Words cannot express how grateful I am to have known my kind, intelligent and courageous father.
From a young age, my father set high standards for my schoolwork, life choices and the individuals I allowed to enter into my life.
He wanted me and my siblings to do well in order to please him as well as ourselves.
He encouraged me to set and accomplish goals, to give and honor my word and to always try my best. Above all, he always encouraged me with love, support and understanding.
As I matured and found myself becoming interested in being more than friends with the cute boy next door, my dad patiently, honestly and transparently answered all of my questions.
Here are a few love lessons my dad taught me about dealing with that cute boy next door, as well as men today:
1. A Man's Intentions Are Not Enough; Look At His Actions
I once dated a guy who qualified as nearly perfect on paper. He seemed to be living a very purpose-driven life, and he had always known where he wanted his career path to take him.
Confident, charming and borderline brilliant, he was initially a great conversationalist (and a wonderful kisser).
He would often mention wanting to take me on romantic weekend trips to the Hamptons or wanting to bring me lunch “just because” on a Wednesday at work.
We went on two dinner dates, bonded over a season of "House of Cards" (aka, shared Kevin Spacey memes via text) and laughed at lackluster inside jokes.
My dad always told me that what a man says he intends to do and what he actually does have to match up.
Telling a woman what you want to do doesn’t really matter if you never do it.
If you’re dating someone who always talks that talk but rarely backs it up, then it’s probably time to move on. Words prove who someone want to be; actions prove who the person is.
2. A Man Should Be A Natural Protector
No matter how late or inconvenient it was, my dad would never allow me or my sisters to be hungry.
We could be starting our eight-hour road trip to Florida, leaving behind a house full of Pop Tarts, gummy snacks and fruit cups, and if my dad heard the faint whisper, “Daddy, I’m hungry,” from the backseat, he would immediately ask us what we wanted to eat and make the nearest stop to our favorite fast-food restaurant of the moment.
It was in these moments that I learned above all else, even though my favorite Disney movies told me love meant marriage, flowers and romance, the love I wanted most lived in the simplicity of the everyday.
It was in my dad’s unwavering practice to protect and care for his children.
I’ll never forget the time a guy I recently met in the city invited me to watch the Super Bowl. The plan was to go over to his place, cook together and watch the game.
I arrived at his apartment and he explained that he had already bought the groceries for us to cook together.
“How considerate!” I thought as I walked into the kitchen, prepared to throw down and chop the vegetables.
“Let’s wait until the game starts before we cook,” he said, putting his hand over mine to take away the knife.
"I’m really hungry though," I said. "I didn’t eat before I came. Can’t we just start cooking now?”
“I don’t want the clanging of the pots and pans to take away from the start of the game,” he sighed. “Let’s just wait a minute.”
Long story short, we sat through the entire first half of the game before eating anything.
I’ve never had a problem speaking up for myself, but I was completely shocked by how he told me I needed to wait before eating.
I had a flashback of my father darting across five lanes of traffic to feed my sisters, and I knew I would never go on another date with the selfish man sitting next to me on the couch.
If he was perfectly content watching the game after I had expressed how uncomfortable I was, what kind of relationship would this be? I got my things, ran to the nearest deli to grab a sandwich and never saw him again.
3. Men Will Treat You The Way You Allow Them To Treat You
This lesson can actually apply to almost any relationship in your life, but when it comes to your significant other, it’s important to realize that you have the power to shape how someone treats you.
My dad always taught me to stand up for myself, and that advice isn’t limited to confronting the fourth grade bully.
It can be applied to those you plan on entering a relationship with. Don’t like that he only wants to text you and never calls?
Try calling him with a funny story to share and watch him fall into the habit of calling you more often.
Your request doesn’t always have to be as blunt as screaming out “Call me more!" You can show him how you want to be treated, and if he is truly interested in moving forward, he will rise to the occasion.
4. You Can't Fall In Love With "Potential"
This is a hard pill to swallow, but it is something my dad taught me when I started dating in college: You have to see someone for who he or she truly is, not who you imagine the person will someday be.
It’s great to see potential in someone, and it can be amazing when someone sees potential in you.
Make sure, however, that you aren’t so busy projecting your dreams onto someone else that you miss the man standing right in front of you.
No matter how much you want him to be the ambitious CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, your encouragement might be falling on deaf ears if he would rather lounge on the couch than apply to jobs.
This doesn’t mean that seeing the best in your man isn’t a wonderful thing; the point is to “see” him.
5. The Sidewalk Test Is Real
I have to be honest, I thought this was primarily a Southern rule, but it turns out this is a statute that travels above the Mason-Dixon Line.
When you’re walking on the sidewalk, a man should always walk closest to the street. This is advice my dad told me when I was younger, but I have never forgotten it.
I mentally take notes when I walk next to a man. It isn’t a deal-breaker per se, but it definitely supports the claim that a man who is interested in you (or at least respects you in any capacity) will want you to be safe.
Even though this rule serves as more of a kind gesture than actual protection, it is courteous and definitely a good sign.
6. Pay Attention To The Way A Man Treats His Mother, Sisters And Other Significant Female Relatives
A man’s mother is the first woman he will ever love, followed closely by any sisters, aunts and close female relatives he may have.
If there is anyone who he should honor, respect and care for, it is the women who have known and loved him throughout his life.
That being said, a man’s relationship with his mother is not only incredibly significant in his life, but also a great indicator for how you can expect to be treated.
Does he hold his mother’s opinion in high regard and treat her with the utmost respect?
If so, it’s a good sign that he will also respect the woman he plans to court. Is he blatantly disrespectful to his mother, never felt the need to protect his sisters and would rather text his mother instead of calling her every now and then? If so, run!
7. You Can't Go Into A Relationship Thinking You'll Change A Man, But Men Can Change
Crazy how that works, right? Men aren’t pet projects or plants that just need a little watering.
Your main objective going into a relationship should never be to “edit the flaws” you think you see in someone. By their very nature, relationships can change people for better or for worse.
You will often find that the more you focus on being your best, most authentic self in the relationship, the more your partner will do the same.
This doesn’t mean you should never suggest alternatives to the lifestyle decisions he makes but chances are, you aren’t perfect, either. Proceed with caution.
8. A Man Respects A Woman Who Sets Boundaries And Has High Expectations For Herself
Call it old-fashioned, but a man will always respect a woman who respects herself. There is something left to be desired from a woman who refuses to be a doormat and understands her worth.
Being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn and playing hard to get for the first year of dating is not the equivalent of having standards.
It’s less about playing games and more about accepting the love, respect and treatment you deserve.
To be honest, a man will act how he is allowed to act, so set the standard high and watch the men step up to the plate. If they aren’t willing to put in the work or effort, you probably don’t want to be together anyway.