I had this secret fear for a while, and I want to let you in on it: I was a little concerned that I would never be able to tell the difference between a man who sometimes screws up and a screwed up man. Despite the fact that those two phrases sound awfully similar, trust me – these two types of men could not be more different!
I don’t expect Mr. Perfect.
Look, I’ve always been up for leaving plenty of space for the man in my life to make mistakes. I make mistakes too. Plenty! I don’t expect a perfect guy who never screws up now and then. That would be unrealistic because that type of man doesn’t exist; we are all human beings.
I can flex my forgiveness muscles and hope he can too.
But I don’t want to find myself with Mr. No-Good.
There is a definitely a line. On side one is a good person who makes mistakes. On side two you find either a bad person or a deep-down good person who refuses to do the work to let that goodness shine brightly. Side two guys are the men I did not want to bring home.
How the hell can you tell the difference??
Sometimes it’s obvious. If Mr. Hotshot has a criminal record, can’t stay faithful to save his life, refuses to go to work, or hits you – he’s an easy one to cross off the list. But it’s not always that clear. What about all the other guys – the guys who seem to have it together, but are actually total problems?
Sometimes a man doesn’t just screw up; sometimes he is screwed up and a disastrous choice for a partner, incapable of joining into a healthy relationship. These are the men who manipulate, lie, or lack integrity. They’re greedy, wishy-washy, or unkind. Sometimes they are even abusive. But it’s hard to recognize all these terrible traits at first. Then as the relationship progress you start justifying: “Well, all people screw up from time to time.”
I wondered if I’d ever be able to tell the difference. When everybody makes mistakes, how do we know when it’s normal or acceptable and when it is patterned behavior that has gone too far?
So I started doing what writers do best: I researched. I examined men (and women!) all around me and discovered the traits that separate “the wheat from the chaff,” “the boys from the men,” or “those who screw up from the screw-ups.”
Here is what I learned about good partners verses bad partners, AKA the man who screwed up verses the screwed up man. (This research revolved around men for me and could easily share the exact same results with women for you! This is not a one-sided truth!)
A Good Partner Apologizes; A Bad Partner Blames
Since every person drops the ball from time to time (including you and me!), the goal is to find a partner who will genuinely apologize when he has done something wrong and, if possible, do everything in his power to make it right. Look for signs of recognition and sincere repentance of wrongdoing.
A bad sign is when your partner turns all of his shortcomings around on you. “You made me do it” or “This is really your fault” are two of the most dangerous phrases we can spew on our romantic partners. If the blame game is your partner’s go-to practice, move along.
By the way, if you expect your partner to be quick to apologize, make sure you kindly do the same!
A Good Partner Tries; A Bad Partner Doesn’t Care
Relationships are amazing, lovely, and fun, but relationships also take a lot of hard work that isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes we have to dig deep and work through all the things that make us uncomfortable. You can always tell you have a good partner if he is willing to put in the effort it takes to learn and grow in order to make your relationship successful.
Here’s the secret: we all have different expectations of how much we should open up and how far we are willing to grow. Your partner may not have the same expectations as you. Maybe he is more reserved. But if he is continually willing to try and willing to step out of his personal comfort zone, you know you have a winner.
A bad partner will run the second he has to get his hands dirty. Or he will work his way out of doing any of the heavy lifting. They just do not care.
A Good Partner Does Things for No Gain; A Bad Partner Only Cares About Gain
We sacrifice for those we love, but true sacrifice must stem from a place of genuine love, not shady ulterior motives. When a good partner does something for you, he is not expecting anything in return; he isn’t thinking about what he gains from the situation. This is not acting like a codependent martyr; this is being kind and helpful when needed.
A bad partner is always manipulating “kindness,” and it’s double trouble: first, he does something that appears nice which makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, then he turns it around to benefit his best interests. This is where confusion often steps in. You’ve felt grateful for the “kindness,” but then you also feel terrible for the ulterior motives.
When a man cares only about himself and his gain, he has no business being in a relationship.
A Good Partner Protects; A Bad Partner Harms
By “protect,” I’m not talking about some archaic notion of the man being the protector and women being weak and in need of help! Not at all! I’m talking about the honoring and respecting of your mind and emotions.
A good man is cautious and aware that you are a human with feelings. He won’t want to stomp all over them. Even if he makes a mistake and hurts you (which will happen eventually), he will do anything to rectify that error.
A screwed up man does truly pay attention to how you feel. Period. He is willing to let you go through hell and back. He may talk about caring, but if he continually acts as though you do not matter, he is a screw-up!
A Good Partner Trusts; A Bad Partner Controls
Anybody who loves you will undoubtedly be concerned for you: your safety, your well being, your feelings etc. And it’s natural to want to keep somebody safe and close. After feeling concerned, your partner can choose one of two things from there: either trust takes over or control takes over.
A good partner can show concern for you, but ultimately trusts you completely. If you want to go on a girl’s trip or a girl’s night out or make a career jump, he will send you off gladly and trust you and your love for him. Asking questions to make sure your safe is a world of difference from controlling the situation or telling you what you are and are not allowed to do.
A bad partner will control you so each outcome turns out exactly the way he wants. He will either become demanding or offer a subtle manipulation, which can be even more dangerous. This manipulation starts by planting ideas in your head or guilt tripping you.
A Good Partner Forgives You; A Bad Partner Is Unforgiving
Through it all, your partner will not be the only one who gets it wrong sometimes. You are going to screw up and hurt your partner’s feelings. When you come with genuine apology, the way he responds to your screw up is telling.
When your partner recognizes that you too are a good person who sometimes screws up, he will show you patience and understanding. This does not mean he won’t be hurt or angry for some time, but he will always be willing to extend forgiveness to you.
A bad partner won’t forgive you or will repeatedly bring up your shortcomings. His anger will only continue to build up other episodes of anger. Typically this lack of forgiveness reflects on his own lack of self-forgiveness too.
I took this research and started applying it to my life. Then I stumbled upon a guy who is not perfect. He makes mistakes. Sometimes we argue and get angry at each other. But, no matter what, he apologizes when he’s wrong, he tries everything to keep our relationship strong, he is selfless, he keeps my feelings in mind, he trusts me, and he shows me forgiveness when I make mistakes.
Through my time with him, I’ve confidently been able to put him in the “great man who happens to screw up sometimes” category and learn something important: We don’t need to live in fear over whether or not we are choosing the right guy for us, but we do need to keep our eyes open. We need to remember that we aren’t crazy or blinded by love; we are intelligent women able to assess the situation with wisdom.
With eyes wide open, we can easily tell the difference between a great man who sometimes screws up and an entirely screwed up man.