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Dating 101: Qualities to Look For

Friday, April 07, 2023

Recovering With Grace/Abundant Relationships/Dating 101: Qualities to Look For

Post By:

Sarah Grace

Migrated Article - Original Post Date December 5, 2020

When dating, we need to consider specific qualities, or green flags, that indicate a potentially healthy relationship in the future. We’ve discussed the relationship spectrum in our previous post on “How to Identify a Healthy Relationship” which touched on what to look for to ensure a relationship is healthy vs unhealthy or abusive. Also, we’ve covered what to look for as far as red flags, abuser tactics, and signs of abuse. This post is going to take a turn and focus on qualities you should look for when dating to seek a healthy relationship.

These are dating qualities you should look for and consider that likely indicate a relationship that you build with this person will be healthy and have the qualities we’ve previously mentioned for a healthy and non-abusive relationship.

Dating Qualities You Should Look For, Seeking a Healthy Relationship:

I’m going to include some personal qualities that have been found to be indicative of a potentially healthy relationship, as they are indicative of a mentally healthy person – which is the opposite of someone abusive, who is a mentally unhealthy person. (This does not mean that all people who have mental illness are abusive, or that all abusive people suffer from mental illness.)

The first factor that I want to focus on is security and stability – as this is what we all look for in a relationship, and many of us have fallen susceptible to that false sense of security of the abusive relationship.

Security & Stability Qualities You Should Look For:

I’m going to being by stating that as humans we are imperfect. We make mistakes, we fall on hard times, and we go through difficult situations in life. That should always be considered when looking at the following qualities.

Education Level. For older generations who may have established successful employment back in the days when education was less required, this isn’t as important. But for younger generations entering the dating scene in today’s times, this has become more important.

When there was a time when experience outweighed education and people started at the bottom and worked their way up – you could have enough experience to teach certain trades without a college degree, now 18 credits of a master’s level degree is required to teach any program at a college level.

The caveat here is that we aren’t all afforded the same educational opportunities and there are still some opportunities to work your way up without a degree, and a trade program is considered post-secondary education. What we are looking for are indicators of a more secure and stable person here. They don't have to have a PhD from Harvard, but did they finish high school? Did they go to trade school or college? If not, then this is where the next quality we will discuss comes in. They don't need to perfectly meet every quality or green flag on this list. Just like red flags are potential indicators of an unhealthy relationship, these are potential indicators of a healthy one.

The thing to consider here is what the person has done since… how have they learned from a mistake or handled a less opportune situation. This indicates maturity and intelligence beyond what a degree would provide, known sometimes as “street smarts” or “common sense.”

Maturity and common sense are the important qualities to consider here.

Employment history. Yes, this should be treated as a job application. Not everyone is perfect, but an ability to maintain employment over some time is pretty important here folks. I know in modern times, women work and maintain a career, but if your dating someone in their 30s still living in mom's basement, having never moved out, playing video games, and doesn't work, that may be an indicator of someone incapable of having a healthy relationship. If they can't take care of themselves, how do you expect them to care for you?

As I covered back in the first point, education plays an important role in this, especially in younger generations. If you are over 35-40, you likely fall into the generation who may have established employment with hard work and experience and has maintained that employment status, indicating a very strong work ethic. And entrepreneurship is a great career option for many people, just make sure they are successful in their self-employment. 

Work ethic is the key quality here when looking at education and the employment of a potential partner for life. The keyword is “ethic.”

Relationship status and past relationships. This is not a legal employment question, but very legal and important information to obtain when dating. I’m not saying that we should all disclose past relationship information right away… but as a healthy part of getting to know each other if the relationship is going to reach a serious point and lead to commitment, it is fair that both parties be honest about their past relationships.

Also indicating maturity, as well as a window to how the person may treat you, listen to how they speak about past relationships. It is kind of like the job question regarding past employment to see if one speaks negatively or positively about the previous relationship – no matter if the relationship was good and just didn’t work out, or if it was bad, unhealthy, or abusive, it is an indicator of the person's emotional stability and whether or not they are truly ready to move on if they can speak about a past relationship calmly and not bash their ex.

Something I’ve learned is the ability to talk about my abuse without blasting or being negative about my abuser. Specifically, as an Abundant Relationship Coach, I’ve found the importance in recognizing the other side of the abuser’s condition, which involves compassion for what caused them to become such a hurtful person, and that indeed is sad. It does not warrant staying with an abusive person, but rather processing forgiveness - the ability to let go of what they did, understanding by shifting our perspective, and compassion that is found when we shift our perspective.

Living Arrangements. If a potential partner is living with parents, siblings, family, etc… and has been for a significant time or there are no indications of a plan to move forward and out of the comfort of living with family and not paying one’s bills, that’s probably not a healthy indication of security or stability. I'm not saying that things don't happen and we may need to move back home for a period of time to get back on our feet (I did this in my 30s), but the key here is what are they doing to get back on their own two feet?

Another thing to look at is the overall financial situation of a potential partner. Specifically credit & debt – and more so how are they handling credit & debt? Does this indicate maturity and common sense in regards to finances? The key quality here is fiscal or financial responsibility.

Overall health. Again, the thing to look at is how are they handling negative situations – as this will show you a lot about this person. As a survivor of abuse and someone who deals with chronic illness, I am not saying never to date anyone with a past (we all have one), illness, disability, or mental condition

Rather, what to look for is one, are they upfront about it? Two, how do they manage their condition? Three, are they succeeding at life despite it? Or, do they have no education, no job, live with family, and no real indicators of the qualities I mentioned previously, this is probably not an indicator of a healthy situation.

I have experienced and research has shown that unhealthy and abusive relationships are linked to emotional health and physical problems. I can certainly attest to the importance of this. Someone who has mental or certain physiological health conditions needs to get the proper, medical, professional help needed and work on themselves as an individual – and become the right person that the person they are looking is looking for (Andy Stanley), before re-entering the dating scene.

Not everyone gets this, which is why we have to be diligent when dating and looking for the right vs wrong qualities. Before someone blows this sensitive subject out of proportion, I want to address permanent disability – just because a person is on permanent disability or deals with chronic illness, it doesn’t immediately indicate an unhealthy relationship. Again, these are potential factors and should all be considered as a whole and in light of your own personal situation. 

From personal experience with TWO ex-boyfriends who ended up on or were already on disability for mental health issues, and they were both abusive, be weary. As previously mentioned, this is where self-awareness, self-responsibility, self-care, and proper professional help, management, etc, are key. If a person is still in the middle of a treatment plan or is obviously in need of a professional and has not sought help – do not engage in a romantic, committed relationship. Again, this is a serious health situation that the other person needs to work on in themselves (again speaking from experience as one who did exactly this.) Mental health disorders do not always indicate abusive behavior, but also mental health disorders do not excuse abuse. 

While they are dealing with these issues, dating & relationships should probably not be at the forefront of their priorities. Again, the overall quality here is accountability, responsibility, and the ability to prioritize things in one’s life maturely and sensibly. This is a strong indicator of a person’s behavior in regards to rationality, sensibility, reasonability, etc. One thing I’ve found about my past abusive relationships is that they cannot be reasoned with, nor do they show the ability to make rational, thought-out, sensible decisions that affect everyone in a situation, and not just revolving around themselves.

That leads me to another important quality, actually several: At camp Co-Be-Ac, the campers sing a rather goofy song about the fruits of the spirit (are not a coconut). The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All of these things revolve around the things I’ve mentioned above. Overall, these are the qualities you are looking for.

But the one quality I want to touch on now is self-control. For someone to have the qualities mentioned throughout this post, it takes a reasonable amount of self-control. We’ve used other words such as self-accountability, self-responsibility, self-care, etc.

What wisdom I’ve gained from my own poor experiences is that for a person to truly love, have joy, be at peace, be patient, be kind, be good, be faithful (or loyal), or be gentle (all the opposite of abusive) they must be able to render self-control.

Other Quality Indicators of a Healthy Potential Relationship

To respect another person, they must have self-respect. Respect is at the root of actual love and is very important in a healthy relationship.

Determining how they refer back to past relationships can show us how much respect they have for others as well as themselves.

Feeling safe with the person, and especially feeling safe to be open and honest with the person that you date and get to know one another is an important quality to look for. How do they respond if you have a negative emotion or bring up an issue in your relationship? Are they open to listening and accepting what you have to say or do they go straight into an argument and defense of their behavior?

Are they supportive of your decisions, even when they don't agree with your choice? Just because we disagree with someone's decisions, doesn't mean we stop being supportive. When you truly love someone, you accept everything about them, including their flaws and the differences between you.

I’ve had a person in my life who has told me that they always support and respect my decisions even if we disagree, however, there were frequent patterns of manipulation to attempt to guide me in the direction they wanted. So always look for tactics of manipulation, especially passive ones. If someone makes you feel like you have to do it their way (even if they say otherwise) that is an indicator of a manipulative person and an unhealthy situation.

You should feel safe to express your boundaries and have your boundaries respected and vice-versa. You should feel like you have an equal say in things that come up in your relationship. You should feel like your partner considers you when making decisions that include both of you.

Regarding boundaries, if someone ever says to you that you didn’t “respect their boundary” so they are not going to respect yours… we all make mistakes. The best thing to do is learn from it and not repeat it. But if someone continues to hold things like this over your head and refuses to respect your boundaries, this is not an indicator of a healthy situation. This is a manipulative way of pushing your boundaries.

That whole “you have to give respect to get respect” quote is quite misinterpreted and misguided. Being kind, respectful, patient, and gentle with other people is simply something we should do. This is a healthy indicator of someone’s ability to manage a difficult person, situation, etc.

Something any partner should always respect is your need for space or desire to spend time with your family and friends. Isolation, jealousy, etc, are not healthy qualities.

Hold your boundaries here. Walk away from the person in a dating relationship as this is certainly an abuse tactic.

Finally, you should never feel afraid to communicate with another person your feelings or thoughts about any given thing. If you feel like you should walk on eggshells and bite your tongue often to avoid arguments, screaming, yelling, name-calling, and other forms of abuse, get out while the getting is good.

Something I want to bring up here as a dating quality is the person’s ability to maturely handle criticism of any kind. This boils down to the person’s ability to become offended and angry or to simply listen to any criticism calmly and respectfully… and not just blow up over it.

A strong quality (and this goes back to self-control) is the ability to take what someone tells you, seek God, and look within yourself to determine if what they said is valid and should be addressed. But the other part of this quality is to not blow up and render verbal abuse first. Our ability to manage our initial reaction to criticism is a strong indicator of our emotional health.

In Conclusion…

The qualities you should look for while dating are:

1. Signs of REAL & true security and stability. Stability meaning financial as well as mental & emotional stability.

2. Maturity level – financial maturity, emotional maturity, spiritual maturity, and general maturity.

3. Common sense – because common sense ain’t so common.

4. Ethics – work ethic & personal ethics or morals.

5. Intelligence – their education plays a role here, but a degree doesn’t always equal intelligence.

6. Their health and how they deal with it – how well do they persevere despite their challenges6. ?

7. Level of self-control.

8. Level of self-compassion, as well empathy and compassion towards others.

9. Level of self-respect, respect towards others, including you.

10. Respectful of your personal boundaries.

11. Ability to communicate – especially during negative circumstances.

12. Whether or not you feel safe with this person and safe talking with this person about your feelings or thoughts.

13. Respect of your time and relationships with others.

14. Supportive of you, your goals and your decisions.

15. Finally, is expressive of these things through their actions and not just their words.

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Hi, I Am Sarah Grace

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Hi, I Am Steph

We are domestic violence survivors, co-authors of Relationship Detox, and Abundant Relationship coaches.

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