantasies so that they could quickly be given the elbow if said fantasies were unsavoury.

Unfortunately, I omitted to follow my own advice which led to an eleven-year relationship which ended in tears on my part!

Good luck!

Destinysdaughter Sun 24-Feb-13 23:27:44

Thanks for all the great advice so far. I know I make excuses for people when I have invested in them emotionally and get sexual with someone way too quick, I guess because I feel that I don't have a lot else to offer but I would like to think that I now know you can't keep a man just through sex....(but what do you do instead??)

Destinysdaughter Sun 24-Feb-13 23:21:04

whats the hurry? Just feel like I am gonna be single forever and feel like time's running out. Am lonely and bored and currently looking after my dad who has dementia. I know I COULD be a great partner to someone and dont understand why it always goes wrong. TBH I don't even know what a boundary IS!!!

carefulobserver Sun 24-Feb-13 23:15:38

I'm highly risk averse when it comes to men after an abusive relationship in my late teens. For me, whether or not someone is a good person is something I try to suss out before I've even worked out if I'm attracted to them. I agree you have to be happy in yourself before you will be in the right place to have a healthy relationship but I think there are things to look out for in a man.

Personally, I think one of the biggest things to look out for is how a man talks about his previous relationships and exes. Does he talk about his exes with respect? Is there fondness there? Does he have much in the way of reflection on why things didn't work out? Does he have any contact with exes and if so what kind? I think it's a good sign when someone has some degree of contact with his exes because it suggests they both must have treated each other reasonably well. Obviously it's perfectly possible for him to say all his exes were bitches, and in some cases they actually all were bitches. But I'm wary and I would want to know more about the situations. I'd also want to know about how things panned out at the point of breaking up and if there was any major fall out. If someone can behave with decency and respect when they've had their feelings hurt or even if they have just decided they don't see a future with their other half I think that's a good sign.

I'm also hyper aware of how a man talks about other people in general and how he treats others in general. Does he make fun of people over things they can't help (appearance, class, education level etc)? How does he look at people who are not doing well in life? Those that haven't succeeded in things?

I think the main rule I follow is this: If someone wants to be with you then chances are they will treat you like a princess irrespective of what kind of person they are, bad or good. Look at how they treat the people they don't get or want anything from. That will tell you what they are actually like. On the other hand, if they aren't treating you with total kindness and decency then run for the hills, there's no point in sticking around.

kalidanger Sun 24-Feb-13 23:05:46

Counselling is good. Gotta be, right? grin

I'm recently out of a crap relationship. I knew it was crap from the start, saw all the flags but I was bored of being single so carried on for the attention (and sex) for a while... It did go a bit too far and I did fuck up though. So now I'm having a break from it all. No dates, infrequent friendly evenings with FWB. No dating until I've finished thinking about the stupid thing I did and why I did it. I'd like counselling too, I think, as things aren't going the way I assumed they would hmm

Sorry, just musing on myself grin You hoping to do the counselling and see what happens? So what's the hurry?

lubeybooby Sun 24-Feb-13 22:57:59

Oh and meant to say trusting instinct too.

lubeybooby Sun 24-Feb-13 22:57:41

I don't think it's about the questions you ask, it's honing your twat radar, and have enough self worth to drop them when you know it isn't right. Good luck with the counselling etc

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