Skip to main content

Whenever my mom approved of someone and considered them “dateable,” she would say, “He treats his mother well, which is always a sign of good character.” My mother’s wisdom was usually accompanied by some eye-rolling by me and my sister, but now I tend to agree with her.

Seeing how a guy treats his parents, especially his mother, is a great way to observe how he will treat you in a relationship. If he’s rude to his mom, chances are, he’ll treat you the same way once the new shine of your relationship has worn off. And, if he treats his mom with respect and demonstrates that he really cares about her, he’s likely to treat you in a similar way.

But what do you do if your guy’s parents aren’t in the picture? What if, due to geographical distance, death, or estrangement, you can’t observe how your man treats his mother? Don’t worry, all is not lost! Here are four easy ways to get a few clues into your guy’s true colors without meeting his parents.

Does he have other family he is close to?

If your guy has other family close by, like siblings or extended family, you can always observe how he interacts with and speaks about them when he’s with you. Use the same guidelines as you would for observing his interactions with his parents. Look for those signs that he values family relationships while also being independent. You aren’t exactly looking for a momma’s boy, but you also aren’t looking for someone who ignores his family and pretends like they don’t exist.

How does he treat people in the service industry?

This is a really easy but tried-and-true way to get an idea of whether or not your guys is in the habit of treating people with respect under pressure. I had a friend who was interested in a guy at work. She told me he seemed really nice and charming but, when they went to grab a drink, he was surprisingly rude and condescending towards the bartender and waitstaff. For her, that was a deal-breaker because it indicated that he looked down on others.

Him displaying a contempt for others doesn’t bode well for the future of your relationship. Remember that relationship expert and researcher Dr. John Gottman has found that contempt is one of the most toxic factors in a relationship and is one of the biggest predictors of divorce. So, take a page from my friend’s book and observe how your guy treats the baristas, wait staff, and bell hops.

What are his friendships like?

Observe how he talks about and treats his friends. Does he have close friends that he’s known for years or does he have casual acquaintances without any real depth to the relationship? Keep in mind that having a lot of casual friends or being “popular” doesn’t necessarily translate into deep connection. Obviously, having strong, positive friendships shows that he has the ability to maintain close relationships with others. It’s not the number of friends that matter, it’s the quality of his friendships that is most important.

How does he talk about his coworkers?

In the same way observing what his friendships are like can be insightful, keep an eye (and ear) out for how he talks about his coworkers. Does he complain about them and push the blame on them when projects don’t go the way they should? Or, does he demonstrate that he can be both a leader and a team player? If your guy is condescending or disrespectful to his co-workers when things don’t go his way, it’s likely this kind of behavior is a pattern in all of his relationships. It’s rare that someone is one person at work and a totally different person at home—and if he is, that is an entirely different problem.

Before you get hitched, it’s probably a good idea to meet the parents (if you can). But if it’s not possible, you’ll get an idea of his true character as you spend time with him doing everyday things. It might seem like you’re playing Nancy Drew, but it will be worth the effort. Trust me, you don’t want to waste your time dating a Gaston!

Photo Credit: Erynn Christine