Character Vetting and Intimate Relationships
Character vetting appears a lost art in our times. But history proves how crucial it is for any healthy intimate relationship. We humans crave close connections. That’s true even for folks whose traumatic past makes them understandably leery. Sadly, too many folks unwittingly re-traumatize themselves by entering a relationship without sufficient character vetting.
The human heart is a precious commodity. And the tenderest hearts are the most easily broken. That’s why folks used to spend a lot of time vetting a potential intimate relationship partner’s character. Family and friends helped with the task, too. Character has always mattered, especially to an intimate relationship. But it used to get much more attention that it has in recent years. Sound character vetting is the heart’s best protection. There are no guarantees, of course. However, you can reduce your risk. To minimize the chance of heartbreak, you simply have to know a person’s character the best you can.
As I mentioned above, character vetting is a lost art. And by “art” I mean the systematic way we once methodically examined someone’s suitability as an intimate partner. Many toxic relationship survival stories have come my way. And each taught me much. But the most important lesson they all taught is how important it is to really know someone before getting deeply involved. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Character Disturbance.
Obstacles to Proper Vetting
A lot of things can get in the way of sound character vetting. And because of its importance, I think it imperative to speak to a few of the major ones:
- Wishful thinking. Most of us want to think the well of others. We’d like to think others share our values. And we’d like to believe that love can conquer all. We would also like to trust, especially what others tell us. But in the words of the famous Russian proverb former President Reagan famously uttered, we should “trust but verify.” In other words, take someone at their word alright, but still check things out. Some folks are very good impression managers. They know how to look good and make a good case. But theirbehavioral history speaks louder than their words. And past behavior is the single best predictor of future behavior.
- Simple inattention. Some folks just don’t think about character very much anymore. They don’t give it the importance we more universally did. Entering a relationship, they pay attention to a lot of things besides character. I’ve heard it all. “He makes me laugh.” “She has the sweetest smile.” “We both love football.” It goes on and on. These things are nice. But they can’t possibly make for a lasting meaningful relationship.
- Too much “understanding”. This one might seem contradictory. How could too much understanding be bad? What I’m talking about here is not understanding of someone’s character. It’s showing to much understanding about their behavioral history and the rationalizations they might offer for it. Some folks are adept at making convincing cases for past “mistakes.” But while true mistakes are simply part of being human, repeated maladaptive behavior patterns are quite another thing. They almost always reflect the nature of someone’s character.
Last week’s Character Matters program was the first live broadcast in a while. Find the recording on YouTube. I’ll announce the next live broadcast soon. It will air via another format, possibly YouTube Live. The Facebook Live event experienced many streaming difficulties. Other formats will be explored, too. When just the right one is found, the podcasts will be packaged for distribution on the major platforms.
You can find this week’s episode of the “New” Character Matters program here.
3 thoughts on “Character Vetting Is Crucial for Intimate Relationships”
Dr Simon. Your basic thesis, which is that traditional psychology has an incorrect conceptual model of mans character, what drives and motivates them etc has immediate resonance with me. For whatever reason, since I was about 16 years older, I e been fighting with people over this very subject. In law school in the 1991 I used to call Bullshit on the professors when they would give these hypotheticals that assumed traction’s narratives about my fellow man. I’ve now been a criminal lawyer for 27 years. Lots of murderers, psychopaths, drug dealers, etc have asserted to me that “there’s a thin line between me and you.” It’s as if their conscience bubbles up and they feel uneasy around me. They instinctively understand that we are different species of sorts. The only basic disagreement I would have with you is the idea that they are on a spectrum. There’s a lot of truth in that. But the basic conceptual framework I deal with is that people are criminals or not.
Thanks for the feedback and insights shared, Ivan. I would only ask you to consider that perhaps your difficulties fully appreciating the spectrum have a lot to do with the population you most often have contact with. They are indeed a unique subset of the fuller spectrum. But there are plenty of folks on the spectrum that do not and likely will not come your way, either because for practical reasons they are not interested in crime per se or because they are adept and have the resources to skirt the consequences of their antisocial acts.
Thank you for the reminder once more on the importance of vetting. The “too close too fast” relationships do not seem all that uncommon these days. I’ve been surprised at how much personal information people share with me in our first sit-down conversation, and their expectation for me to reciprocate (inappropriately asking me very personal questions). Yet all the while I was thinking, “wait a minute…that’s strange…” came the obstacles to proper vetting as mentioned in this article. I am reminded to be always mindful of them.