Lynn from Dallas, TX says: Dear Caroline - I am recently divorced after a ten year marriage. He was the first relationship I ever had, and I have no other dating experience. We weren't really in love, and our relationship was not healthy. To be honest, at 35-years-old, I am very naïve about men and have no guidance or direction in my life from anyone regarding this subject. I grew up in an abusive home with a serious lack of boundaries and with the help of counseling have been able to get my life in order, but still have questions about romantic relationships. My question is, what are the characteristics of a good, decent man who will love me and cherish me like I deserve? How do I know whether his intentions are good or bad? Is it true that love doesn't ever hurt?
Caroline says: It seems that you've been through a lot, Lynn, but I like the fact that you've taken control of your life and are moving forward in a positive direction.
A good man will treat you with respect and kindness and accept you for who you are and not what they want you to be. You want someone that's going to support you through the ups and downs, a strong shoulder to cry on, and the voice of reason when you veer off course. You want someone who shares your expectations and goals in life and is prepared to work together to attain those goals, but allows you the freedom to grow as an individual too.
You can tell someone's intentions by their actions, not their words. If he is abusive and apologizes and then abuses you again, the apology is worthless. If he lays on the couch doing nothing all day, doesn't work or help out around the house, and allows you to carry the burden of supporting the family and running the household, but then promises you the world when you come home, chances are he's a bum.
Love is a very powerful emotion. If you have an argument with someone you love, it hurts you. If your partner is in pain or is suffering in any way, it hurts you too. I could go on and on, but the point I'm trying to make is that when you are deeply connected to someone on every level, you're bound to experience a multitude of emotions. It's easy to have good times and laugh together, but it's how you treat each other and get through the bad times that shows the true test of love.
Good luck, Lynn! You're 35 years young, and Prince Charming is out there somewhere!