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Gentlemen Speak: Dr. John Van Epp Shares How to Avoid Falling In Love With a Jerk

Do the hard work up front so that you can move forward with confidence.
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Verily_How to Spot a Jerk

Art Credit: Amelia Beamish

For the all the ladies out there who discovered that the men they adored were two-timers, lushes, liars, cheap, slobs, emotionally unavailable, or unable to hold a coherent conversation during Monday Night Football – it’s time to put all that behind you and start fresh.  Are you ready? Here are five ways to spot a jerk. These rules may not be easy– but neither are broken hearts. So take a deep breath and decide to do the hard work up front so that you can move forward with confidence.

Don't begin your relationships like the Indy 500. Even if his texts are sweet and your time together is even sweeter, keep your head and heart working together by not committing to a guy before you know his story. The passion may be there, but still follow a simple 90-day probation period. Why? Because, it is normal in a new relationship to put your best foot forward. So there needs to be a cooling down time for real character traits to surface. Patterns are behaviors that repeat over time, so more time is needed before significant, personal patterns are detectable.

During this probation period ask some big-time questions:

  • What is his relationship track record?

  • How has he treated previous girlfriends?

  • Have you met his friends – girls and guys? Does he have any? Is he hiding any?

  • What is his job? Are you allowed to call him there?

  • Have you met his family?

  • Is he forgiving? With you? With his family?

  • Is he consistent in his conscientiousness? Even with the waiter?

Get to know him and his story first, and be honest about what you discover. Find out if he’s worth the commitment, or not worth the time involved to get another broken heart. If you take off in just first gear, you can almost always avoid a crash and burn.

Clearly define your ideals and make sure that they are realistic. Write a description of your perfect guy and your ideal relationship. Let it marinate for a while and then re-read it. Is it realistic? Are you looking for a man or a fantasy? Ask a respected and trusted friend to read it and give you some feedback. Typically, those closest to you often pick up on your relationship mistakes long before you do. Your friends and family are not usually blinded by love and have a much clearer perspective of how your partner measures up.

If he "forgot his wallet" at the movies last night, will he cheap out on the mortgage after 10 years of marriage? If you can’t talk to him now, how much worse will your communication be six months from now? If he looks at other girls when he is with you, how will you ever be able to trust him when he is alone? Look closely at positives and negatives – and don't count on the good staying good… but know that the bad will almost always get worse!

Pay special attention to how conflicts are resolved and how he responds to concerns you have about him or your relationship. Do you find that when you bring something up you don’t really get anywhere in trying to talk it out? Do you drop the conversation because he gets too angry, devastated, or withdraws?  It is essential that you learn to lovingly "hurt him" when you need to be honest. Be careful of the crazy cycle where you are repeatedly rationalizing, minimizing, and overlooking aspects of your partner that are unacceptable to you.

What’s your guy’s moral compass and personal code? It takes a bit of digging to determine the strength of his moral fiber:

  • Maybe he tells little white lies, and maybe he also secretly thinks it’s okay to tell big ones?

  • Is he dependable?

  • Will he call when he says he will?

  • Does he bring you flowers when you deserve celebrating and chicken soup when you feel lousy?

  • Is he consistently inconsistent about his moods, his needs, and his relationship to you?

  • Will he put you first and himself second?

Figure this out and you then know what he is really made of.

The last rule is actually the first; step back and take inventory of your past mistakes or regrettable relationships. Look for the themes in your past relationships - what you liked and didn't like, your blind spots and your hooks. Look at the common negative characteristics between your partners and determine why you put up with them or why you were attracted to them in the first place.

Don't forget to do the work to get your own act together. This doesn't guarantee that you will make a good choice of a partner, but when you have unresolved personal issues they almost always hinder your ability to make healthy relationships.

Maybe your code needs working on too, or maybe you need to feel good about yourself. Make yourself stronger and happier, whatever it takes – therapy, workouts, journaling, yoga, girl’s nights out, classes, a career, a degree, a marathon – whatever the answer is to YOUR happiness, go find it!

Remember, it’s not just about making someone else happy – it’s your life and your heart. Treat yourself well!

(Photo by Amelia Beamish)

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Dr. John Van Epp

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Dr.Van Epp, conducts seminars and workshops worldwide on marriage and relationships. His new book, How To Avoid Falling in Love with A Jerk, is available for order on his website,, or in leading bookstores. Dr. Van Epp was recently chosen as one of AOL's Love & Sex Coaches. Visit his AOL Coach Site for online interviews and dating information.