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The internet is flooded with relationship gurus telling women to keep their eyes peeled for red flags if they want to avoid dating a jerk. In case anybody was worried, it doesn’t seem like we’ll run out of bad examples any time soon, whether it’s on a reality TV show or at the local watering hole. 

The problem, it seems to me, is that this overpopulation of bums might be obscuring our ability to see the good ones for what they are. If you have your eye out for a good guy, you should be equally aware of the telltale signs of a keeper. It’d be foolish of me to tell a woman what sort of man to pursue. But as a man, I do have some insider’s perspective, if you will, into discerning the caliber of, well, a man. So never mind the red flags—here’s one man’s perspective on which qualities you should be on the lookout for.

01. He’s got a good love-hate relationship.

You can find out a lot about someone from the things they’re passionate about. Find out what somebody loves, and you’ll typically find how they spend their time, money, and emotional energy—and vice versa.

It’s not hard for me to see a common denominator in the “keepers” I know. From my experience, the guys I know who love God, family, and friends, who love helping the less fortunate and offering public service, who value personal integrity and meaningful work—these loves are not incidental to their lives. In fact, it’d be impossible for that to be the case. Men speak differently about the things they love; they defend them, and they prioritize them.

One of my best friends, Gil, stopped hanging out with one of our longtime buddies, Sal, simply because Gil didn’t like the way Sal spoke about Gil’s girlfriend. And I don’t blame him. Keeping friends close is important to Gil, but it takes second place to respecting his girlfriend and making sure she is treated well—even when she is not there.

Find somebody who’s not passionate about anything? I’d say he’s got some explaining to do. Someone who’s not accustomed to loving something good won’t be very good at loving you.

On the other hand, it is just as important for a man to hate as it is for him to love. I know, I know, hate is a harsh word. And if he hates things that should never be hated, then by all means show him the curb. But there are terribly evil things out there to which the only appropriate reaction is hate. If a man doesn’t hate terrorism, rape, or gross injustice? Then we’ve got issues.

Relationships are really difficult. Just ask any married couple. And while they absolutely need love to survive, they need hatred just as much. That is, hatred of complacency, infidelity, negativity—whatever stands in the way of lasting love.

02. He makes you feel cared for.

Once upon a time I was skeptical of a female friend’s new bf. So I asked her about him, and she said, “I can honestly say I haven’t been happier with anyone else.” I thought to myself, “Ugh, gag me.” But then she went on to say, “I just feel so sincerely cared for and affirmed despite all my flaws and weaknesses.” It was then she had my attention.

Anybody can say the right things and make you feel good for a little while. That’s what romance is—you feel good, they feel good, and everything’s rosy. But is your guy the guy who might boast about his “smooth moves,” or is he the type to tell a trusted friend that he truly just wants what is best for you? I know men who resemble the latter, and they are the real deal. A man who cares for you moves beyond feelings and fulfills a deep personal need to be affirmed. It’s the difference between love and flattery.

The nice thing about looking for this quality in a man is that it’s hard to hide. A man with this quality effuses it, and he’s typically indiscriminate in showing it. It’ll show up in the way he talks to the server at a restaurant, the relationship he has with his mother, even toward strangers on the street. People this man interacts with on a daily basis are treated with respect and kindness. He’s one of the good ones.

03. He is willing to sacrifice for you.

Speaking of romance, it’s all fun and games until somebody has to sacrifice something. That’s when the rubber hits the road. Even what seems to be a made-for-the-movies love story can turn sour when one or the other stops at the “self” part and leaves out the sacrifice.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you create a scenario to test your guy’s willingness to sacrifice for you—or for others, for that matter. As I’ve written before, ultimatums aren’t playthings, and they definitely shouldn’t be used as weapons. Time will naturally offer plenty of opportunities for the man you are with to choose to put you first...or not.

As a man, I’ve seen guys who have moved hundreds of miles for a woman and guys who have completely put aside their own professional ambitions to stay at home with the kids so that their wives can keep pursuing theirs. Not all of them know that their sacrifice will pay off. My buddy Erik was the guy who dropped everything and moved his life for a woman he thought was the one. Even though it didn’t work out with her, I know he’d do it again because he’s told me as much. But it’s not like that would surprise anybody who knows him. He’ll slave away in the kitchen cooking for girlfriends and buddies alike, put you up in his home at a moment’s notice, and give you his complete attention if you just need to talk, regardless of whether or not it’s convenient for him. Those kinds of indications come out in the day-to-day, and are worth looking for.

Qualities of service and self-sacrifice not only indicate that a man will have a healthy relationship with you, but they also suggest that he has a healthy relationship with himself. You’ve probably heard the phrase “man up” (perhaps you’ve even told a guy to do the same). Well, guys know deep down that service is one our most innate positive qualities. We feel like a man when we are of service to others. Especially in a relationship—even though we’re not always good at them—we know that a certain level of sacrifice is required of us, and living up to that makes us feel good.

04. He takes action.

I’ve heard that women can tend toward what you might call a “wild” man. Maximus from Gladiator and William Wallace come to mind. From what I can tell, there’s something about these wild men that spark something deep inside a woman. But wild can come in many forms, and you’ve got to look for a man whose wild side spurs him to positive action, not reckless abandon. 

It goes back to loving what’s good and hating what’s evil, but takes it a step further by doing something about it—something great, and even heroic. 

Don’t settle for a man who simply puffs out his chest, but seek out a guy who lives his mantra every day. Don’t just look for the acts of magnanimity that everyone can see. Does he talk to the people in the room who are socially awkward or left out? Does he move around his schedule to help someone in need? Does he apologize sincerely when he does something wrong? And when he messes up, does he expect you to forgive and forget, or is he ready and willing to make things right? Look for moments like that, and you will see what I see in the men I admire.

I hope that this bit of intel on the qualities men believe make a good man will help you move beyond the red flags and hit all the green lights.  

Photo Credit: Corynne Olivia