In the Grown Zone, we constantly remind you to make access to your body (sex and powers of procreation), money (financial stability), home (personal safety) and heart (emotional security), the last things you give up to get a relationship or keep one going. Unfortunately, we are taught the opposite—to surrender one, more or all of these things to either prove our love or to secure love from others. This “conventional wisdom” is the single biggest driver of unhealthy, adult-and-messy relationship choices.
Newsflash: The point of dating people is to learn exactly who you are dealing with—not just what they look like, what they have or what they can do, but who they are. Your job: to decide who is safe for you—defined as ready, willing and able to engage in healthy relationships—and who is not. The time to find this out is before you put your body, money, home and heart at risk. That way, if the relationship proves to be unhealthy—and the vast majority of relationships will—you can end it with a minimum of damage and long-term negative consequences. To do otherwise is to bond yourself—sexually, emotionally, financially or by marriage, cohabitation or procreation—to strangers. Too many people then find out the hard way that stranger danger is real.
You don’t find out who people are by taking their word for it. In case you haven’t heard, people will lie to get into your pants, your bank account and your bed—especially if they know what you want to hear. The key to not being fuquitable—vulnerable to deceit and manipulation—is to not just trust, but to verify. What you don’t know can and will hurt you.
What do you need to know? Before you open your legs, your checkbook, your heart or your home to a relationship prospect, there are 13 things you must know about them. We’ve already covered the first “6 Things To Know Before You Open Your Legs, Checkbook, Heart or Home.” Here are the other seven:
Employment Status: Does he or she work? Where? How long have they been employed there? What do they do? Do they have a stable and consistent employment history, or are they frequently unemployed? If he or she is an entrepreneur, what business are they in, and how does it make money? Are they above getting money illegally? In a nutshell, how do they support themselves—especially during periods of unemployment or when they experience downturns with their business? Do not grant requests or give in to the temptation to offer financial assistance (including co-signing) to get them past a rough patch, get them back on their feet or take advantage of a “great” opportunity. You do not know each other that well.
Financial Habits: Simply put, how do they handle their money? Do they pay bills on time, or late? Do they live above or within their means? Are they constantly borrowing, whether from friends and family, or via credit cards and payday loans, to get what they want and need? Are they frugal, stingy or reckless with their money? Do they honor or neglect their financial commitments? Are there any signs of financially abusive behavior? Again, with enough time and vigilant observation, you won’t have to take their word for it. Just watch, listen and learn.
Mental Health: You don’t have to be a psychologist or psychiatrist, nor do you need to confirm a specific diagnosis. Just pay attention and give people time to show you who they are based on their behaviors and habits. A Grown, responsible person will be up front with you about a history of depression, coping with post-traumatic stress, or other mental/emotional health challenges, as you both take time to earn each other’s trust as you enjoy each other’s company. (It’s also a good idea to inquire about the family’s mental health history.) But even a person who tries to hide their issues—or who is in denial or unaware of them—will exhibit some signs sooner or later. Give yourself plenty of time to recognize them, and to decide whether it’s in your best interest to accept them as they are, or to move on.
Addictions: Again, give it time, and these will become apparent. Whether it’s to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, cigarettes, violence, drama or whatever, you can only miss the signs if you commit before allowing them to become apparent.
Relationship With The Law: Is your relationship prospect an absolutely law-abiding citizen? Does he or she specialize in trying to get away with breaking the law (even the little ones) without getting caught? Is their definition of “legal” that they’ve never been convicted? Or have they adopted frequent interaction with law enforcement and the criminal justice and penal systems as an acceptable or unavoidable lifestyle? Again, you don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. Unless you insist on operating “eyes-wide shut,” there’s no way you can’t know if you’ll just pay attention and give it time.
How They Treat People: Do they consistently operate with kindness, compassion, honesty and respect? Do they run hot and cold, depending on mood, circumstances and the person they are dealing with? Or are they consistently deceitful, careless, dispassionate or cruel? However they treat others is ultimately how they will treat you. Do not allow yourself to believe that your love, or their feelings for you, will make you the exception.
Ambitions, Goals and Priorities: Does he or she have any? Have they adopted lifestyles, habits and choices that are actually moving them toward their goals, or is it just wishing, talking and dreams with no action? More importantly, are their goals and priorities compatible or in conflict with yours? For example, if you dream of having a house full of kids, and she’s set on becoming the CEO of a multibillion-dollar corporation, it will take more than your strong mutual attraction to make it work. If you are not absolutely sure about where he or she is taking their life, do not find yourself tied to them as an unwilling “passenger” by premature sexual, financial or emotional intimacy.
Do not just take their word for it. Trust only what you learn for yourself, by observation, or through reliable, unbiased sources. Until you know the answers to the above about a person, you do not know who they are. Do not become sexually intimate. Do not give or lend money, or take on joint financial obligations. Do not invite them to your home, nor accept invitations to theirs (or to any place where you are alone with them). Do not become emotionally intimate or dependent—share your most treasured memories, highest hopes, most painful experiences and deepest fears grudgingly, if at all.
How long should you wait? Forget artificial timetables such as the “90-day rule.” Just remember this: The right person is worth the wait; the wrong person is never worth the risk. Take as long as necessary to learn the absolute truth about a person, in order to make healthy, self-loving decisions about his or her place in your life—or until you get tired of waiting. If you don’t have absolute clarity by then, a relationship is not worth the risk. Move on. Bypass anyone who resents or resists your efforts to learn what you need to know to protect yourself. There is a world of interesting people worth getting to know. At least one of them will be qualified for loving in the Grown Zone.
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