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The Right One for You? The True Love Character Test

Before getting romantically involved, see how they do on this character test.

Keng Merry/Shutterstock
Source: Keng Merry/Shutterstock

Despite some cultural changes over the past few decades, many young people still dream of being happily married someday—of finding someone they'd like to share their life with.

When I’m invited to talk to young persons about romantic relationships, I always start by asking, “How many of you would like to get married someday?” The great majority of the hands go up. “How many of you would like to have children?” Again, most raise their hand.

UCLA’s annual "American Freshman" survey has consistently found that about three-quarters of entering college freshmen say “raising a family” is an “essential” or “very important” life goal. That finding, despite reported shifts in other goals and values, hasn’t changed in the more than four decades that UCLA has been doing the survey.

Marriage and parenting are two of the most challenging responsibilities that any of us will ever take on. Both can have a profound effect on our happiness. Both can have far-reaching effects on the social health of a society. Both require good character.

In talking to teens or young adults, I stress the importance of knowing the character of a romantic partner as early as possible in a relationship.

I give them a copy of the “True Love Character Test,” a tool I’ve developed as an aid to standing back and taking stock of the character of another person you might be romantically attracted to. I introduce this test by saying:

A truly loving relationship, one based on mutual respect and caring, requires good character. This test will help you look objectively at the character of a person you are romantically attracted to or involved with—and decide whether it is wise to pursue that relationship.

Even one character problem in an important area may be a sign that a relationship isn’t healthy and may bring you unhappiness. Obviously, we all have character flaws and failings; nobody’s perfect, and people can mature and grow in their character through experience and effort. But some character shortcomings may be part of a person’s established personality and be hard to change.

To drive home the point that significant character deficiencies can spell big trouble for a relationship, I share the story of a young woman I once counseled, at her worried mother’s request.

Caitlyn was 19 and engaged to a twenty-something guy who was extremely possessive and jealous. He had a hot temper, drank heavily, and got into bar fights when he was drunk.

Given all these danger signals, I encouraged Caitlyn to reconsider her intention to marry this guy. I asked her if she could tell me three qualities she admired in him, and three things he admired about her. She couldn’t name any but insisted that they loved each other.

They went ahead with the marriage, and it was a disaster. Soon after, he became even more possessive and took to hitting her when he was drunk. Once, he pushed her down part of a flight of stairs. She fled in terror to live in another city, where she secured an order of police protection.

One out of ten high school girls has been the victim of dating violence. Sadly, 4 out of 5 girls in physically abusive relationships continue to date their abuser.

A Character Lens

Looking at a relationship through a character lens may help young people avoid such relationships. A tool like the True Love Character Test helps you ask, “Is this really someone I want to be with?”

As I walk my listeners through the questions, I challenge them:

Think not just about the character of the person you’re involved with, but also about your own character. If somebody used this test to evaluate you, how would they answer these questions?

True Love Character Test

Does this person...

  1. Treat me with kindness and respect?
  2. Treat people in general with kindness and respect?
  3. Ever shove, shake, hit, threaten, or verbally abuse me?
  4. Always expect to get his or her own way?
  5. Bring out the best in me?
  6. Leave me feeling happy after spending time together?
  7. Ever pressure me to violate my values?
  8. Get angry a lot?
  9. Become violent when angry?
  10. Try to work things out when we disagree?
  11. Apologize when he/she has done something wrong?
  12. Have a hard time making up after an argument?
  13. Abuse drugs or alcohol?
  14. Use pornography or have any kind of addiction?
  15. Lie to me?
  16. Keep commitments and fulfill responsibilities?
  17. Make poor decisions?
  18. Share or at least respect my faith if that’s important to me?
  19. Have what would make me proud to be married to them?
  20. Have what would make them a good role model for our kids?

After reading aloud all of the test questions, I say:

If a person gets low marks on this test, don’t waste time on that relationship. Don’t think, “Maybe I can change him or her,” or “Maybe things will be better after we’re married.” People who have serious character deficiencies are very often worse after they get married.

Recently, on the way out of a school assembly where I had presented the True Love Character Test, a high school boy said to me, as he stuffed the Test into his backpack: "Hey, thanks for this. It’s a pretty good checklist to see where you are. I’m actually going to discuss it with my parents."

More from Thomas Lickona, Ph.D.
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