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How To Find The Right Guy - A Conversation With My Daughter


On one of those long drive-my-15 year-old-daughter-to-basketball drives, watch her play and drive home again, we got talking about how you pick the right guy.  I mean, you see women everywhere making really stupid mistakes, getting hurt to the core of their being, repeating the mistakes with another guy... you hear people talk about love like it's some mystical feeling that comes along all by itself.  This is one of the few talks I ever made sure happened, because... I'm her dad, and i didn't want her hurt, wanted to give her more insight than most girls seem to have.  I can't remember what i said word for word, but it was something like this:

A lot of girls end up picking the wrong guy. It must be pretty scary - like - how do you know who he really is?  Because when a guy is wanting to impress you, he's on his best behaviour, right? So you're not going to know what he's really like until he doesn't think he needs to impress you any more.  By then, it's a little too late.  In-between, you've fallen in love, and love tends to not notice what's wrong, so even if there are warning signs, you'll probably ignore them.  Seriously. You just... close your eyes and don't notice faults once you're in love.  We all do.  So you need to know what to look for early on, before you get too emotionally entangled.  

So... how do you pick the right guy? 

Well, there's one thing probably to look for more than anything else....   (drive a little bit in silence for emphasis).  It's actually about ...character.  I mean, there are lots of things that attract us to someone, like: looks, personality, charm, physique, (I think i said 'abs' because she was always talking about guys with 'abs'), intelligence, being funny.. and those things are great. I mean, you do have to have chemistry, right?  But the chemistry, and none of these things are enough to make a relationship work in the long run. In the end, none of these things will be enough to hold your respect and love. In the end, it is the person's character you end up loving or despising.  Personality isn't character - don't be fooled.  A person can have a nice manner, but be selfish underneath.  Personality is just the way you present yourself.  Character is the kind of person you are under the surface.  Honest or sneaky.  Selfish or self-giving.  Live by principles or take anything they can get.  Self-centred or caring.  Take responsibility or avoid it. Always do the right thing or always appears to do the right thing. You can't continue to love someone who is fundamentally selfish and treats you like shyte. 

Ok, so how do you tell someone's character?  Well, that's the tricky bit.  Because when someone is trying to impress you, they are on their best behaviour, right?  So they're gonna be completely charming, look like they're almost selfless, giving, kind, considerate, devoted only to you, because... they want to win you.  They might even think they mean it.  It's only once they have you and begin to take you for granted that their real character starts to be revealed: dishonest, unfaithful, selfish, emotionally immature, manipulative... 

So if they're on their best behaviour, how can you tell their character?  

You have to watch them when they aren't aware.  So... watch the way they treat people who they think are unimportant.  Ex-girlfriends.  Watch the way they treat family members.  Watch the way they treat their mother.  Are they always respectful, generous, considerate, thoughtful?  Are they always honest?  Do they know how to admit they're wrong, even if they're only partly wrong?  Then this is probably what you're going to get. 

Do they can treat anyone in their life as dirt? Then they can do that to you one day.  And probably will.  If they lie when they think they won't get caught, then they aren't honest. They'll do it to you. You need to see past the charm, the best behaviour, those masculine good looks... because none of those things can keep your respect and love in the long run. 
abstraction abstraction 51-55, M 36 Responses Aug 22, 2011

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This made me think. Thanks for sharing.

Very good advice and would apply to both genders of any age :)

One of the most endearing and heartfelt Truths I've seen on EP in a while. I really enjoyed the portion on discerning personality vs. character, and how one will treat someone ELSE; how they talk about them, treat them, lie, etc.. that they one day could do it to You. Thank you for such an honest post, your daughter was lucky to hear it.

Very nice story, and I might practically immitate the approach to my own kids.

What you said sounds so right, but it's a bit different for me. When I was really young my first love and I were in a relationship but were separated. Years later I had my heart tragically broken from rejection at summer camp and was forced to see him there and at my church. A few more years passed by and I'm wounded from another rejection which causes a huge embarrassing school rumor and having my heart stabbed at when I was forced to see him make out with his new girlfriend on the bus. And then this summer I suffered another rejection which also hurt a lot because a lot is said when words aren't spoken. So what I'm trying to get at is that I don't know where to even start and I'm too scared to try again.

Yes, it's tough when you get hurt so badly. I'm sorry.
If you never risk rejection, you're safe, ...but alone. My point is to approach love with your eyes open to the kind of person you are falling for.

*takes notes in anticipation of dreadful moment*

:D I had some horrible moments before this one.

I have great respect for this piece. In fact, I am bookmarking it, and intend to point it out to young folks now and again -- unless you ask me to stop. Thanks, Abstraction.

That's lovely. You're welcome.

I basicly had the same talk with both of my daughters when they came of age to date. On the first date, he is on his best behavior. if there is something you see, hear, or do that you can't live with for the rest of your life. Then by no means go out on a second date with him.

I think I just learned a lot from that as well... ;)

This reminds me of Dr Kelly Flanagan's letter to his daughter.
http://www.experienceproject.com/stories/Admire-A-Man-Who-Is-A-Good-Father/3334853

I don't know if I commented or not but I think that what you said to your daughter was awesome and I can tell what a great dad you are from what you said to her :)

I\'m not sure she agrees, but thanks.

being assertive in your child's life to keep them safe and show them you are a loving father. respect.

great advice.....I agree: how a person treats other loved ones (family etc) is an indication how that person will treat you after they are done trying to impress you.

You just need to be open with the girl so she would let you know every bit of her life, considering your age, you've had enough of life experience interacting with people, so you won't have much difficulty knowing him once you meet him.

interesting....

GOOD ADVICE.

I've been giving this same question a LOT of thought, since I'll have to answer it one day myself. Thanks for your take. I like it alot.

What a great dad.

Thanks. I had my moments. I also had my bad moments, don't canonize me.

Well, OK. But just cause you said so. Lol.

WOw...thank you soo much for this! I wish I had read this 5 years ago. I just ended my relationship with my boyfriend (now ex) because he turned out to be incredibly dominating and stubborn and manipulative. I cannot believe I allowed this to continue for 5 years without listening to my heart. I was treated badly and I still forgave him. ALthough he had improved a lot in the past 1 year, I couldnt bring myself to forgive him for the hurt he had caused me in the past.

I had one parenting goal for my daughter - self respect. I knew if by 18 she could look herself in the eye and say, 'i'm a beautiful woman' then she wouldn't let others abuse her, she would set boundaries, and they would be respected. It also means she would respect others. She's an amazing adult, probably a bigger person than me. That's the key - people recognise that dignity inside you when you have self-respect.

Abstraction,

That is the best, most valuable lesson a father can give to her daughter. Tears to my eyes, beautiful.

Thank you.

thank you for your insights...i am 29 but i still struggle with these things at times myself! your daughter is lucky to have you:)

I think you should let your little girl pick her own B.F so she can be with the person she *loves*. Let her be FREE because before you know it she will be <br /><br />
out of the house graduated and on her own

I didn't pick her boyfriend, I gave her some insights. Empowering your child to make good choices helps them to "be FREE". She picked her own boyfriend and married him ten years ago, and is happy.
My sister-in-law was "with the person she *loves*" and then he beat her senseless until she eventually didn't love him any more. Love with wisdom, because you live with the consequences.

True.

I'd bet the first thing she did was pay closer attention to how you treated other people, and I'd bet you didn't fail her. I bet you treat others well, you don't lie, etc., and that will have the greatest impact on her. She'll see that your advice works and then will follow that advice. Good job. I think I will follow your advice!

You are the best father because you love your precious daughter and your words ring true from knowledge and life experience. Thank you for your sensitive posting.

beautiful words...i wish i had a father like you . hugs

beautiful words...i wish i had a father like u . hugs

I am certain that you have more impact on her than you will ever realize...

That was great advice. The primary piece of advice I received from my Mother when I was about that age was "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle". Needless to say, it was both out-moded & a little cryptic! <br />
I think I have just been lucky enough to have an intrinsic sense of self-worth, and common sense to look beyond the surface. Not just physically, as you said. I have several friends who don't know how to just "be" by themselves. I wish someone had given them such sage advice.

Wow, talk about good advice...You sound like a very loving father. Your daughter is lucky and I will be your honorary daughter for the moment if only to borrow this advice, because I know these thoughts will stick with me. Thank you for posting this.

Thank you, that's really sweet.

Hope you don't mind.. I have at lot of nieces.. Posted a link to your story on their fb pages. Thanks for sharing your story.

you're welcome.

Reading your post I thought, I know what it is to try and steer your daughters through life and it can't be done in the course of a conversation on a long drive. But then I thought, if he thinks like this and was there when she was growing up, then what he said will have already have been absorbed by her and the conversation will simply have confirmed or reinforced it. And then I read your response to Fallflower and I understood that we are not on the same page: we are on the same word of the same line on the same page. God it is humbling, it is terrifying , it is exciting to send a daughter into adulthood. My heart is with you. She is lucky to have you now and she is luckier still to have had you when she was growing up.