The dating game can be an exasperating one to play. Say there’s a guy who’s really sweet but doesn’t send shivers down your spine—do you move on or give him some time? Or maybe your new beau is wildly handsome and exciting, but there are red flags that his character is a bit lacking.
What’s a girl to do? In my pretty vast dating experience, I’ve learned there are five reliable traits that I have found in every good guy I’ve known:
1. He is patient and respectful to children.
You can tell a lot about a guy by observing the way he treats vulnerable people. Most of us tend to put our best foot forward when we’re interacting with someone we want to impress, but watch how the guy you’re dating interacts with people who are easier to just ignore.
I once had a boyfriend who would get angry with my little brother for simply wanting our attention. I couldn’t trust that he would be kind and gentle with any future kids—or, to be honest, with me.
Another guy I dated consistently went out of his way to include my little brother by always inviting him to come swimming with us. It would be easy to assume he only did it to win me over, but I noticed him giving the same attention to his little cousins as well—even when he didn’t know I was watching. His welcoming vibe told me that he was someone who genuinely cared about others, not putting on a show just to get what he wants.
2. He laughs with you, but not at you.
Sharing a sense of humor is hugely important in a relationship, and it’s fair to say the happiest couples spend a lot of time laughing together. My healthiest relationships have all included humor, and there’s not doubt that it’s a trait that most of us look for.
But just remember: A guy worth sticking around for will never make jokes at your personal expense. As I’ve written before, one of my former high school boyfriends made fun of my physical appearance. Having fun together is definitely important; but being made fun of is a different thing.
3. He respects other women.
The best boyfriends I’ve had are the ones who I never heard call women derogatory names, never talked disrespectfully to their moms or teachers, and never ogled women’s bodies. It’s not a surprise: The way a guy views women and whether or not he feels entitled to them shows the kind of mate he’ll be in a relationship.
4. He takes his responsibilities seriously.
Whether he’s in school full time or works, his commitment to the responsibilities of life say a lot about a guy.
A guy I once dated skipped class whenever he felt like it, never seriously thought about doing anything in particular with his life, and barely graduated. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he didn’t take my feelings seriously either.
If he doesn’t approach important commitments in his life with some degree of seriousness, he’s not going to be stable or reliable enough to stay committed to me either.
The guys I’ve dated who have worked hard to be dependable and successful at their school or job were the ones with whom I had the healthiest relationships too. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
5. He’s willing to make sacrifices for you.
As I’ve written previously, I once had a boyfriend who planned my entire birthday celebration around his wants instead of considering my own. Another guy I dated for several months almost never went out of his way to spend time with me. Needless to say, those were two of the worst relationships I’ve ever had.
I’ve had other boyfriends who would be at my doorstep in a heartbeat if I needed something, even if it meant leaving their friends or foregoing plans they had made. Of course he deserves to have time to maintain his hobbies and friendships too, but any guy worth dating will make you a priority.
There are plenty of fish in the sea, as they say, and it can be overwhelming to decide when to keep giving someone a chance, and when to let them go their own way without you. In my experience, any guy that exhibits all of these five characteristics is almost guaranteed to be a keeper.