We’ve all been there, on the precipice. You really like this guy. You really do. Sparks fly, laughter abounds, conversations never lag, and even your disagreements are productive. So what’s on the horizon for your relationship? If you think he’s The One, there's another question lingering underneath . . . Is he also The Dad?
In my five years of marriage (three children!) and listening to countless girlfriends share about their relationships (because that’s what we like to talk about when we share ice cream, right?), I've gathered five signs of how to gauge if your boyfriend will be a great dad.
Is he a listener? He doesn't have to be a talker to be a listener! When something is really on your heart or mind, does he set aside his own thoughts, worries, and those of the world, and tune in to just you?
Good dads are great listeners. He begins by listening sympathetically to his wife, whether she’s pregnant or as they travel down the adoptive path together. He listens to his child’s cries, boo-boos, and whines. He listens to his own inner guide as to how to love and lead his children by words and example.
Listening is a skill, not a talent. Saying things like I love when you listen help trigger more acute listening. Saying things like you never listen to me don’t help and make him feel like a failure. How do I know this? Trial and error (although relationship studies back this up too).
He is Patient.
No one is patient all the time. But how is your boyfriend’s patience in general? With his mother, co-workers, service people? Is he quick to reprimand and correct? Does he go with the flow but not drown in that ocean?
Good dads are profoundly patient. First in welcoming the child, and later in coping with lack of sleep, free time, and autonomy that parenthood brings. Few things in life push us to our limits like an inconsolable baby, whining toddler, or chaotic household.
Developing patience takes practice and time for those of us not blessed with the perfect disposition. It can feel like a constant drum beat of taking a breath—holding the space—letting go.
He is Sacrificial.
When we are first dating and experiencing how fabulous it is to share each other’s company, the term sacrificial seems old-fashioned, not to mention irrelevant. As our relationships progress, though, little inconveniences emerge and quickly escalate into downright annoyances—even hurtful fights.
Good dads are ready to sacrifice. Their life revolves around their children and wife. Everything else is secondary, even themselves. If he’s not ready to sacrifice in small ways when you are dating, it's unlikely the pattern will change when the ante is upped.
The idea of sacrifice enters in when we choose to put the other person first. Their needs. Their desires. Their irrational hankerings. Of course no one wants to marry or become a doormat! Sacrifice is a choice to show the strength of love through humility.
He has a Sense of Humor.
Is he Jim Gaffigan in disguise? A sense of humor isn't limited to clever quips and funny comebacks. The man who can laugh at himself has the best sense of humor in life.
Good dads appreciate life—and that’s a sense of humor in itself. It is about more than being able to laugh through someone emptying their bladder on you. Multiple times. It’s about encouraging your children not to fear failure and to laugh at themselves too. It’s about instilling in them the notion that their value is based in love, not perfection.
A deep sense of humor means he is okay with admitting when he’s wrong or when his approach fails miserably. His sense of self is rooted deeper than appearing to be all put together or perfectly successful. He can experience a flop. And laugh about it later!
He is a Hard Worker.
It goes without saying that we all want men who are hard workers as our partners and spouses. He can work hard as an artist or a surgeon; it’s not the job title but the effort he puts into his work. Is he motivated to be the best he can in his arena?
Hard work permeates all these other great dad traits and adds one more: fortitude. Being in it for the long haul. Enduring in love, enduring despite challenges. Good dads work hard, always. When you see your boyfriend working hard in his career, at school, or working hard at your relationship, there's a good chance he will also work hard at being Mr. Future Father of America.
It’s the journey of a lifetime to be a father, and given these five characteristics as a solid foundation, the journey can be a beautiful one.
Photo by Nima Salimi