Friday, January 29, 2010

Red Flags and the Right Man

A stylized representation of a red flag, usefu...

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been working at this series of posts for several weeks. The research doesn't reflect what has been written as much as what has been lived. Traits for helping identify the "right person" are ones I've had to uncover by stepping on a few land mines along the way. As a consequence, I'm writing more as a fellow-struggler, but I think there's some real virtue to be found in this approach. So, with that in mind, what are some of the things I've learned about the right man?

To begin with, he ought to have more than a positive sense of self-esteem: he needs to be able to sustain it by drawing upon his own resources. There is mutuality in relationships and we care for one another, but each partner should be a whole person and that implies the ability to meet one's own psychological and emotional needs. If a man is relying on you for his self-esteem, if he needs your accomplishments to either substitute for or reinforce his own, he's got a problem that usually goes deeper than just behavior. It means he doesn't have an adequate sense of self to draw upon and he's depending on you to make up for his deficits. This is a red flag.

A man should be not only be capable of generating his own self-esteem, he should be generous in the ways he contributes to that of others. The right man is someone around whom people feel appreciated and valued. Confident (not egotistical, there is a difference) in his own self-worth, he gives out of the overflow of what lies within. Men who are driven to transform every single work or social encounter into a game of one-upmanship, who cannot or will not recognize the achievements of others, have problems with adequacy. This is another red flag. True men of achievement seek to raise others up, not put them down.

Now, about his family. The Oedipus Complex describes a process of establishing a unique identity that allows a boy to connect with dad in a way that promotes growth toward maturity. One of the ways to tell whether a guy has done this or not, is to ask how you feel with you're with him and his parents. Is there tension? Do they like each other? Is there freedom in the relationship or do they hold back, as though fearful of saying the wrong thing? Is there a power struggle?

Men who carry Oedipal conflicts into adulthood typically have difficulties making decisions and being responsible. They blame others for their failings and crave nurturing. Spoiled or demanding, they can make you feel more like mother than lover. The absence of an affirming relationship with father leads to approval-seeking from, or competition with, older men, rendering career advancement difficult
. Again, we have red flags.

Finally, how do you avoid the wolf in sheep's clothing? The fellow who showers you with attention and is eager to secure a commitment could be head over heals in love, but he could also be either a closet or arrogant narcissist. It's flattering to have someone say they want you all to themselves, all the time. But no one can be everything to another person. Sooner or later we start feeling emotionally anemic because we run out of us.

Talk to his friends and former girlfriends, if you can find them. If all you get is negative feedback, that's an important piece of information. A man who is inclined to date the "same" woman over and over and/or has similar problems in nearly all his romantic relationships, is someone to avoid, Repetitive patterns can point to an unconscious process. He may not know what's going on, but you need to. More red flags.

The qualities I've mentioned aren't meant to be exhaustive -- there's so much that could be said. All of them, however, are essential for emotional stability and unless we're addicted to turmoil, emotional stability is absolutely critical. There is no substitute for it. No one should have to walk on egg shells for fear of what might happen next.

(Tomorrow's post: practical considerations)

(Public Domain image via Wikipedia)
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