I believe far too many young men and women enter the dating game with no real plan. This leaves them open to move forward in a relationship based on immediate emotions. Too often they find themselves involved before they take a hard look at the person with whom they have fallen “in love.” “Love is blind” as the saying goes. Deep emotion can keep us from seeing another person’s true character.
Young people (and old people for that matter) move through dating, to engagement, to marriage without a thorough assessment of the person they are getting ready to look in the eyes and say “for better or worse.” Even when the relationship gets out of hand many feel it is too late to adjust or jettison.
Therefore, it’s important to make decisions before you get involved in a relationship.
Below is a process I call MATE. This is an evaluation process parents can use with their children to talk to them about the type of person they want to date. This is also a process young adults can use as they maneuver the complicated and confusing path of looking for a future spouse.
MATE is an acronym for Must Have, Add-ons, Take it or leave it, and End of the Road. I will explain each of these below. I asked our own children, ages 16-27, to give me examples of each. Two of them are married. Input from my daughter-in-law and son-in-law are included as well.
Certainly, some of the examples are subjective. You will not agree with all of them. You will need to guide your children to a list of their own. Use our examples to start the discussion.
This represents the starting point, the must haves. These things are non-negotiable. They must be there from the start. The relationship doesn’t even get started unless these are present.
Must Have Examples:
Person of character
Person of high moral values
Easy to talk to/spend time with
Respects you without requiring you to change
Respected by peers
Just below the “Must Haves” are the preferred things you desire in a relationship. These are not showstoppers, but they are serious considerations. They are the things you may or may not want to live with or without.
Gets along with family/friends
Similar views of husband/wife and mother/father roles
Good sense of humor
High (or low) activity level
Challenges me intellectually (makes me think)
Has a good relationship with his/her parents/family.
Wants a good relationship with family of origin and spouse’s family
Makes me laugh
Willing to lead
Willing to be spontaneous
Take It or Leave It
You could go either way. These are optional things. Electives. Available but not obligatory. May be family of origin issues.
Take It or Leave It Examples:
Good singing voice
Likes the Oklahoma Sooners
Wants to live in the same places
Close with family
Would rather vacation at the beach than the mountains
Volunteers in the community
Specific physical characteristic (I was looking for someone taller than I was, and I did succeed. Note: This came from my daughter-in-law who is 5’5” and my son is 6’3”)
Willing to travel and/or move away
Enjoys playing games
Likes repairing things
End of the Road
These are showstoppers. A character trait. A bad habit. An annoyance. If this person did this thing or acted this way there will be no future. This discovery may not be made until months into the relationship. However, if it shows up, game over.
End of the Road Examples:
Not a believer
Does not respect his mother
Addicted to video games
Allergic to peanut butter
Unwilling to listen
History of lying/deceit
Does not get along well with immediate family/close friends
Large debt with no plan to try and actively decrease
Unwilling to travel and explore
Rude to waiters at restaurants
Not well matched on significant issues (denominational differences, political differences, etc.)
I encourage you to use the MATE process with your children. We have had a great time discussing this with our children. Let me know how your children respond.