Q: I'm not one of those women who are attracted to "dangerous" guys, but I'm beginning to question my judgment. Few of my relationships survive past the second or third date, at which point I usually shut things down due to serious concerns about my boyfriend's character. Am I being too picky?
Jim: Expecting your boyfriends to exhibit good character is not "picky" -- it's smart. That said, it's also understandable that you're growing frustrated by a string of misses on the dating front.
Author Shana Schutte has developed a list of qualities every single should look for in a "safe date." She identifies "safe dates" as individuals who are likely to turn into responsible and loving spouses if the relationship progresses.
First, a safe date will respect your boundaries. If you ask your boyfriend not to call after 11 p.m., and yet he repeatedly does so, he's not respecting your boundaries. And if he doesn't respect you in this one area, he likely won't respect you in others.
Second, a safe person will not treat you like a child. Some women fail to differentiate between men who are confident leaders and those who simply want to be controlling. If your date acts like you can't be trusted to make your own decisions, it might be time to move on.
Schutte also suggests that a safe person will forgive you, not condemn you. We all make mistakes in relationships. If your significant other holds a grudge even after you've apologized, you might want to reconsider the relationship. And of course, safe dates are also willing to admit their own faults, rather than blame others.
Finally -- and this should be a no-brainer -- a safe date is responsible. If your boyfriend is constantly in financial trouble or switching jobs due to his own poor choices, he's probably not marriage material. May God bless you with patience and perseverance as you navigate the adventurous world of dating!
Q: Every fall, my wife and I have the same argument. She signs the kids up for every activity imaginable. It seems like we spend every weeknight and weekend shuttling them to parties, practices and meetings. I just want some peace and quiet time with our family. How can I get through to her?
Juli: This honestly sounds like a question my husband could have submitted. I admit that I'm the mom who doesn't want her kids to miss out on anything. However, over the years I have begun to see the wisdom of my husband's protests.
The answer is the magic word, "balance." Kids who are involved in some extracurricular activities do better academically, socially and emotionally. However, too much of a good thing can spell disaster. When schedules interfere with family dinner and time together, all measures of adjustment for kids plummet (as Jim noted in last week's column). That's in addition to the stress busyness creates for marriage.
When you approach this topic with your wife, communicate how much you appreciate her commitment to the kids. She is over-scheduling because she wants to be a great mom, not because she loves driving her minivan eight hours a day.
The best way to find the right balance is to set up ground rules that you both think are reasonable. For example, you might agree that each child can be involved in one extracurricular activity at a time. Or you commit to having dinner together as a family at least four evenings a week. The most important thing you can give your children is a stable family. Doing so will require saying "no" to some great opportunities.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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