Dear Betsy,

I’m 27 and my biological clock is ticking. I just started dating a guy. I don’t want to rush things, but I also don’t want to wait too long and miss my chance to have a family.  Any advice for how to proceed?

My advice: Relaaaax.

Why not enjoy this phase and give yourself plenty of time to get to know each other? Let yourself discover who this man really is by seeing him under a variety of conditions, with a variety of people (friends, co-workers, family).  If you’re thinking seriously about this guy, you need to get a feel for who he is off-stage as well as on.  Take your time. Enjoy the excitement and newness of it all.  And don’t put pressure on yourself to know how it’s all going to turn out, before you know who the guy really is.

Speaking as a family therapist–and as a mother–who you have kids with is the most impactful decision you’ll ever make.

So don’t rush. Your biological clock is ticking, but you still have time. Make good use of it by doing basic research. Ask yourself these questions.  They’re the questions I wish everyone would ask before they take the ultimate plunge with someone.  If you don’t like the answers to the following questions, don’t waste your time with this person.

So here’s my list:

  1. Is this man a friend to your excitement, or is does he act threatened, bored, or judgmental when you talk about what you love?
  2. Does he regularly ask you questions that show he’s really interested in who you are and what you think–as opposed to taking up 90% of the airspace talking on and on about himself?
  3. Does he bring out the best qualities in you, or do you feel bad or “less than” in his presence?
  4. Is his masculinity fully-developed or does he still act like a grown-up teenager?
  5. Does he make you laugh?
  6. Does he find you amusing?
  7. Does he want kids?
  8. Do you trust him?
  9. Does he keep his promises?
  10. Does your family love him (and vice versa)?
  11. How does he treat his own family members and friends?
  12. How does he treat the people he’s had conflicts with?
  13. Does he have a drug or alcohol problem he’s not dealing with?
  14. Is he generous with his time, money, talents?
  15. Does he ever scare or threaten you? Do not stay–or leave your kids with someone who scares you.
  16. How does he treat you when he’s angry, upset, or not getting his needs met?
  17. Can he apologize when he hurts someone, or is it always someone else’s fault?

The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about who this man really is, and whether he’s someone you want to build a life with.

I hope I haven’t scared you off.  With the right person, love is grand.  So enjoy. But go slow. Pay attention to your needs, feelings, hunches, and observations, and don’t ignore or find reasons to justify actions or behaviors you don’t like. If over time everything feels right, then take the next step. But until you have the answers to these questions, proceed with caution. Better to take your time now than to find out too late that you let your itchy DNA decide your future.

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