Meeting the right person online can seem daunting, in part because of its inherent one-dimensional limitations. But if you read between the lines of someone's profile, you'll find useful, relevant information. The physical characteristics — height, weight, body type — and the personal characteristics — physically active, a good dancer, a good cook — are important, but they have nothing to do with character. Character defines the right person to meet, and unlike cooking or dancing, is nonnegotiable.
See also: Great first date sites.
Character embodies a person's core values and beliefs. It reflects the quality of that person's interpersonal skills with everyone, including you. Being beautiful or handsome doesn't mean much if someone is shallow, small-minded or self-absorbed. Character trumps appearance, so ignore the person's photo for a moment and notice how you're feeling as you read his or her profile. Look for anything pointing to character.
Is trust visible online?
While it's difficult to assess character online, there are indications regarding trust, a critical aspect of character. Does the profile mention same-sex friends and how important those friends are in the person's life? Not having same-sex friends frequently reflects trust issues. Men and women who experienced abusive or untrustworthy fathers and mothers during childhood frequently have trust issues with same-sex as well as opposite-sex adult men and women. Someone who felt betrayed in a relationship might still harbor unresolved trust issues. Creating intimacy with someone for whom trust remains problematic will be difficult, if not impossible.
Here are a few guidelines. Does this person keep other people's confidences? Do I need to measure how open and honest I can be? Do I feel safe? Do they honor their commitments? Do they live in integrity? Remember that trust is a two-way street. The right person to meet is not only trustworthy, but is also able to trust.
Before a date, ask whether the person has same-sex friends if the profile failed to mention any. "I'm too busy for friends" or "I don't need friends" is a huge red flag, unless you're prepared to be that person's entire universe. That's a heavy burden for anyone to carry in a relationship. The right person to meet has friends.
Good character is developed, but that requires some amount of conscious effort. It's smart to ask a prospective date if he or she has done any personal growth work. It indicates your desire to meet someone who's interested in improving his or her character.
Character also includes the ability to negotiate thorny issues fairly, admit fault and remain openhearted in difficult times. A relationship with someone who dismisses the notion of personal growth suggests a relationship doomed by that person being stuck in old behavior. The notion that people don't change is nonsense. They can and they do. For those over 50, in particular, a potential partner's character is critical, because we don't have time to waste in dysfunctional relationships.
Has the man or woman you want to date ever been in individual or group therapy, attended any relationship workshops or lectures, read any self-help books or magazine articles, or appear to have any awareness about personal growth? Don't feel shy about asking the hard questions early on, because good character is the gold standard for measuring a great partner. The person you want to meet — the right person — will understand why you asked and appreciate that you did.
Ken Solin is an author, lecturer and blogger who writes on the topic of families, relationships, dating and more from the perspective of 50-plus. He's been dating in the digital world since its inception.
Published November 2012
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